Analysis

Scoping the Union’s stretch run

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Heading into the final turn of the 2013 season, the Philadelphia Union appear to be in good position to secure a playoff spot for the second time in team history. Only three points out of first place with eight games to go, the Union seem on the cusp of achieving something that most fans would have called a pipedream at this time last season.

Last Sunday, Philly had the opportunity to give themselves at least a five point cushion over the playoff cutoff. To say the team did not take that opportunity would be like saying Landon Donovan has a slight case of vertigo that only manifests when he is in the eighteen yard box. It would be like saying MLS referees occasionally struggle for consistency. It would, in short, be an epic understatement.

But this team has shown a resiliency few expected from such a young squad. They have bounced back before and seem capable of doing it again, even with Amobi Okugo suspended.

So with that in mind, let’s take a quick look at what the Union and the three teams that are most likely to challenge them for a playoff berth have to deal with down the stretch run.

UnionPPGNEPPGHOUPPGCHIPPG
vs MON1.71at TOR0.84at CHI1.42vs HOU1.5
at SJ1.31vs MON1.71at CLB1.15at SEA1.61
vs HOU1.5at CHI1.42vs NY1.5at TOR0.84
at KC1.5vs DC0.56at PHI1.46vs NE1.44
vs TOR0.84vs HOU1.5vs CHV0.84vs CLB1.15
at DC0.56at NY1.5at NE1.44vs MON1.71
at MON1.71at MON1.71vs MON1.71at DC0.56
vs KC1.5vs CLB1.15vs KC1.5at DAL1.42
at CLB1.15vs NY1.5vs TOR0.84
at DC0.56at NY1.5
Overall Total1.331.281.3081.257
Home Total1.391.231.411.33
Road Total1.271.321.211.19

The Union have eight matches left to play – four at home and four away. They play seven Eastern Conference showdowns and once at San Jose. Amobi Okugo will be absent from Montreal’s visit this weekend and the trip to California next week. Keon Daniel and Ray Gaddis are uncertainties, Sheanon Williams and Danny Cruz are one caution away from suspension, but otherwise the Union’s first eleven are healthy and ready. Cruz is one game away from a good behavior incentive that will alleviate his suspension worries.

Of the four teams vying for a playoff spot, the Union play the toughest overall schedule. The teams they face over the next two months average 1.33 points per game. Philly plays only two games against teams below them in the standings, once against Toronto at PPL Park and DC United on the road.

The Union faces the second toughest home schedule and the second toughest road schedule of the teams competing for a playoff berth. Houston’s home schedule is rough, with New York twice, Kansas City, and Montreal all coming to BBVA Compass, but they travel to DC and Columbus for a chance to earn full points away. New England’s road schedule features two games at Montreal and a trip to New York, but home games against DC and Columbus should offer easy points.

The only gimme on the Union’s home schedule is Toronto FC, a disaster of a club that has become something of a bogey team for Philadelphia over the past two seasons. Grabbing full home points against two of Montreal, Houston, and Kansas City seems imperative for Philly to achieve their playoff dreams.

Away from the friendly confines, a win at DC United seems necessary, while stealing a point at San Jose and at either Kansas City or Montreal would be extremely helpful.

Houston, the last Eastern Conference team to qualify for the playoff in 2012, collected 53 points over the campaign. To reach that number, the Union need to find 15 points from their last eight matches. Right now, it looks like 1.5 points per game is a reasonable cutoff for making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference in 2013. That means the Union need 13 points, or 1.63 points per game.

Currently, they are averaging 1.46 points per game.

Where do you think this team will find the points they will need to make the playoffs?

15 Comments

  1. WilkersonMcLaser says:

    I could attribute this to the aftereffects of the abortion of a game last weekend, but all this article seems to tell me is: “don’t be surprised if we don’t make the playoffs.”

  2. I cant believe in a league that is slowly gaining traction and features more and more teams trying to play attractive soccer, with young american players and coaches, WE Are the ones stuck with the Bob Bradley school of tactics reject.
    It’s not just that we play an empty bucket, but our bucket isnt even that good! Carrol is done, he was never an offensive player to begin with and now his defensive skills are being exposed more and more often. And we’ve all said enough about Daniel.

    • I agree Carrol seems to be done. He does OK against the lesser teams like DC and Toronto, but stuggles against any team with organization. Never a fast player to begin with, it seems relying on his abilities – determination, reading the game, strong positioning, etc – is no longer going to cut it for him.
      .
      Does anybody know if he’s under contract for next season?

      • WilkersonMcLaser says:

        Why are we surprised that Carroll struggles when he is not only being asked to single-handedly screen the defense while also going forward since Keon won’t? Anyone?

      • Because there was a time when Brian Carrol could do exactly that. Well, minus the getting forward part.

  3. WilkersonMcLaser says:

    By the way, PSP, you guys need to have a firm, honest conversation with your web hosts. I feel like every third time I come here there’s an error of some kind.

    • Trust me. We know. It’s extraordinarily frustrating. Part of the problem is our hosts. Part of the problem is that the site has grown too big. And the other part we haven’t figured out yet, which is where we’re at now. We recently brought on a volunteer (our first one washed out) who’s better on the tech side than we are and a real solid guy, but he’s new to WordPress. (If anyone knows a good WordPress guru willing to help troubleshoot our problems, we’d certainly welcome any help we can get.) We’ve been working on it for weeks, but it’s a matter of finding some time here and finding some more time there. None of us is the blogger-with-no-life-living-in-his-mom’s-basement sort (we all have legit careers, and some have families), so it’s hard to find time to learn all the tech side, fix it, and still have time to have an actual life and produce PSP.

    • With a name like WilkersonMcLaser, it seems like you should have some tech abilities or at least have some old British dude in your underground lair who while taking a break from building you the raddest spy car around could fix the site. If not, you should.

  4. One good thing is that Houston, NE, and Chicago all play each other. I’m giving it 2/5 odds of us making it.

  5. kingkowboys says:

    This basically tells me that the end of the season will be a nail biter. That is a tall order to gain a comfortable advantage. If we beat both Toronto and DC that’s 6pts. Out of the other 6 games we would only need to win 1 and tie 4 with 2 loses to hit the 13pt mark. If we can tie or win any more it’s extra cushion if the 13pts over 8 is the mark to make the playoffs. That isn’t that momentous of a task. I see this as a don’t shit the bed and we at least have a chance.

  6. kingkowboys says:

    Coming into the season I was expecting to be in playoff contention at the end of the year but probably miss them. So being in this spot is exceeding my expectations.

  7. It will be a great help if kc has nothing to play for in the last game.

    • True, but going into the playoffs, they’d probably want to keep the majority of their guys sharp. Most teams in that situation typically field a very strong team, with maybe just a couple surprise subs at the end. Nobody likes taking a loss into the playoffs.

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