The Myth of MLS Home Field Dominance
That number is the percentage of points that MLS Eastern Conference teams have earned from their home games so far this season. In what is fast becoming the season of the tie game it is this statistic that should give Toronto FC supporters at least some pause if they are considering throwing in the towel on the MLS season and TFC’s playoff hopes as the mid point of the season fast approaches.
And speaking of ties it appears that the trend of deadlocked games might make it possible for a club like Toronto to perhaps stay in the fight a bit longer than it might appear at this point in the season based on results we have seen so far To date 37.2% of games featuring Eastern Conference clubs have ended in draws. And in the last five games each Eastern Conference team has played the tie trend has grown even more prevalent with roughly 51% of those games ending deadlocked.
Even the clubs at the top of the Eastern Conference are not exactly tearing it up at home. Only three clubs (New York, Philadelphia and Columbus) have been able to earn more than 60% of available points at home so far this year. Only one club has five wins at home. And six of nine clubs have secured equal to or more draws than wins in their respective 2011 campaigns.
So what do these numbers mean for a club like Toronto FC that undoubtedly struggled so far this season both home and away?
Well one thing it means is that TFC is two home results away from being at least middle of the pack when it comes to the Eastern Conference. The Reds have only earned one third of points on offer at home at 33.3% which is roughly 17 points lower than the Conference average. To me this means that if you take the optimistic approach and see TFC earn wins against Seattle and Vancouver next up at home in MLS, that would take take their home average from 33.3% up to 51.5%, and back into the realms of respectability, and maybe back in the playoff picture with a reasonable chance of getting in.
On the road TFC has yet of course to secure a win going 0-3-3 so far. That works out to be 16.7% of road points secured which compares to an Eastern Conference average of 24.8%. No club in the East has earned more than 39% of road points so far, with only Philly and DC United being able to to that well on the road this season. Again the Reds are just a result away from respectability. Lets say for a moment that the Reds can earn a win in New England upcoming on Wednesday evening. For a team like the Revs who are winless in five matches and who are struggling to score goals home or away this is not outside the realm of possibility is it not? Especially after the last two road games in Colorado and in Los Angeles that showed a spark that Toronto have been lacking for a long time away from BMO Field. A win in Boston on Wednesday puts TFC at 28.6% of points earned on the road which again would put them slightly ahead of the conference average.
So even a modest string of results could put Toronto well back into the playoff mix.
But I think there is one huge caveat all TFC fans need to remember here. The injury bug is biting TFC harder than just about any other club in the league this season. Cann is gone for the rest of the campaign. Williams and Attakora are on the shelf for as yet indeterminate periods of time. Jacob Peterson could be out again for a while. de Guzman has been hobbling for periods away with Canada at the Gold Cup. And these injuries come to a squad that has been struggling with issues of depth and of squad quality in different ways at varying points of the campaign.
Toronto FC needs to see the squad reinforced with new players that can at least to a degree address the defensive and attacking problems this team had had if there is any chance to stay in the fight for a few more months yet.
I do not believe that we should write off the 2011 MLS campaign yet either! To me the numbers I have been quoting in this piece speak to a gap that exists between TFC and the rest of the East that is plainly there for all to see. But the gap is not as large as it might seem once you crunch the numbers just a little bit. When more than half of the games each club has played in the past five weeks have ended in draws there is still a window of opportunity there for Aron Winter and company to salvage something from this campaign considering how flat the rest of the conference potentially is.
For five seasons now TFC has struggled to make their mark on this league and if they miss the expanded MLS playoff this year it will be an unmatched record of futility in the short history of this league. Don’t get me wrong I get the fact that a tear down and a rebuild was necessary here considering the level of destruction left in the wake of” Hurricane Mo.” But adding a few quality pieces of the right sort now might not only speed up that process but give the long suffering fan something to hold onto for the next three months. And after five years of what we have seen I think that would be a smart way to try and undo some of the damage and stem the erosion of the brand has suffered in the last couple of seasons.
Let us know what you think. Your comments are always welcome and appreciated in this space.