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Beware the curse of the Supporters' Shield

Learn to fear the throne.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports


Six teams in Major League soccer won their first game of the 2015 regular season. 1 win, 1 draw, and 4 losses amongst those six later, FC Dallas took sole possession of the league lead in points per game, only to give that lead up to the Vancouver Whitecaps after 5 games played.

Over the course of the season, the PPG lead (adjusted, as above, by games played) has changed hands 12 times. 6 different teams have held sole possession of the lead, but have never done so for longer than a 5 game stretch (this feat being accomplished by the Seattle Sounders, before the Dire Days of summer). Teams in the games-played adjusted points lead have collected 33 points from a combined 39 games.

Yes... the generic league leader collects ~0.846 points per game while occupying that position - worse than the present full-season performance of the cellar-dwelling Chicago Fire. The League leaders have lost their last 11 games straight. The New York Red Bulls, currently leading in PPG (jointly holding the 29-game spot with Vancouver) most recently lost 5-2 at home against the expansion Orlando City SC. The abysmal performance of the MLS upper echelons has pushed the league into an unprecedented level of parity.


New York's current mark at 1.655 is worse than any shield winner since 2009. When we compare this mark to the median and minimum PPG of the league table, we find that 2015 presently exhibits the smallest ceiling-cellar difference since 2006 (when the league fielded 12 teams) and the smallest difference between the top and middle of the table of the past 11 seasons (and, in fact, the smallest of the league's draw era).

This is the tightest table of MLS history... that it comes at a time of such growth in league-wide investment is simultaneously bizarre and absolutely hilarious.

But back to the Seattle Sounders...

The Sounders' disappointing draw to Kansas City on Sunday puts an end to the team's extremely remote hopes of reclaiming the Supporters' Shield... but the team only came so close to the top through the extraordinary circumstances of the league. Against Kansas City, Seattle lost multiple promising attacks in the final third due to uncharacteristically poor passing from Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. Even so, the team generated enough chances to win (and, to be fair, conceded enough to lose). Zach Scott had a poor game backing up Chad Marshall, conceding possession in dangerous areas and losing out on multiple dangerous chances to Dom Dwyer and Bernardo Anor. The more troubling aspect of the tie was the occasional stagnation of the offense with Martins, Dempsey, Nelson Valdez and Andreas Ivanschitz in attack. Early in the game, Seattle relied on long service to open up the SKC bunker - a strategy poorly suited to everyone but Martins.

Ivanschitz and Valdez are not high-pass-volume players. If the team is to create danger in the attacking midfield, it needs Dempsey and Martins to drop back and pair with the more advanced CM (they did this on Sunday after the initial long-ball phase, but poor games from both doomed the tactic). Sunday was a bad audition for the nominally ideal attacking 4, and the team should consider bringing Marco Pappa back into the first 11 if similar struggles impact the last 3 games.

Missed chances to potentially improve playoff seeding hurt the team... but the team's primary concerns must be resolving still-shaky set piece marking and integrating new players into a better tactical system.

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