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Sounders vs. San Jose - Aftermatch Aftermath: Coin Flips

Without a win in their last three matches, surely the Seattle Sounders must be out of playoff contention. But are they? Is it too late?

On Saturday, with MLS playoff hopes on the line for both teams, the Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes played out to a 1-1 draw in Avaya Stadium. Sure, it wasn't a win, but it also wasn't a loss, a result which leaves the Sounders with an outside chance at playing meaningful games in November. Take a coin. Predict heads or tails for the next two coin flips. If you're right for both of them, that's roughly the odds of the Sounders making the playoffs.

The team we saw on Saturday, however, does not look like a playoff team. Despite the brilliance of Nicolas Lodeiro, without the additional threat of Clint Dempsey on the field, teams can focus solely on stopping the saintly Uruguayan. Without the Deuce, the Sounders played three straight road games against teams that sit 6th, 8th, and 10th in the West and they earned 2 points. Granted, that's three straight road games, and despite these teams not being the best of the best, they've combined only lost 7 times in 42 home matches, so wins were unlikely.

On another note - I saw a dead body this morning. Now, that isn't intended to be a metaphor the player Tyrone Mears has become, but if the shoe fits... The Englishman seems physically and mentally unwilling/unable to contribute toward Seattle's success. It's risking pointing out the obvious to say that he's a liability. When a young player makes the mistake that Mears made, which resulted in San Jose's lone goal, you can rationalize it as being a learning opportunity, hoping that the player will log that in their mental databank as an error that will not be repeated. But when Mears makes that mistake, there is no silver-lining.

I'm sure nobody would be surprised if Brad Evans found himself starting at Right Back for the remainder of the season, ceding his central defensive roll to the returned strongman Roman Torres, who looked comfortable and adept in his first MLS start in over a year. His ability to deftly control and distribute the ball with his feet whilst being a modern Goliath, allows for the Evans multi-tool to slide over and actually provide competency in defense and in offense from a position where we've lacked both all season long.

All it would take would be two or three personnel moves that would transform the Sounders from average MLS team to perhaps the strongest team in the league. Torres for Evans, Evans for Mears, and Dempsey back in the lineup. The first two will happen. If they won't, for non-injury sake, then it'd force me to question my whole understanding of humanity and the meaning of life. But getting Dempsey back on the field, I don't know when that will ever happen again.

There's the saying "No news is good news," but I think that might be the opposite in this case. Without Dempsey, our offense, while better with Lodeiro, isn't pulling in the same sustained threats we were seeing in Brian Schmetzer's first few games. In fact, with Lodeiro and Dempsey on the field together, we had an average xGF of 2.77, which would be 94 goals throughout a whole season. Without Dempsey on the field, we've had an xGF of about 1 (we averaged 0.90 for Portland and Houston, and while I don't have the numbers for the San Jose game, I can't see Seattle having earned a high enough xGF to push that average above the 1.00 mark).

To put it succinctly, with Mears on the field, we're not a playoff team. In fact, I made a Punnett Square to illustrate exactly what I'm talking about. Now, if you are thinking about questioning the science behind this, know that you're wrong and I'm right. It's best not to fight me on that.

punnettsquaredempseymears

So this is where we are right now. With 7 games to go, the Sounders need, at a minimum, 6 more points to make the playoffs, and that's if Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps, and San Jose Earthquakes all lose out, which isn't going to happen, so let's look at what possibilities the Sounders have remaining for them.

Remainder of Schedule

Now I'm going to use that same science I used above (remember, you can't question it) to determine the results of these games:

  • Vancouver Whitecaps (Home) - Victory - 3 Points
  • LA Galaxy (Away) - Draw - 1 Point
  • Chicago Fire (Home) - Victory - 3 Points
  • Vancouver Whitecaps (Away) - Victory - 3 Points
  • Houston Dynamo (Home) - Victory 3 Points
  • FC Dallas (Away) - Loss - 0 Points
  • Real Salt Lake (Home) - Draw - 1 Point

These results would give the Sounders 46 points. Currently three teams are already at 46 points in the West, while RSL sits at 44. They'd earn a point in their season-ending draw with us, so they'd need to earn another point along the way. That means, the Sounders, if they earn 14 points out of their final 7 matches, would get, at best, 5th place and have to play in the play-in game.

But is 46 points enough?

San Jose (33 points with 7 games remaining)
  • Colorado Rapids (Away) - Loss - 0 Points
  • Sporting Kansas City (Home) - Draw - 1 Point
  • Montreal Impact (Away) - Loss - 0 Points
  • Real Salt Lake (Home) - Draw - 1 Point
  • Colorado Rapids (Away) - Loss - 0 Points
  • Vancouver Whitecaps (Home) - Victory - 3 Points
  • Sporting Kansas City (Away) - Loss - 0 Points

Some quick math tells me that if these results held, San Jose would have 38 points and 38 is less than 46.

Vancouver Whitecaps (34 points with 5 games remaining)
  • Seattle Sounders (Away) - Loss - 0 Points
  • Colorado Rapids (Home) - Draw - 1 Point
  • Seattle Sounders (Home) - Loss - 0 Points
  • San Jose Earthquakes (Away) - Loss - 0 Points
  • Portland Timbers (Home) - Draw - 1 Point

36 points is also less than 46. Mathematical!

Portland Timbers (38 points with 5 games remaining)
  • Philadelphia Union (Home) - Victory - 3 Points
  • Houston Dynamo (Away) - Draw - 1 Point
  • Colorado Rapids (Away) - Draw - 1 Point
  • Colorado Rapids (Home) - Victory - 3 Points
  • Vancouver Whitecaps (Away) - Draw - 1 Point

9 points. Plus 38 points. Let me pull out my calculator. Damn! 47. Well, shit. Well, let's look at it. On the 24th of September, Portland plays Houston in Houston. Then they travel to El Salvador to play CD Dragón on Tuesday the 27th. Then they travel to Colorado to play the Rapids on Saturday October 1st. That's three games in 8 days with 6,893 miles of flying in between. Depending on this week's results against Saprissa, picking up points in San Miguel could be crucial for the Timbers reaching the knockout round (tangent: if Portand loses to Saprissa in Costa Rica this Tuesday, they'd need to win their remaining games in order to move on from Group Stage, which means winning in El Salvador, so that games against CD Dragón could be huge).

All this means that Portland can easily lose either against Houston or Colorado whilst on the road. Meanwhile, in the season finale against Vancouver, if these results stand, Vancouver could beat Portland to take the Cascadia Cup. That might be a hotly contested match with Portland playing to make the Playoffs and Vancouver looking to play the spoiler and take home the revered trophy. It's important to note that should the Sounders take their two remaining games against the Whitecaps, and the Whitecaps beat Portland to finish the season, all three teams would end with 9 points in the competition, with Goal Differential being the tie-breaker. It's unlikely Vancouver will have the goal differential to pull this off, but ultimately I have to imagine they'd be motivated to not allow Portland to celebrate winning the Cup in BC Place. I could also see Portland losing at home to Philly because MLS is weird.

So in summary, a healthy Clint Dempsey is the key to the Sounders progression toward the playoffs, I'm good at both science and math, and I saw a dead body today and it wasn't Tyrone Mears.

Summer of GIF-ty Nine

It's always a joy to play the Earthquakes.

And in a game lead by referee Toledo, this will go well.

We're definitely employing the "bend but don't break" defensive strategy.

Even with Mears that strategy is seemingly working.

Oh my goodness, Tyrone.

And of course it was Chris Wondolowski who scored it.

We're actually looking good after giving up that goal.

A game-tying goal by Lodeiro?

How did that goal go in?

I was hoping for a win, but the Sounders didn't manage to pull it off.

I guess a draw seems fair.

Now our guys get to play at home for the first time in a month, it seems.