Monday, September 14, 2009

RSL Playoff Chances as of Monday Sept 15th, 2009

A draw against Chicago was disappointing. Surely it put a huge dent in the teams playoff chances didn’t it? Patrick McShane of American Soccer News called it a “crushing blow” to their playoff hopes, but was it?

According to the fabulous website, Sports Club Stats, which I followed last season and found to be very accurate – the draw dropped Real Salt Lake’s playoff chances from 52% down to 43%. Here is the info: Chart of playoff chances.

The site also shows that the rest of the weekends action had little impact on RSL’s playoff chances. Going into the action, the website had a range of –26 to +22 of potential percentage point swing in playoff possibility. The end result of all the matches was the 9.2% drop in playoff chances as detailed above. The impact of the RSL/Chicago draw was a 9.3% drop, with the other matches essentially having no impact on Real’s playoff chances as a whole.

This week has a huge impact on the likelihood of the team making the playoffs. If RSL manages to win in Houston (unlikely), then their playoff chances will go up to 71%, assuming the results of the other games are neutral. A loss would drop their chances to 28%.

Why does one game have such an impact? Right now the pattern suggests that 42 points gives a team a slightly better than 50/50 shot at playoffs. A loss on Saturday leaves RSL at 34 points, with 4 games remaining. They would need 8 points: 2 wins and 2 draws to have an even chance at the playoffs. RSL hasn’t had a four game unbeaten streak all season (in fact a draw or win at Houston would be their first).

In order to be confident of making the playoffs, RSL would need 43 points (or 3 wins in their final five games). Sports Club Stats puts that point total as a 90% likelihood of qualifying for a playoff spot. It’s not impossible for RSL to get 3 wins if they lose against Houston, but it’s unlikely. Here is the team’s remaining schedule:

9/19: @ Houston

9/26: @ FC Dallas

10/14: NY Red Bulls

10/17: @ Toronto

10/24: Colorado

What are your thoughts on their chances? To me it all comes down to mental toughness and heart. They showed some resiliency down the stretch last season, and never gave up. They may not have won every game, but they kept themselves in every game and gave themselves a chance for points. They need to do the same over these final five games, but they haven’t always shown that fight this season. They have 2 wins and a draw in their last 3 matches. Is this a sign that they are turning the corner, or just a false sign of hope?