FanPost

First Place On June 16th - What's It Mean?

So, D.C. United has earned a lot of well-deserved praise for sitting atop the Eastern Conference at the first break of the season. But, what does "sitting atop" the conference table really mean at this point of the year when D.C. and Dallas have played the most matches of any team in the league (50% more games than woeful Toronto)?

Team Points Games Played
DC United 27 15
New York RB 26 13
Sporting KC 25 12
Columbus Crew 18 12
Chicago Fire 18 13
New England Revs 16 13
Houston Dynamo 16 12
Montreal Impact 12 13
Philadelphia Union 8 11
Toronto FC 3 10

The optimistic interpretation is that D.C. United has put a marker on the wall of 27 points after 15 games and now the other Eastern Conference teams have to try to match it. Since those other teams have yet to earn 27 points, and there is no guarantee they will do so, United is truly the top team in the conference.

Looking at the conference table differently, we can get a gauge of how each team has performed on average this season and project what their end-of-season point totals will be:

Team Points Games Played Avg Pts/Game Projected Pts
Sporting KC 25 12 2.08 71
New York RB 26 13 2.00 68
DC United 27 15 1.80 61
Columbus Crew 18 12 1.50 51
Chicago Fire 18 13 1.38 47
Houston Dynamo 16 12 1.33 45
New England Revs 16 13 1.23 42
Montreal Impact 12 13 0.92 31
Philadelphia Union 8 11 0.73 25
Toronto FC 3 10 0.30 10

From this perspective, United has had the third best start in the conference behind Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls (and in fact, it's clear these three teams have significantly separated themselves from the other teams in the conference so far this season).

As a final way to view the opening of the season, since D.C. United has played 15 games (a number no other team in the conference has equaled yet), let's look at the potential number of points the other teams in the conference could earn after they have played 15 matches. This assumes those other teams win every remaining game until they have played 15 games (ignore the fact that in some cases these teams will be playing each other and they can't both win such a game). Again, what follows shows the maximum number of points each team in the Eastern Conference could potentially have after 15 games:

Team Potential Points at 15 Games Games to get to 15
Sporting KC 34 Tor,@Sea,@Phi
New York RB 32 @Chi,@Van
DC United 27
Columbus Crew 27 @NE,@Chi,RSL
Chicago Fire 24 NY,Crew
Houston Dynamo 25 Dal,Tor,@Mon
New England Revs 22 Crew,@Tor
Montreal Impact 18 Sea,Chv
Philadelphia Union 20 DCU,KC,@Hou,@LA
Toronto FC 18 @KC,@Hou,NE,@Mon,NY

This is an interesting view of the table since it shows D.C. United tied for third with Columbus (but D.C. breaks the tie based on a much better goal differential, +9 compared to 0). But again, this is a comparison of United's actual points through 15 matches compared to the other teams' potential points if they win all their remaining games until they have played 15 matches.

Some other observations:

- With games against Toronto and Philadelphia (along with a tough road test at Seattle), I think Sporting KC scores at least 4 points in their next three games, meaning they should be on a minimum of 29 points (and maybe as many as 34) after 15 games.

- I only see New York earning 3 points in their next two games (both on the road). This puts them on 29 points as well (with a potential of 32 points).

- Columbus is a surprise team. They haven't lost since falling 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps at home on April 28th. Unfortunately for the Crew, even if they can win on the road at both New England and Chicago, they have to play Real Salt Lake in their 15th game. I don't see them winning that game. But, I do think they could win the two road games if they continue their good form. So, I see them at 24 points after 15 games (with a potential for 27).

What does all this mean for D.C. United? Well, they've started the season well, but they are likely not going to stay on top of the table as Sporting KC and New York start to equal them in games played. If United wants to secure the top spot in the Eastern Conference at the end of the season, they are going to have to make up some ground on Sporting and New York. So, their remaining games against these teams (@NY on 24 Jun; @KC on 11 Aug; NY on 29 Aug) are big--very big. Also, the three games against Columbus appear to be critical matches (@CLB on 21 Jul; CLB on 4 Aug; CLB on 20 Oct) for keeping a hungry Crew team in the middle of the Eastern Conference table and not letting them vault into the top three. Finally, if United has any hope of winning the Supporters Shield, the September 1st game on the road against Real Salt Lake looms very large. D.C. has already played the other top four teams in the Western Conference (San Jose, Seattle, Colorado, Vancouver), but RSL looks to be the class of the West at this point in the season.

Note: This is my first post. I've been a lurker on this site this season, but have been a D.C. United fan from the beginning. I lived in the D.C. area from 1995-1997, and attended many of the "firsts" for United (first game at RFK, first U.S. Open Final, presentation of first league championship rings, etc...). I've moved back to D.C. within the last year and have loved getting to see D.C. United play live again on a regular basis.

What about you? What do you think about D.C. United sitting atop the Eastern Conference on June 16th having played so many more games than the other teams?

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