By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)
Building off what I wrote yesterday, we’re reviewing the community survey that was conducted seven months ago before the MLS season began. We asked you, the reader, to project the final standings in each conference. It's impossible to perfectly predict a sport with so many unforeseeable injuries and transfers. A lot happens in seven months, but it’s great to look back and see how well we did and how things have changed with the benefit of hindsight.
If there was a surprise in the Western Conference it was the fall of Portland. While their attack stayed potent (actually adding 0.15 expected goals scored per match), it was a sharp 0.36 increase in expected goals against that has them earning 0.2 fewer expected goals this season compared to last.
I imagine that changes along the backline are in store for this off-season. That should solve the main issue, and if they can maintain their attack efficiency one would think they’re in store for a return to form next season.
They’ve been every ounce as good this year as last year, and maybe even better. They’re the best team in MLS by Expected Goals, and if it weren’t for an astonishingly slow start like EVERY OTHER year, we’re talking about a team that is beyond great. We’re talking historic. But a year that is surrounded with inconvenience and small little deterrents has prevented history from being made. That being said, with at least four points in the final two weeks, they could still be Supporter Shield champs.
Seattle Sounders FC
Looking back now, it's easier to say, "who would have thought that a team with Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey wouldn't be a top-2 team?" But most people were rather split on the Sounders, perhaps thinking back to their epic fall at the late stages of last season. Looking at things from that perspective, it’s not too surprising that people were rather bearish on the club now leading the way for the Supporter’s Shield.
Real Salt Lake
Despite losing Jason Kries, the team hasn’t lost a beat. Their attack look virtually the same as last year from a statistical standpoint, with similar goals and Expected Goals totals. This is particularly impressive since they have missed a lot of Alvaro Saborio, a key contributor last season. Their point total should be close to--and could be exactly--what it was last year. The drum just keeps on beating in Salt Lake City.
San Jose Quakes
There was some thought after the bump the team received with Mark Watson's promotion that the Quakes would return toward their Supporters'-Shield-winning form. Obviously that hasn’t happened, and for a few reasons. Their defense has been awful, the midfield has underperformed, and Chris Wondolowski has had little help in an attack that was reshaped midseason.
The addition of Perez Garcia is going to help, and a full healthy season of both Djalo and Salinas is going to go a long way. Throw in the continued growth of Tommy Thompson, and they're a club that could very well push their way into the playoffs next season.
There really hasn’t been much difference overall between this year and last year when it comes to totals and production numbers. However, just a few weeks ago I suspect that would have been a bit different. The defensive injuries, mental instabilities of their goal keepers, and overall bad luck have altogether combined for a less than impressive season. But they’ve largely had a competitive season, and with both Dillion Powers and Deshorn Brown together for the foreseeable future, I can’t help but think this is a club that has a positive future ahead.
The Whitecaps had lost one of the league's Golden Boot winners in Camilo, the organization’s top player since its inception to Major League Soccer in 2011. Not only that, but you also had rookie head coach, Carl Robinson, taking over. It was kind of expected that they would take a step back this season. Instead the team found a gem in Pedro Morales, and the growth of both Kendall Waston and Russell Tiebert has helped propel them into playoff position with two winnable games left. In fact, our model gives them a 70% chance at their second postseason berth in just four Major League seasons.
We all believe that Óscar Pareja was a talented coach. But he did more than what most thought was possible after taking the job late into the off-season. Whisking raw and speedy attackers together, he finally molded them into efficient pieces that delivered in major moments. The addition of Mario Diaz was a quick buzz for the season, but his injury created a hole that most expected Dallas to crumble into. Instead his absence was filled by the long awaited maturing of winger Fabian Castillo, who turned into a fringe MVP candidate. If all that wasn’t enough, Dallas still has a chance to snag the Western Conference third seed from RSL and skip the play-in match.
Surprise! Chivas was bad this year! I have to admit this was one of my “shock” picks that I got wrong. I seriously thought the addition of Rosales, another year of Torres, and a full season of a settled Carlos Bocanegra could equate to a season of competitiveness from the franchise in complete disarray. And, to my credit, they did improve in both expected goals scored and expected goals against from 2013. But when it just leads to still being the worst team, what does it matter? This was an altogether pathetic showing once again from an organization that, as it turns out, may not play again for a few years.