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Some Real Salt Lake Numbers and some Major League Soccer thoughts

A lot of people have a lot of questions about RSL's recent form.  I try to put it into perspective.
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
A lot of people have a lot of questions about RSL's recent form. I try to put it into perspective. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
Getty Images

So it has been a couple days since I was last able to post and some interesting things have happened. First up is the reaction to RSL's 1-0 loss at the Colorado Rapids last weekend, which appears to have really set some fans off. Now I agree that I thought the team was off, but heck is there any of us who haven't had bad days at work? The reality is that whoever had the job of marking Joseph Nane, dropped the ball more than once on Saturday, and the reality is that cost us. You can't get too mad about shots off the posts, not a lot you can do about that, but obviously we all would have liked to see the team create more offensive chances. You have to credit what the Rapids did on defense, they pressured the ball effectively and really took RSL out of their element for large segments of the match.

The larger issue is that some folks are upset at how the season has gone for RSL, and that one has me baffled. Despite a lot of injury issues this team is just 2 points away from the top team in the league, and while some point to the issues on the road, I again am baffled. In MLS teams generally don't do well on the road, in fact with 4 wins out of 11 matches that is better than a 1 in 3 winning record on the road. Only 3 teams have a better road record, San Jose and Sporting KC both have 6 road wins, and LA has 5. There are 14 teams with fewer road wins than RSL this year, so before people start going crazy, I think a bit of reality is a nice thing to consider.

So last year RSL had 39 points after 24 matches, the teams best was in 2010 when they had 44 points after 24 matches, in 2009 when we won MLS Cup we ended the year with 40 points (that was a 30 match season) and RSL's best ever season was also in 2010 when the team ended with 56 points from 30 matches. It is interesting that 2010 was the only year since 2008 that RSL didn't reach a conference final match.

more numbers and thoughts after the jump:

So a lot of people have been talking about the lack of scoring, but with 35 goals scored, RSL has only once scored more goals in 25 matches, that was in 2010, last year the team had 33 goals scored at this point of the season. Now there is some concern on the defensive side where RSL has allowed 28 goals so far this season, and that total is the highest since 2008. The 28 goals allowed is more than the record setting year of 2010 when RSL allowed just 20 goals all season (again a 30 match season).

So while I think the long season and the large number of 3 match weeks that RSL has had to deal with this season has clearly taken a toll on both the players and the overall performance of the team, it will be very interesting to see how the rest of the season progresses. RSL has 10 matches left, the team was 4-5-1 in their last 10 matches, should they repeat that, they would end the year with 17 wins, 13 losses and 4 draws. That would result in 55 points the second most in RSL history behind 56 in 2010 and 2 more than last season.

RSL has 4 more matches at home and 6 matches on the road, those matches are spread out between Saturday (Aug, 11th) and the regular season ended on Oct. 27th. That is 10 matches over 77 days, there are also going to be 3 Champions League matches spread out over those next 77 days, but only one of those will require travel. On Sept, 18th RSL will head to Panama to take on Tauro FC, RSL has 11 days off before that match, but just 3 days after that match before they play host to the Portland Timbers.

All of that simply reminds me that the team isn't in a bad place overall, yes I think the expectations are higher both of the team and of the fans, but it is a long season and I would much rather have RSL come into top form at the end of the season than in the middle.


So on to the controversy or what could be a controversy that MLS put out today, I am going to leave this up to each of you to determine if there is or isn't a controversy. First is the announcement itself of the tiebreakers for 2012, today after 20 plus weeks of the season the league announced the following tiebreakers:

  1. Most total goals scored
  2. Greatest goal differential
  3. Fewest disciplinary points
  4. Most road goals scored
  5. Greatest road goal differential
  6. Most home goals scored
  7. Greatest home goal differential
  8. Coin toss (for 2 teams) or drawing of lots (3 or more teams)

Now what is interesting is the timing of the announcement, why today? Why not at the start of the season? Did the teams know of the changes before today? Now we do know based on the statement by MLS that:

The league's Board of Governors approved the following new set of tiebreakers to be used beginning with the current 2012 season "in part to encourage attacking play," according to a league statement:

Now a lot of people as assuming that this was voted on by the Board of Governors before the season started, I don't know as the Board also meets as part of the MLS All Star event. You remember that thing a couple weeks ago, so did the league and board approve something 6 months ago and just decided to announce them now, or did they approve these changes more recently? I haven't seen an official statement from any team stating they knew about these tiebreakers at the start of the season. Still to me, that is more likely just really bad timing on MLS's part but with the lack of transparency on most issues it is hard to say.

For me there is a controversy in the announcement but it doesn't come from the timing, but rather it comes from the 3rd criteria: Fewest disciplinary points. I may not like the order of the tiebreakers, but 6 of the 8 are determined by the play on the pitch, the 8th is blind luck, but the 3rd criteria bothers me. To understand why, you have to look at how disciplinary points are calculated, again I turn to the MLS website:

Disciplinary Point System:
Fouls Committed - 1 point per foul
First Yellow Card - 3 points
Second Yellow Card (resulting in a Red Card) - 5 points
Straight Red Card - 6 points
Disciplinary Committee suspension - 6 points

  • If a player receives a First Yellow Card and then a Second Yellow Card the total points accrued will be 5 points (rather than 8 points)
  • If a player receives a First Yellow Card and then a Straight Red Card the total points accrued will be 9 points (6+3)
  • If a player receives a First Yellow Card and then Disciplinary Committee sanctions the total points accrued will be 6 points (rather than 9 points)
  • If a player receives a Straight Red Card and Disciplinary Committee sanctions then the total points accrued will be 6 points.

Note: The team totals above will be updated each Monday afternoon, but only through the previous week's games, not the most recent weekend. Each game must be reviewed and verified, and any Disciplinary Committee actions incorporated, before the new totals are posted.

So a lot of people, myself included, have been highly critical of the MLS Disciplinary Committee making calls after the matches are over. Now I am not talking about them adding fines or suspensions for things called in the match, but in what appears to me to be a questionable fact of making calls that weren't made during the match and suspending players based on a criteria that nobody but they have knowledge of. Does this bother you?

It bothers me because of the complete lack of transparency, despite their promise at MLS Cup last fall to make the Disciplinary Committee actions public. So now the #3 tie breaker the league uses is one that a group of un-named individuals impact based on decisions made using a "secret" agenda. Yeah this one bothers me a bit.