AT THIS STAGE, HACKWORTH SAYS DOING PLAYOFF MATH 'POINTLESS EXERCISE'
“Yes, several times a day and in my sleep,” Union interim manager John Hackworth said the other day. “Quite frequently, actually, but a lot of that is so out of our control that it’s a pointless exercise. What we have to do is make sure every time we play, we maximize our points right now.”
There aren’t too many teams at which the Union (7-11-2, 23 points) are looking down in the Eastern Conference table. Another one in their way, the Chicago Fire (10-7-5, 35 points), heads to PPL Park for a Sunday night match.
Might sound simple enough, but the Union need winning results if they are to make it two years in a row in the MLS Cup Playoffs. They sit at eighth in the table, with only the top five from each conference making the tournament. Exactly how many more scenes like the one pitctured, with Sheanon Williams piggy-backing Carlos Valdes, will it take to make the playoffs?
Consider: The final team into the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs (New York) required 46 points. The Union, through 20 matches, have 23 points. That means they’ll need 23 in the final 14 matches to equal the Red Bulls. That equates to 1.6 points per match.
Here’s how the Union’s schedule breaks down: They have seven home matches to seven road matches remaining. In the most-favorable scenario, in which they win each of their remaining matches at PPL Park, they’d need only two draws in seven road dates to equal New York’s point total from the 2011 season. Of course, nothing is ever that simple, but that scenario at least paints the picture of what the Union are up against.
That being said, 13 of the Union’s remaining 14 matches are against an improved Eastern Conference.
“The East this year has proven to be very strong,” Hackworth said. “Unlike the last two years, where you could lose a couple games and be right in the hunk, if you lose points, you’re falling farther and farther behind. Going into it, we started off pretty deep down the table. All we can do is try to take care of business every weekend.”
Hackworth said he hasn’t prepared a point total he wants the Union to hit.
“No, because I think that number is going to change and I want my coaches and players to focus on Chicago only,” Hackworth said.