The Supporter's Shield Pace Report: August 29, 2007
We've had a few calls (including one today) for an update on the race for the Supporter's Shield, and since we haven't looked at things since May it seems like a good time to do so. We'll start with a league wide look, and then look at the implications for DC United towards the end of this post. For those that aren't familiar with this concept, we essentially envisioned a "pace team" that average 1.9 points-per-game in its results, and then map all the other teams against them. 1.9 was selected since any team since the elimination of the shootout that averaged 1.9 ppg would have won the supporter's shield. In fact, teams have won the shield with less ppg, as in 2004 when Columbus took the shield with only 1.63ppg. However, that's not a safe rate of return, as New England's 2005 return of 1.84ppg probably would have been good enough in any other year, but they lost out to San Jose's blistering 2.0ppg.
No team is on the pace right now, but some are clearly closer than others. D.C. United leads the pack, they're only 1 point off of the pace team through 21 games. There's also some pretty clear grouping in terms of the remaining teams. Given how difficult it is to sustain pace, a team that's the same number of points off the pace as another team but has played more games is probably in better shape than their supposed equal. Therefore, here are the top teams contending for the Supporter's Shield right now, in order:
- DC United (-1 pt with 21 Games Played [GP])
- New England Revolution (-2 pts with 23GP)
- CD Chivas USA (-2 pts with 21 GP)
- FC Dallas (-4 pts with 21 GP)
- Houston Dynamo (-6 pts with 23 GP)
So how will it play out? Just for kicks, here are the remaining schedules for the top 5 contending teams, with bolded games being matches against other top 5 teams that could really affect the race:
D.C. United: @FCD, @CHV, NE, RSL, @CHI, TFC, @KC, CHI, CLB
New England Revolution: @DCU, FCD, @NY, COL, @CHI, CLB, @TFC
C.D. Chivas USA: DCU, NY, LA, @COL, KC, CHI, @RSL, @FCD, COL, HOU
F.C. Dallas: DCU, TFC, @NE, CHI, @LA, HOU, @CLB, CHV, KC
Houston Dynamo: KC, RSL, @LA, @FCD, LA, RSL, @CHV
The big point staring us in the face is how large the next three games loom for United in the quest for the shield. All three have the potential to really set put things in United's favor, or put them in a spot where they are chasing the field without any six point swing games. Same deal for New England. The strength of schedule in the other games is comparable for pretty much all the teams, with perhaps New England having the most difficult and Houston having perhaps the easiest (although they have the most ground to make up of the top 5 right now). No one is running away with things yet. United can also go into the next three games and not be devestated by a draw in any one of them. Right now, draws hurt United less than the other five teams given that United is on top. 5 of 9 points from the next three games would probably be good enough to maintain United as a strong competitor. However, a quick losing streak would really hurt.
So what are we saying? I'm saying that right now the next three consecutive games have larger implications then you might think, especially that Chivas game. United's road gets much easier after that, but will it be easier to maintain their position, or easier to get back atop the table? That'll be the big question. Every game matters.