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The self-important hack's guide to the Supporters' Shield race

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Is two months out too early to pick a winner? You decide!

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

It's home stretch time in the MLS season, and the wheat is starting to separate itself from the chaff. What's that you say? San Jose in the same week just went back to back on the road defeating the two league leaders in points per game? Well, never mind all of that, because we all know who's taking the Supporters' Shield this year. Right? Oh, the Earthquakes just beat them, too. Huh.

Well the good news for San Jose is that they've played their way firmly into playoff competition. The bad news (I guess) is that they have very slim odds to take the shield this year. The Quakes, Columbus, Toronto, New England, Montreal, Portland, and Seattle have almost no chance to win the Shield this year. Orlando, NYCFC, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Colorado, and Real Salt Lake have no chance at this point (ok, mathematically they have a chance, but it's in the .1% range). Combined, I think there's about a 2% chance that one of these 14 teams actually finishes the season at the top of the table. That leaves us with 6 teams with an honest shot at lifting the Shield at the end of October.

Here's my two cents based on my sure to go horribly wrong predictions for the rest of the year.

6. D.C. United - (Home: CMB, NYC, CHI ) (Road: COL, MON, CMB)

If they hold serve (Win home games, lose road games), they'll finish with: 53 points.

My best guess: 52 points (Odds to win 8%)

DC has been at the top of the heap in the Eastern Conference for almost the entire season, but they have managed to take only 9 point from 8 games since the beginning of July. New York Red Bulls have managed to whittle their lead down to 2 points (while having 3 games in hand). Their schedule isn't particularly daunting down the stretch, and they're cruising through CONCACAF Champions League, but they have no matches left with fellow Shield favorites. They're probably going to need to win 5 of their last 6 to have a chance.

Fun fact (Part 1): DC has only had Bill Hamid and Fabian Espindola in the lineup together 5 times this year. In those games, United sport a 3-1-1 record.

5. Sporting Kansas City (Home: FCD, SEA, COL, LAG) (Road: POR, OCSC, HOU, POR, SJE)Catching up, and they've still got USOC.

If they hold serve they'll finish with: 52 points.

My best guess: 54 points (Odds to win 12%)

Kansas City looked ready for prime time until the dog days of August hit. Fixture congestion caught up with them at the end of August as they lost 3 straight and gained only 7 points from 6 matches in August altogether. SKC still possess valuable games in hand, and they have home games against FC Dallas and Los Angeles Galaxy so they'll have the opportunity to boost their standing at the expense of a couple of Shield and conference rivals.

Fun Fact (Part 2): In the last 6 weeks, SKC have played 10 matches (MLS and US Open Cup). In their MLS matches during that stretch, they recorded a 3-4-1 record. SKC conclude the season with 10 competitive matches in the last 6 weeks of the season.

T-3. New York Red Bulls - (Home:CHI, OCSC, CMB, MTL, PHI ) (Road: CHI, NER, POR, TOR,CHI)

If they hold serve they'll finish with: 57 points.

My best guess: 56 points (Odds to win 17%)

Much like Kansas City, the Red Bulls have 9 MLS games in the last 6 weeks of the season. Unlike Kansas City, New York is entering the home stretch having won 3 of 4 and without a US Open Cup final to jam into a busy schedule. They also get an extra home game and the benefit of playing mostly teams from the Eastern Conference. So why do I have them so low?

How much does one player mean, Matt Miazga edition:

RBNY 2015 (when Miazga plays): 12-4-5, 41 pts/21 games, 1.95 ppg

RBNY 2015 (when Miazga does not play): 0-3-1, 1 pts/4 games, 0.25ppg

Honestly, there isn't much of a sample size with Miazga gone, but they haven't won without him in the lineup. If you take away (arguably) Red Bulls' best defender, it will have a ripple effect on their press. Miazga will, in all likelihood, miss 3 games during Olympic qualifying, and this is where they'll lose the points that cost them the shield. Red Bulls odds go up if New York refuses the call (hypothetically possible).

T-3. FC Dallas - (Home: NYC, HOU, VAN, SJE) (Road: CMB, SKC, LAG, VAN, RSL)

If they hold serve they'll finish with: 53 points.

My best guess: 56 points (Odds to win 17%)

Speaking of teams, that had a bad August, FC Dallas lost 3 straight before righting the ship against Real Salt Lake last week. That was proceeded by a 5 game winning streak, which was proceeded by a 5 game win less streak, and proceeded by a 5 game unbeaten streak. Are they ready to go streaking into September?

A road trip to Columbus is no gimme, but Columbus will be without 9 players this weekend who have played a total of almost 30% of all Crew minutes this year. This is followed by a winnable game against NYCFC next week before the schedule gets tough with back-to-back road games in Kansas City and LA. The good news is they have 4 games against Shield rivals (the road trip and two against Vancouver), so they have some control over their fate. When they play Kansas City, it will be Spork's 3rd game in 10 days. When they play Vancouver again at BC place, it will be the Whitecaps 3rd game in 11 days (and 7th game in 4 weeks).

How much does one player mean, Mauro Diaz edition:

FCD Since 2014 (when Diaz plays): 20-9-6, 66 pts/35 games, 1.89 ppg

FCD Since 2014 (when Diaz does not play): 0-3-1, 29 pts/24 games, 1.21 ppg

Now, that is a significant sample size and is pretty telling about Diaz's value to the club. It's pretty evident when Roland Escobar slots in for Diaz; the team just doesn't quite look the same, and that's not necessarily a knock on Escobar's individual play. Simply put, he's not as good as Diaz individually, and more importantly, he doesn't have the same level of vision and thought that Diaz uses to unlock the best out of the mids behind him and the attack in front of him. For what it's worth, if you project FCD's finish at the 'Diaz plays' rate over the last 9 games, they finish with 58 points. The Shield tiebreakers are available here.

T-1. LA Galaxy - (Home: MON, FCD, POR) (Road: RSL, SEA, SKC)

If they hold serve they'll finish with: 55 points.

My best guess: 58 points (Odds to win 22%)

Robbie Keane has missed about 2 months with injury early on this season. Since his return on June 20th, the LA Galaxy have averaged exactly 3 goals per game in their 11 MLS matches and have officially reached juggernaut status in attack. Woe be it for the team who loses their shape and doesn't get back quickly on the counter because they will tear you apart like a pack of hungry jackals.

That said, LA only has 6 games remaining to boost their standing including tough away matches at Seattle and Sporting Kansas City. Additionally, their defense is competent but nowhere as dominant as their attack, and on the road they've only picked up 14 of their 46 points so far this year. Winning 6 in a row or 5 of 6 is not out of the question, but I get the feeling they're going to come up a result short.

Luck of the draw?: LA closes the season at Sporting Kansas City, but there's a decent shot that Sporting will have nothing to play for at the end of a 6 week period that sees them play 10 total games. There's a decent chance Sporting rests their regulars which will help LA if they're playing for the shield.

T-1. Vancouver Whitecaps - (Home: COL, SEA, NYC, FCD*, HOU) (Road:SJE, FCD*)

If they hold serve they'll finish with: 60 points.

My best guess: 58 points (Odds to win 22%)

Vancouver currently sits one point off of LA's lead with a game in hand. They field a pretty deep squad as well as one of the youngest squads in the league. The good news for Whitecaps is that they play 5 of their last 7 at home. The bad news is that they have 3 CCL games left to play in an extremely competitive group (Olimpia of Honduras, Seattle Sounders) that they desperately want to win. My guess is that they'll drop points you wouldn't expect them to drop in the next 6 weeks.

Luck of the draw, part 2?: There's a decent chance they'll have to send an A squad to Honduras to clinch advancement in the CCL on a Thursday, and immediately turn around and fly to Vancouver  for an evening match against Houston, who may or may not still be in the running to pinch the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.