clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Does New York City still have a path to the playoffs? The odds say no, but it's not over yet.

The number-crunchers at SportsClubStats.com keep a running forecast on estimated playoff odds for every MLS team. The outlook is decidedly bleak for the Bronx Blues. But all is not lost.

"NEVER TELL ME THE ODDS!"
"NEVER TELL ME THE ODDS!"
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The wounds from Sunday's nigh-apocalyptic 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the defending-champion L.A. Galaxy will heal one day.

I mean, they've got to, right?

New York City FC has no choice. This team has got to get back to work and salvage every last point out of a schedule still rife with high-flying opponents: September away dates in Frisco and Vancouver loom ever-so-ominously, with a reverse fixture against East-leading D.C. United at RFK Stadium not long after.

This weekend, of course, Jason Kreis's boys return to Yankee Stadium for their second crack at a Columbus Crew squad known to dump goals from all angles, generally without warning.

Indeed, the remaining fixture list shouldn't have fans of New York's newest team feeling very bullish. So, what hope does seventh-place NYCFC have of nailing down a spot in the top six and the postseason berth that comes with it?

Let's check out some up-to-the-minute playoff odds, courtesy of Sports Club Stats:

(Image: Ken Roberts)

Well, damn. For sanity's sake, I guess I shoulda been a UFC writer, or perhaps some kind of substitute teacher.

*Inhales deeply*

Three takeaways from this chart:

  • New York City FC is not eliminated from the playoff hunt, but is mathematically disqualified from all but the 5th and 6th seeds.
  • By losing in such horrific fashion to the Galaxy, NYCFC's overall chances to qualify for the playoffs, by these metrics, dropped from 25.1% to 16.2%.
  • New York City's key rival for the final playoff position, Montreal Impact, improved their playoff chances to 71.6% despite losing 1-0 to Philadelphia Saturday night.
Let's not swallow these numbers whole without chewing them; this is one methodology cranked out by one source. However we want to slice it, unfortunately, New York City's chances of making the playoffs are downright minimal as it stands.

To this point, we should seek some perspective: when was the last time New York City was given, say, a better-than-50% chance to finish in the top six? Here's what Sports Club Stats has to say on that account (NYCFC is the bold orange line):

NYCFCodds

(Image: Ken Roberts)

That's right: according to these particular metrics, New York City's odds for playoff qualification sank below 50% halfway through April, just five weeks into the season. In that month, the Bronx Blues lost three and drew one just as Montreal began to bounce back to form following its heavy workload in the CONCACAF Champions League.

So, was it all over for NYCFC just seven matches into the season?

Not exactly. As the graphic on the right demonstrates, the squad's playoff chances ticked up to just under 40% at the end of July following the thrilling 5-3 barn-burner at home to fellow playoff hopefuls Orlando City. But the glee was awfully short-lived: consecutive losses at home to Montreal (dat man again...) and away to the ever-reviled Red Bulls proved to be devastating, demoralizing, deflating.

As it stands, Hudson River Blue does not consider New York City to be a playoff team. Not this year, anyway.

Chalk it up to whatever you like-- the Lampard contractual fiasco, late arrival, and maddening lack of fitness. The eminently dodgy roster construction that threw hefty paychecks to rotation players like Adam Nemec, Josh Williams, and Jeb Brovsky. The inexplicable signing and subsequent departure of Andres Mendoza, who never logged a minute with the senior team. Playing more than half the season with just one designated player. No matter how we elect to spin this inaugural year's often-stupefying results, the road to the playoffs for Jason Kreis & Co. is a hard one. The nasty and brutish kind.

Despite it all, the lightbulb hasn't quite burned out yet. Though they don't control their own destiny (far from it!), there is a way for the Boys in Blue to polish a pile of turds into MLS gold.

New England is not mathematically clear of a threat from New York City, but the chances of the Revs falling out of the fifth spot at the hands of the Blues is just about insignificant.

That makes Montreal public enemy number one.

Tied in points with New York City but with four whole games in hand, the Impact are in the driver's seat for the sixth and final seed in the East. If NYCFC wants to catch them, here's my favorite scenario:

  • Montreal (12 games remaining): Draw @ Toronto, Win vs. Chicago, Loss @ L.A., Loss @ San Jose, Draw vs. New England, Win vs. Chicago, Draw @ Orlando City, Loss @ Red Bulls, Draw @ Colorado, Loss @ New England, Draw vs. Toronto. Final points: 39.
  • New York City (8 games remaining): Win vs. Columbus, Loss @ Dallas, Draw vs. Toronto, Draw vs. San Jose, Loss @ Vancouver, Draw @ D.C., Win @ Orlando City, Win vs. New England. Final points: 40.
Here's my question for you: is any single one of these imaginary results completely out of the question? Not at all. But form is a strange, strange thing. Cross-country away games are, too, rife with Heisenbergian levels of uncertainty.

We do know this, however: New York City FC has yet to be officially eliminated from the playoff picture. And with such a crowded fixture list remaining for the Impact, who play four matches in ten days in September, Jason Kreis's team is still blessed with the chance to catch fire and smash-and-grab its way back into the final seed.

To paraphrase Civil War Admiral David Farragut: damn the odds. Full steam ahead.

Many thanks to Sports Club Stats for crunching all the numbers! For more information about founder Ken Roberts's statistical methodology, CLICK HERE.