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No balance? No problem for Philly

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Last year the Philadelphia Union lost a total of 8 games.

Six of those losses came against Western Conference competition, including the team’s only defeat at PPL Park (who woke up Pablo Mastroeni for that one?).

Unbalanced is good for the east…

The 2012 MLS schedule is unbalanced, meaning the Union play a single match against each Western Conference foe. Colorado, Vancouver, San Jose and Salt Lake are the only westerners coming to Philly this year.

Just a quick look at the 2011 standings makes clear that fewer games against Western Conference opponents is a major boon for the East. Of the 162 inter-conference games played last year, the West won 57 and lost 47. The West took 229 points from inter-conference play while the East nabbed only 199.

With only half as many inter-conference matches planned for 2012, the entire Eastern Conference should be breathing a huge sigh of relief. And of the teams in the East, the Philadelphia Union might reap the most benefits from the new schedule format.

…And very good for Philly

Of the five Eastern Conference teams that made the playoffs last season, the Union was the only one to finish below 500 against the west. And the team’s 4–6–8 record is just the beginning of the story. Three of the Union’s four wins were against the bottom three teams in the Western Conference, and they were all at home: An early season 1–0 win over 10-man Vancouver, an ugly victory over San Jose (who played Wondolowski on the wing for no apparent reason), and a 3–2 come-from-behinder against Chivas USA.

Granted, the Union did romp all over Seattle at CenturyLink. Shall we take a moment to bask in that glory one more time? Yeah… feels good, man.

Now a few more scary stats: The Union scored a total (total!) of 16 goals in 18 games against Western Conference opponents. They scored more than one goal in 3 games (less than 17% of the time), and of the 44 goals scored on the season, less than 37% came in the 50% of the time the Union took the field against a Western Conference opponent.

Beyond the Union’s poor showings against the West, there are other reasons to welcome the unbalanced schedule. While Philly took only 18 of their 48 points (37.5%) off Western Conference opponents, Houston (31; 63.3%), Kansas City (27; 52.9%), Columbus (25; 53.2%), and New York (23; 50.0%) all took at least half their points off the west, against teams they will play exactly half as many times as they did in 2011.

How will the 2012 team fare?

Half the teams in the East welcome five western teams at home and play four on the road, the other half do the opposite. The Union have two very winnable home games against the West this year: Colorado should be a struggler and San Jose will continue its Pittsburgh Pirates impression. Vancouver will be an emotional match but it also looks to be a difficult test. The Union will rep their defense while Vancouver looks like they will start with twelve strikers on the pitch if they can. Real Salt Lake will be a battle as always, with Philly looking to make up for an undeserved tie in the corresponding 2011 fixture.

That leaves the Union’s away games against the West, and I leave that analysis to PSP’s well-informed readers: The U travel to Portland, Chivas, Seattle, Dallas, and LA this year. How many points are we expecting from those four difficult (and one Chivas) matches? Give your predictions in the comments.

14 Comments

  1. This is very well pointed out, though it’s only gonna make the Western Conference’s superiority complex even worse.

  2. I’m predicting 2 wins (Chivas & Portland), 2 losses (Seattle & LA), and 1 tie (Dallas) for a 7 point total.

  3. I predict one point from the five western conference road games. I think we tie Chivas and lose to Portland, LA, Seattle, and Dallas. First, we lost to Dallas, LA, and Portland last year, and each of those teams have improved. Second, we tied Chivas last year and they’ve not really done much to improve. Finally, it’s tough for me to imagine that we’ll have as much success in Seattle this year as last.

    • So you’re saying they’ve improved and the Union have gotten worse? That’s a pretty hard line you’re taking, not going to give the Union any credit?

      • The Union have gotten worse.

      • I can’t make any rational argument for the 2012 Zolos being better than the 2011 Zolos. Alot of pressure on our young players, and should an injury hit our backline in anyway (especially MacMath, Califf, Valdes) the Union are well are truly screwed.

        I’d go with the following: Portland (Loss) Chivas (Win) Seattle (Draw) Dallas (Loss) Galaxy (Loss). 4 points from 15, ouch…….

      • You very well might be right, but Gomez, Lopez and a healthy Adu will all be upgrades. If any of Mwanga, Pajoy, JackMac or Martinez come good, things should be just fine. However, how long it takes to develop the chemistry needed to put it all together remains the unknown.

      • By “things should be just fine” do you mean fine in that we finish above “.500”, fine in that we make the playoffs or fine in that we win some silverware? Maybe you mean we will be fine in that we can compete in a weaker conference? Too many what ifs.

      • The Union have “questions” and “potential” across the forward and midfield positions. LA, Dallas, and Seattle have proven players and past results. I WANT us to be good as much as anyone, but simply wanting something does not make it so.

        What if Adu doesn’t play any better this year? What if Mwanga continues to disappoint as a starter? What if the new imports don’t adjust to the MLS game as quickly as needed? What if McMath or a CB gets injured? Compare that to the team coming off an MLS cup, maintained it’s best players (wow, what a novel idea, huh?), and added back the striker that tore up MLS in 2010. What am I supposed to expect from that?

  4. i’d rather see a balanced schedule and a league table that means something. not playing those games makes the union a worse team. i’d much prefer they play and beat the best teams.

  5. CityHeroesSpursZeros says:

    You guys are so negative, different sport, same philly fans.

  6. Can’t wait to just have some live game footage to go off of, like the MLS analysts in the Power Rankings, none of us have any idea how to gauge this team…Other than young goalie, lack of depth in the backfield….March 12th can’t come soon enough.

  7. I would say they are good for 1 win and possibly 2 ties at best…5 points. They have struggled in the West, I think 3 results in 5 matches would be progress.

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