Friday, July 15, 2016

Looking At The Back Half Of The Season

So far this year has gone almost as well as we could have dreamed.  The only real blemish is that loss to FSL.  That has left many fans talking about what could be this year.  Best ever finish?  Win the conference?  Win the Supporters Shield?  So let’s take a look at some scenarios.

Just to set some parameters:
Current pace: 1.89 pts/game
Current points: 34
Best all-time finish (points): 51
Best all-time finish (pts/game): 1.59 including Shootouts, 1.53 in standard format
Best ever placing: 3rd

So the first challenge, best ever finish, is easy to calculate.  We need 18 points in our last 16 games to set a new point record.  That’s a pace of 1.125 pts/game.  That would tie our best pts/game standard format record as well at 1.53.  To set our overall best we’d need 21 points in 16 games, which is 1.32 pts/game.  For comparison, our pts/game pace over the last two very bad years was 1.02 pts/game.  So we have to play just a bit better than we played in 2014 and 2015 in order to set new team records.  I think it’s safe to say at this point that if do not have our best ever season this year that it’s a pretty massive failure.  We probably need to play at less than a point per game to make the playoffs so failing to do that would be catastrophic.

The next two questions, win the conference and the Shield, are a bit harder to calculate since it not only depends on our play but also the play of other teams.  The additional complication of course is as we do better the other teams (on average) do worse as they lose points to us, and vice versa.  So who’s our real competition?

At this point here are the teams at or above 1.5 pts/game (prior to the 7/13 games):

Dallas – 1.85
FSL – 1.61
LA – 1.61
Philly – 1.53
NYCFC – 1.5

An easy way to look at this is to project out those team’s totals if they maintain their current pace:

Dallas: 63
FSL: 55
LA: 55
Philly: 52

As we discussed above, 54 is in our reach without too much work so we can probably disregard the Eastern teams.  That’s not to say one of them couldn’t get hot but the odds are not in their favor.  These are also worst case scenarios as these teams will beat each other up and they won’t all be able to maintain their current pace.  Also, as mentioned above, if we continue to play well we’ll take points out of them and drop them off their current pace (we have 2 games still to play against Dallas and 1 each against FSL, LA, and NYCFC).  Given all that, breaking 55 looks like a good indicator to finish 2nd in the West, which would be our best ever finish.  That’s 1.375 pts/game the rest of the way, which seems reasonable.  To be sure we probably want to go for 58 points or so, or 1.5 pts/game.  A little harder but still achievable.

That just leaves one team and one challenge left, winning the Shield (and with it, the Western Conference).  It’s looking like the Shield will come down to us and Dallas.  We’ve got a slight edge at the moment with a slim lead and 2 games in hand on them.  They also have some schedule congestion coming up as they’re still in the U.S. Open Cup and they have Champions League play this fall.  Since the Copa break though Dallas has looked like the better team.  On pace for 63 means we need to maintain our current pace to get us to 64 and a win.  The twist is those two head-to-head matches.  If Colorado wins them both then if Dallas maintains its current pace in the other game the Rapids only need to play at 1.43 pts/game in the other matches.  Not an easy run but certainly not overly challenging.  Flipping that around with Dallas winning the 2 head-to-head matches means that Colorado would have to play at 2 pts/game the rest of the way which is very unlikely.

If the Rapids can average 1.5 pts/game the rest of the way they’ll have their best season ever and they’re all but guaranteed a top 2 finish in the West for the first time.  In order to win the conference and the Shield they’ll need to keep their pace from the first half of the season going or sweep Dallas in the 2 games. 

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