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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Monday, October 3, 2016

The good news in the Union's recent swoon

I don’t suppose telling Philadelphia Union fans that all is rosy with life will take very well on the heels of a five-game winless streak, the last installment of which was an enthralling yet disappointing 3-2 loss at Red Bull Arena.

But unlike Jim Curtin’s insistence that his team is playing well despite the avalanche of substandard results (which has some nugget of truth to it, but not the right time or place), here’s an even more uplifting message: The table is in the Union’s favor.

We all know that #Tabledoesntlie, and in this case, that’s an OK thing. Here’s what the standings look like:

I’ll spare you the bar-graph projections that for weeks have pegged the Union as hanging on to fourth place on the balance of their schedule and now that they’re in sixth place will tell you that they’re going to hang on to sixth place. Those trends are helpful as long-term probabilities, but they’re useless in determining what will happen when presented with three discreet options (3 points, 1 or 0) on the field.

So here it is: Everyone in the East has two games left, save for Columbus and eliminated Chicago. If the Union beat eliminated Orlando City Oct. 16, they’re in. The Red Bulls game could be useful only for seeding a qualified team.

A win by the Union takes them to 45 points. That eliminates Columbus; even if Columbus wins out in its last three games, starting with Chicago Oct. 13, it can max out at 44 points.

A win by the Union also means that New England is essentially done, even if the Union can’t get a point against Red Bulls the following week. Let’s assume the Union beat Orlando City and lose to Red Bulls, leaving them at 12-13-9 and 45 points.

The Revs can win out (over Chicago and Montreal, the latter of which might actually aid the Union) and reach 45 points. That would make them 12-13-9. That ushers in the tiebreakers, which everyone should get familiar with. First is total wins, which is even.

Second is goal differential: The Union are plus-1 (figure safely, in this scenario, they’ll stay at plus-1 with a one-goal win over Orlando and a one-goal loss to Red Bulls). The Revs are currently minus-12. It would take a monumental shift in fortunes for the Union to give back that differential.

We can also talk about playoff seeds, which don’t help the Union quite as much. D.C. United hosts NYC, MLS’s best road team, before finishing up in Orlando City. You could see D.C. yielding only two points from that run or six based on their recent form. Montreal hosts a Toronto team desperate for a result and angry over Montreal’s last visit to TFC before hitting the road to meet the Revs. Who knows what the Impact, a team at the forefront of puzzling results this season, could get from that pair?

It’s entirely possible you could see three teams even on 46 points on the final day, one of whom gets the fourth spot. But the most important takeaway is that the Union should – if they take care of business – be among that group, which accomplishes the stated goal at the beginning of the season.

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