By Harrison Crow (@Harrison_Crow)
Leaving BMO Field on Wednesday there were plenty of reasons to be surprised with the score line, as the Red Bulls lost to Toronto FC helping them clinch a playoff spot for the first time in their nine year history. The Red Bulls have simply been one of the best team in MLS. It's not just their exciting up-tempo tactics and high press. They are one of three clubs with a goal differential above 10 and have more than double the expected goal differential than the club in second place.
Leaving points on the table, regardless of being on the road or not, while fighting for first place and the Supporters' Shield is obviously disappointing. But this is not your daddy's TFC. They may be scrapping into the playoffs after a second straight year of spending a small countries annual budget, but they're in the playoffs with a team and more importantly a player that can make some noise.
Sebastian Giovinico has dominated the top of our xG+xA table for most of the season. He's been such a dynamic player for Toronto in that he's not just a pure scorer but also finding ways to involve his teammates. He sits fifth overall in our expected Assists rankings with only 24 of his 52 key passes coming from crosses, something Matt Doyle touched on yesterday concerning MLS number 10s.
Despite losing 3-1, the Red Bulls are still readily in the drivers seat, sitting at 58% odds to win the Shield according SportsClubStats, ahead of FC Dallas who hold a 40% stake and are followed far off in the distance by both LA Galaxy and Toronto FC who combine for the rest of the 2%.
The Red Bulls still have two matches left with Philadelphia at home on Sunday and the Chicago Fire the following Sunday in the Windy City. Neither Philly or Chicago represent much of a challenge as both are very much mired in tough seasons where that once promise and hope of a playoff dream has fizzled into running for MLS' wooden spoon sitting 9th and 10th respectively in the Eastern Conference while and placing 13th and 15th in expected goal differential.
Looking to the Western Conference, speedster Fabian Castillo and FC Dallas have a tougher schedule on deck if they want to compete with the Red Bulls. First, they visit Rio Tinto Stadium and Real Salt Lake then play host to the San Jose Earthquakes on the following Sunday.
Real Salt Lake has pretty much seen their playoffs hopes dashed with the 1-0l loss to Portland earlier this week. The folks in Sandy, Utah aren't the only ones that felt the emotional let down of the Wednesday loss as the win for the Timbers also decreased San Jose's hopes by a considerable margin making both games vital to their playoff hopes.
Let's take a look at the full gambit of matches this weekend. Check out our game predictions page to see how our model predicts these games will end.
Friday, October 16th
7PM, NYCFC (xGD -0.42) @ Orlando City SC (xGD -0.13)
11PM, Sporting Kansas City (xGD 0.16) @ San Jose Earthquakes (xGD 0.06)
Saturday, October 17th
2PM, Columbus Crew SC (xGD 0.07) @ Toronto FC (xGD 0.20)
7:30PM, Montreal Impact (xGD 0.01) @ New England Revolution (xGD 0.11)
9:30PM, FC Dallas (xGD 0.04) @ Real Salt Lake (xGD -0.44)
Sunday, October 18th
2PM, Chicago Fire (xGD -0.03) @ DC United (xGD -0.40)
3PM, Philadelphia Union (xGD 0.02) @ New York Red Bulls (xGD 0.44)
5PM, Seattle Sounders FC (xGD 0.04) @ Houston Dynamo (xGD 0.07)
7PM, Portland Timbers (xGD 0.11) @ LA Galaxy (xGD 0.12)