Setting the Stage for October: 2013's Final Act

Gene Sweeney Jr.

The final act to this strange season is finally here. It's involved a silver cup and a wooden spoon, and it may yet mean spoiling our rivals' post-season plans. And, D.C. United is still chasing the ghost of Tampa Bay.

Welcome to the final month of the Major League Soccer regular season. October's biggest event has already occurred with D.C. United winning the 100th US Open Cup, but let's set the stage one final time for the regular season's closing stretch. We'll proceed bullet style for this post since, like D.C. United, we are more focused on next season than on expending more words on the waning matches of this year.

0. Trophies Awarded in 2013:

- One of MLS's three trophies in 2013 has been awarded, and it went to D.C. United.

- The Black-and-Red continue to sit alone atop the all-time trophies list for MLS teams:

Team Major Trophies Won
D.C. United 13
LA Galaxy 11
Chicago Fire 6
Columbus Crew 5
San Jose Earthquakes 4
Sporting Kansas City 4
Toronto FC 4
Seattle Sounders 3
Houston Dynamo 2
New England Revolution 2
Colorado Rapids 1
FC Dallas 1
Montreal Impact 1
Real Salt Lake 1
Chivas USA 0
New York Red Bulls 0
Philadelphia Union 0
Portland Timbers 0
Vancouver Whitecaps 0

- The Amway Canadian Championship is included in the totals above. Does anyone think Toronto's four trophies are equivalent to San Jose's or Sporting's? Is Montreal's trophy equal to Colorado's, Dallas', or RSL's?

1. September's MLS Results:

- Teams that played well in September have positioned themselves well for the final stretch.

Team Total Points Games Played Pts/ Game Wins Losses Draws Goals
New York Red Bulls 10 4 2.50 3 0 1 8
Portland Timbers 10 4 2.50 3 0 1 7
San Jose Earthquakes 10 4 2.50 3 0 1 4
Columbus Crew 12 5 2.40 4 1 0 11
Seattle Sounders 11 5 2.20 3 0 2 6
Sporting Kansas City 6 3 2.00 2 1 0 5
Colorado Rapids 6 3 2.00 2 1 0 3
Houston Dynamo 7 5 1.40 2 2 1 8
Vancouver Whitecaps 4 4 1.00 1 2 1 4
New England Revolution 4 4 1.00 1 2 1 7
Chicago Fire 5 5 1.00 1 2 2 7
Montreal Impact 4 4 1.00 1 2 1 7
Real Salt Lake 3 3 1.00 1 2 0 2
Philadelphia Union 3 3 1.00 1 2 0 1
Chivas USA 4 5 0.80 1 3 1 3
Toronto FC 4 5 0.80 1 3 1 6
FC Dallas 3 4 0.75 1 3 0 6
LA Galaxy 2 4 0.50 0 2 2 4
D.C. United 1 4 0.25 0 3 1 3

- The New York Red Bulls, Portland Timbers, and San Jose Earthquakes had the highest points per game average (2.5 pts/game) in September. San Jose's late surge is both surprising and very well timed for the current Supporters' Shield holders who had all but played themselves out of the playoffs earlier this season.

- The surprising Columbus Crew piled up the most points in September (12 pts), followed by the hot Seattle Sounders (11 pts). The Crew's much improved performance since their coaching change finds them just on the outside of a playoff spot.

- D.C. United was the worst team in total points and points/game for the fourth time out of seven months (and third in a row) this season. Say what you will, but United's league performance has been consistent all season long.

- The LA Galaxy joined D.C. United as the only teams not to get a win in September.

- No team has clinched a playoff spot yet, and only three teams have been eliminated from contention (D.C., Toronto FC, and Chivas USA).

2. Current MLS Supporters' Shield Standings:

- The number of teams with a legitimate shot at winning the Supporters' Shield is astounding. Five teams easily have a shot (New York, RSL, Seattle, Portland, and Sporting), while five others have an outside shot (Montreal, LA, Colorado, Houston, and San Jose).

Team Total Points Games Played Pts/ Game Wins Losses Draws Goals Goals Against
New York Red Bulls 52 31 1.68 15 9 7 48 37
Real Salt Lake 51 31 1.65 15 10 6 54 39
Seattle Sounders 51 29 1.76 15 8 6 39 29
Portland Timbers 49 30 1.63 12 5 13 46 31
Sporting Kansas City 48 30 1.60 14 10 6 43 29
Montreal Impact 46 29 1.59 13 9 7 48 44
LA Galaxy 45 30 1.50 13 11 6 46 37
Colorado Rapids 45 30 1.50 12 9 9 37 31
Houston Dynamo 44 30 1.47 12 10 8 38 37
San Jose Earthquakes 44 31 1.42 12 11 8 32 41
Philadelphia Union 42 30 1.40 11 10 9 38 39
Columbus Crew 41 31 1.32 12 14 5 40 41
New England Revolution 41 30 1.37 11 11 8 42 34
Vancouver Whitecaps 41 30 1.37 11 11 8 42 39
Chicago Fire 40 30 1.33 11 12 7 38 45
FC Dallas 40 30 1.33 10 10 10 42 46
Chivas USA 26 31 0.84 6 17 8 29 55
Toronto FC 26 31 0.84 5 15 11 29 45
D.C. United 15 30 0.50 3 21 6 20 52

- Seattle is not only the hottest team in MLS (8-1-3, 27 pts total, in their last 12 games), but they have the inside track to the Supporters' Shield with two games in hand over NYRB and RSL.

3. Current MLS Eastern Conference Standings:

- New York is leading the Eastern Conference heading into the final month. Other teams can catch them, but with only three games left to play, the Red Bulls have put a mark on the wall that others must now chase.

Team Total Points Games Played Pts/ Game Wins Losses Draws Potential Points
New York Red Bulls 52 31 1.68 15 9 7 61
Sporting Kansas City 48 30 1.60 14 10 6 60
Montreal Impact 46 29 1.59 13 9 7 61
Houston Dynamo 44 30 1.47 12 10 8 56
Philadelphia Union 42 30 1.40 11 10 9 54
Columbus Crew 41 31 1.32 12 14 5 50
New England Revolution 41 30 1.37 11 11 8 53
Chicago Fire 40 30 1.33 11 12 7 52
Toronto FC 26 31 0.84 5 15 11 35
D.C. United 15 30 0.50 3 21 6 27

- Columbus made the biggest move toward the playoffs in September. They were 8 points out of the final playoff spot at the end of August, and now they are 1 point out.

- It's hard to fault Mike Magee's missed PK in last weekend's 2-2 draw against Montreal for losing the match (he did after all score their two goals), but had he converted the penalty, Chicago would be sitting in the final playoff spot ahead of Philadelphia on the first tiebreaker (wins) rather than in eighth place 2 points out of the playoffs.

- For the first time since the beginning of the season, Montreal did not finish a month leading the Eastern Conference on a points/game basis. They've been sliding for months now from their early season form, and it's finally caught up with them in the standings.

4. Current MLS Attendance Table:

- MLS average attendance continued to slightly improve during September and now sits at 18,399 (up from 18,285 last month). For the year, 2013's average attendance is down 2.17% from last season's average of 18,807.

Team Games Played 2013 Average
Seattle Sounders 15 42,907
LA Galaxy 14 22,156
Montreal Impact 15 20,823
Portland Timbers 15 20,674
Vancouver Whitecaps 15 20,023
Houston Dynamo 14 20,001
Sporting Kansas City 16 19,758
Real Salt Lake 15 19,051
New York Red Bulls 15 18,693
Toronto FC 16 18,439
Philadelphia Union 15 17,753
Columbus Crew 15 15,783
FC Dallas 15 15,483
Colorado Rapids 15 15,087
Chicago Fire 16 14,937
New England Revolution 16 14,112
D.C. United 14 13,792
San Jose Earthquakes 15 13,064
Chivas USA 16 8,200
MLS Average
18,399

- D.C. United's average home attendance increased slightly in September to 13,792 (from 13,604 at the end of August). So far in 2013, attendance at RFK is almost equal to last season's home attendance of 13,846 (down 0.39%). Hopefully, Friday's game against Chicago at home will get a boost from the US Open win (although Fridays are rarely great draws at RFK).

- Overall, D.C. United sits 17th out of 19 MLS teams in average home attendance. Of the two teams that trail them, San Jose plays in a stadium with a capacity of 10,525, while Chivas is, well, Chivas.

5. October's MLS Eastern Conference Schedule:

- Good job by MLS for pitting conference rivals against each other in October. The right teams are playing each other to make this an exciting stretch run with several meaningful games that will directly affect the playoff standings and Supporters' Shield race on the final weekend.

4/5 Oct 9 Oct 12 Oct 16 Oct 18/19/20 Oct 26/27 Oct
New York Red Bulls New England @ Houston Chicago
Sporting Kansas City @ Columbus @ Houston DC @ Philadelphia
Montreal Impact @ Houston New England @ LA Philadelphia @ Toronto
Houston Dynamo Montreal Sporting New York @ DC
Philadelphia Union Toronto @ DC @ Montreal Sporting
New England Revs @ New York @ Montreal Columbus @ Columbus
Chicago Fire @ DC @ Dallas Toronto @ New York
Columbus Crew Sporting @ New England New England
Toronto FC @ Philadelphia @ Chicago Montreal
D.C. United Chicago Philadelphia @ Sporting Houston

- While it's a shame D.C. United isn't in the playoff race, they can play spoilers with all four of their games against playoff contenders. No matter who Ben Olsen runs out over the next four weeks, they will be playing against motivated teams with something on the line. This will be an ideal opportunity to check out the youngsters against real competition.

- Bruce Arena is right about the craziness of CONCACAF Champions League games being played during October. I don't have a better solution, so I'll only restate the problem and note that D.C. United may very well be playing mid-week CONCACAF games next October in some Latin American country while trying to make the playoffs in MLS. Both Sporting Kansas City and Houston will be playing CCL games in mid-week between the final two weekends of the season while in a tight playoff race, including the Dynamo having to travel to Panama just days before their final match at RFK.

- New York has the easiest schedule in October of the teams fighting for the playoffs. The Red Bulls only play three games, with two of those at home. The other playoff contenders play a majority of their games on the road (Sporting, Montreal, New England, Chicago), play more games (everyone but Columbus), or play tougher competition (notably Houston).

- Why do New England and Columbus close the season playing each other twice in a row? It makes no sense, but it just might determine the final playoff spot.

- D.C. United is currently on track to beat the 2001 Tampa Bay Mutiny for worst points/game average across an entire season:

Team Total Points Games Played Pts/ Game Wins Losses Draws
D.C. United 15 30 0.50 3 21 6
2001 Tampa Bay Mutiny 14 27 0.52 4 21 2

- This season couldn't be any stranger.

What are you watching for during the month of October? Which team do you see winning the Supporters' Shield?

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