So I'll admit, in my mind, the narrative was already written: "Sporting Kansas City may miss the playoffs because they just can't get it done on the road". But I slept on that thought, and then took a power lunch and threw some numbers into a spreadsheet, and was surprisingly unsurprised that I was, kind of sort of, wrong.
Hear me out. Saturday's 3-1 loss to the New England Revolution wasn't a good thing. A win and they almost surely would have been safely above the red line. The loss makes the next two matches a bit more urgent. But in MLS, road losses are actually quite the norm. I present to you, a number.
That's the average number of points per game an MLS team earns on the road. Less than a draw. SKC's number? 0.81. So below average. How far below average? Well, that puts them in 12th place. So, slightly below average, but not, like, see me after class, we need to talk bad. Stray observation, the Portland Timbers have yet to win on the road, and the Chicago Fire finally won a road game earlier this year, their first since Chivas USA was still a team. NYCFC are crushing it with seven wins and three draws from 16 games.
So is Kansas City's home form a problem?
Same game. MLS wide?
1.80 points per game at home.
The only thing that really jumped out at me was Sporting's road goals scored. 12. Tied for the league low with road-winless Portland.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that, as much as it may feel like it, Sporting haven't been awful on the road. They haven't been awful at home. They've been streaky, would be perhaps one way to put it, but, overall, they've been, quite simply, pretty average.
Bruce Arena and the LA Galaxy, in years past, had perfected the art of starting slow and peaking at the end, tearing up the last quarter of the season and pounding teams in the playoffs. I'm still hopeful that Sporting can win their last two and crank things up when it matters most. They still control their own destiny: two wins and they're in. Even two losses won't mathematically doom them. So let's hold off the "must wins" for at least another week.
Now, some player ratings.
|New England Revolution|
|Sporting Kansas City|
Perhaps a little statistical high bias for Ellis given the own goal, but did also register an assist and four big defensive plays. One has to wonder where this team would be without Benny and Dom though. And also a healthy Graham Zusi. And Chance Myers. And Seth Sinovic. And... well, you get the picture.