MLS – Just Past the Quartermark, Beckham, Goals


Here in the US we like to break things into large portions. Halves in football, thirds in hockey, quarters in basketball(eighth’s only count in pizza). Which leads me to this; time to look a deeper at some of this season’s numbers as this week the MLS season has passed the quarter mark. At this point in the season, you usually have a grasp of what hot teams are for real or which wunderkind will have staying power.

A few thoughts:
Fabulous Fredy and the flying Sounders have settled down. After winning their first three games and not allowing a goal, Seattle has won 1, drawn 2 and lost 2. Houston got off to it’s normal slow start. They now seem to be settling in with Stuart Holden filling the shoes of traded Dwayne de Rosario. TFC is pretty much in the same position as it was last year. With the departure of Coach Carver, can they avoid last year’s fall out of the playoffs by season’s end? And then there’s Chivas USA. With bubble gum and baling wire, Preki has guided the club to the top of the table with as many as seven starters missing significant time. He did the same fine job last year, finishing 2nd in the west with many players out with injuries.

Points after 61 Games
  08   09
Pts GP   Pts GP
 Chivas USA  11   9     22   9 
 Seattle  0   0     14   8 
 DC United  9   10     14   9 
 Toronto FC  14   9     13   9 
 Chicago  16   8     12   8 
 Colorado  12   9     11   7 
 Houston  10   9     11   7 
 Kansas City  11   8     11   9 
 Real Salt Lake  8   9     10   8 
 Los Angeles  11   8     9   8 
 New England  19   10     9   7 
 NY Red Bull  12   7     8   9 
 Columbus  19   9     8   8 
 San Jose  7   8     5   8 
 Dallas  12   9     4   8 


The Beckham effect:

With MLS attendance worries, seven clubs are down over 20% after a like number of games, the league is down only 5%. Of course, the sonic boom in Seattle(sorry, I just had to do it) is keeping the overall number reasonably respectable in this difficult economy. Discussions of this type normally gravitate to factors such as the overall economy, weather and competing sporting events. I figured I take a look at the ‘Beckham effect’. People can argue over whether ‘Goldenballs’ adventure in the US was good or bad for MLS, but a couple of things are irrefutable; more folks in more places are talking about MLS, for better or worse, and he put fans in the seats. See the chart below that illustrates the ‘Becks effect’ from last year, when he played in 25 games for the Galaxy vs this season.

The LA numbers are for its four home games. I’ve excluded Seattle from the road games as there’s nothing in ’08 to compare to and because it’s apparent that Seattle would have sold out the LA game regardless.

Beckham Effect
  2008 2009 +/-
Colorado  18,713   12,180   -6,533   -34.91% 
RSL  25,571   16,155   -9,416   -36.82% 
SJ  32,972   15,862   -17,110   -51.89% 
Total  77,256   44,197   -33,059   -42.79% 
LA Galaxy  97,827   79,045   -18,782   -19.20% 


Goals and Home Field advantage:

I read a piece somewhere(sorry but I forgot where) that was bemoaning the lack of goals this season. Goal scoring is indeed down by around 7%. Last year at this point of the season the goals per game average was 2.8, this year it’s 2.61. In absolute terms, it translates to 12 fewer goals in 61 games.

Goals Scored excluding Draws
  Home Wins   Away Wins
 2008   31   79   19   2.55   0.61     18   38   11   2.11   0.61 
 2009   29   61   14   2.10   0.48     10   21   7   2.10   0.70 
WG-Winning Game Goals
LG-Losing Game Goals
WGA-Winning Game Goal Average
LGA-Losing Game Goal Average
Through 61 games – 12 draws in ’08 – 22 draws in ’09


What can we learn from the table above? So far this year, whether you win at home or on the road, you’re scoring the same amount of goals. Losers on the other hand are scoring more when losing at home than on the road.

Does it say something about league play that there have been 22 draws this season, over a third of all games, versus just 12 in 2008?


On Tuesday, the flu-delayed 2nd leg of the 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League will determine the champion, who will play in the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup against the other Confederation champions. Atlante has the adantage by virtue of a 1st leg 2-0 road win in Mexico City. They host Cruz Azul for the return and final leg.
Would love to be talking about an MLS team in this discussion next year. The Galaxy in 2000 were the last MLS team to make the finals, which they won.

I really like this tournament but am disturbed by the fact that the finalists had a miserable time in the recently completed Clausura. Both Cruz Azul and Atlante finished last in their respective groups. Have we ever seen a Copa Lib or UEFA Champions League final where the contestants had equally poor seasons?

The Puerto Rico Islanders are one game away from qualifying for the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League. On May 15, they play in the semifinals of the CFU Champions’ Cup. A win in the semifinals will put the Islanders in the next Champions league.

5 thoughts on “MLS – Just Past the Quartermark, Beckham, Goals”

  1. Kudos to you for mentioning the ConcaChampions league. This site should talk more about the rest of the continent. Or make a site that would be a part of the “talk” family of websites (epltalk, etc.).

    I don’t think it’s a big deal that the CONCACAF finalists are having poor domestic seasons. For one thing, Blue Cross already qualified for the 09-10 ConcaChampions league, so they’re all set. No need to exert themselves in the Spring campaign. Their season was NOT a failure, it was a success.

    Teams should prioritise continental tournaments over domestic. International football is just more compelling. So there should be no knock on the 2 CONCACAF finalists. They did well.

    However, I propose that there should be relegation immunity for continental tournament participants. Case in point: there is an United Arab Emirate team who withdrew from the Asian Football Confederation Champions League. The reason was because they had to focus on their domestic campaign, whereinwhich they were near the bottom of the table, in danger of relegation. I think it would be great for leagues to grant relegation immunity to their teams who are involved in top-flight continental tournaments (not consolation ones like the UEFA Cup). This would give teams more incentive to win their national championships, knowing that they won’t be relegated the following season, no matter what happens.

    May is an exciting month for CONCACAF CL qualifying. You got the Latin American playoffs kickin off, as well as the Canadian Championship. The Juarez City Indians dramatically scored 3 unanswered goals yesterday to qualify for the Spring playoffs, jetting past Mexico’s top 2 most popular clubs in the process. Very exciting.

    It was also interesting to hear the Indians supporters chant the American-style chant “let’s go indians, clap clap, clap-clap-clap!” (in Spanish). That style of chant originated in Yankee Stadium in the 90s and now found its way to football matches in the border town of Juarez City, which sits on the Texan border with Mexico. Interesting stuff.

  2. I too would like more Mexican coverage. I would love to see one of those English teams playing today go to Mexico and pass out after 30 minutes in the heat and altitude. Like I said they would the two worst teams in MLS.

  3. Right, let’s blame the drop in attendance on a single player. Never mind the fact we’re experiencing the worst economic downturn in the post-World War 2 era…

  4. Whether or not this has anything to do with the down turn in attendance I don’t know, but 22 draws is ridiculous. I’m sorry, but the MLS needs to do away with draws, and simply have wins and losses. I’m a serious soccer fan and believe the league will thrive by marketing to the core rather than pandering, but one thing that does not translate from Europe and other leagues around the world is allowing for “draws.” Having only wins and losses would also spur more aggressive offenses and see an uptick in goals scored (which is down this year).

  5. Lars:
    Of course the economy is a major factor in ’09 attendance. In each of the ‘major’ Euro leagues, over half of the teams that were not relegated are experiencing lower averages than last year.
    But the Beckham numbers do not lie. Those losses are significant and while I doubt the draw would have been as large this year(unless he suddenly became a scoring machine), they still would be above averages for all other visiting teams.
    Average attendance is down 5.01%. If we halve the ‘lost increase’ illustrated above, league attendance would be down 2.28%. Nothing to be dismissed.

    The league started out eliminating draws by way of the shoot-out are was soundly ridiculed by the soccer community, so shoot-outs were dropped after 1999.
    For comparison purposes, draws in Europe occur around 24% of the time.
    When playoff crunch time kicks in later this season, we’ll see if teams get more aggressive as I suspect the ‘chasers’ will become.

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