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The Steel and the playoffs — it’s gonna be close

It’s time for a last guess at predicting the Bethlehem Steel’s playoff fate.

They currently lie in ninth place with 40 points, one behind the New York Red Bulls II.

Today’s table

Of the four teams lying three points or less away from Bethlehem, the Steel have a game in hand on two – Cincinnati and Orlando. And they have two games in hand on Harrisburg, who are very unlikely to catch them even if they lose all three and Harrisburg wins out. The two teams would be even on wins, the first tie-breaker. The City Islanders are 15 goals behind in goal difference, the second tiebreaker.

The five teams lie as follows in the table:

Place       Team                   GP      W    D     L     Pts      Opponents                            Points Available
6th          FC Cincinnati       30      11    10     9     43       Ottawa – A, Toronto – A                                 6
7th          Orlando City B     30      10    12     8     42       NYRB2 – H, Tampa – H                                 6
8th          NY Red Bulls 2    29      12     5    12     41       Tampa – A, Orlando – A, Rochester – A        9
9th          Bethlehem           29      11     7     11     40       Toronto – A, Rochester – A, St. Louis – H     9
10th        Harrisburg           31      10     7     14     37       Charleston – A                                               3

Notice that the ratio of draws to losses is what separates the five sides.

Eyeball analysis: The others

Harrisburg is eliminated from the playoffs as they cannot catch catch 8th place New York.

New York Red Bulls 2 is closest to the Steel in the table as well as their bitter rival. They finish with a hard schedule – three away games against playoff qualifiers:

  • At fourth place Tampa.
  • At seventh place Orlando.
  • At fifth place Rochester, where they have never won.

Red Bulls 2’s away record is so-so, 2 wins, 5 draws and 6 losses. Orlando seems their best chance for a win, barring further own goals by opponents. They and the Steel will be neck-and-neck.

Orlando City B has two home games. But their home record is 3 wins, 8 draws and 3 losses. They are considered old for a wholly-owned player development side, making their performance more likely consistent and predictable. Taking all of the six home points available seems unlikely, but so is the Steel catching them.

FC Cincinnati is defending strongly as the season ends. To win, they rely on moments of brilliance from their strikers, Djiby Fall and Danni Konig. But on the road, they have struggled – 3 wins, 4 draws and 7 losses. Ottawa plays a similar style with a similar squad composition. Toronto is dead last, but recently beat first-place Louisville in Canada causing bookies to grumble, “Go figure.” Two or four points seem most likely for Cincy and it would take running the table for the Steel to catch them.

Eyeball analysis: The Steel

PSP knows what coach Burke believes he needs.

  • He has called the game Friday away to Toronto a must-win.
  • And he hopes that when St. Louis comes to Goodman Stadium they are already dead in the water with nothing left to play for. Hopefully, that will be three more Steel points.
  • He thinks Rochester will be fighting hard for its own playoff positioning and is cagier about the possibilities there in a Tuesday game after a Friday one.

The team will fly to Toronto and will train at the Toronto FC 2 facility in Vaughan, Ontario on Saturday the day after the match. And they will practice there late Sunday afternoon before heading to Rochester in hopes of minimizing the wear and tear of travel.

PSP thinks 4 points out of the last 3 games is the minimum even to stay in the playoff conversation. But Coach Burke is aiming for 6. Toronto and St. Louis need to be wins and anything from Rochester would be wonderful.

Statistical analysis

PSP’s statistical guru Chris Sherman kindly gave us an early look at the SEBA predictions published earlier this morning.

SEBA thinks Bethlehem will finish with 12 wins, 8 draws and 12 losses for 44 points, earning 8th place by a cat’s whisker over Red Bulls 2 and getting the already-announced playoff game on Friday, October 20th at 7:30 pm against conference leader Louisville.  So it’s clear why Coach Burke is aiming for six points.

SEBA thinks Bethlehem’s playoff odds are about 68%. The Red Bulls are higher in the power rankings but face a harder schedule so that’s a major advantage for the Steel. The Jerseyites have a 62% chance to make the playoffs.

According to SEBA, here are the likely results from the Steel’s final three games:

Day            Date        Team                    L         D           W
Friday        Oct. 6     at Toronto FC 2   37%    28%      35%
Tuesday     Oct. 10   at Rochester       42%     38%     20%
Sunday       Oct. 15   St. Louis             21%     30%     49%

Here is the final Eastern Conference table as SEBA sees it today. Fractions have been rounded, so the table contains inconsistencies.   Remember that SEBA is a prediction of future reality.

Place      Team                 W      D      L      Pts       Explanations
1st           Louisville          17      9      6      60
2nd         Charleston       14       9      9      51        ahead on goal differential
3rd          Charlotte          14       9      9      51        behind on goal differential
4th          Tampa Bay       13     11      8      50
5th          Rochester         12     12     8      49        discrepancy from rounding
6th          Cincinnati         12      11     9      46        discrepancy from rounding
7th          Orlando B         11      13     8      45        discrepancy from rounding
8th          Bethlehem        12       8    12     44        fractionally ahead of NYRB2
9th          NYRedBulls2    13       5     14     44        fractionally behind BSFC
10th        Harrisburg         10       8     15     38        ahead on wins
11th         Pittsburgh           9     11     12     38        behind on wins
12th         St. Louis            10      8     14     38        fractionally behind the other two
13th         Ottawa                8     13     11     37
14th         Richmond           7       9     16     31        discrepancy from rounding
15th         Toronto FC 2      7       7     17     28


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