It’s just another ho-hum week in Revs Nation.
It feels like it’s been weeks since we had anything exciting to —
What’s that, Dogso?
…What’s that? The well is on fire?!?
….And also surrounded by scorpions?!?!?
…And those scorpions are from the rough part of town?!!?!!?
OK, so maybe things aren’t going according to plan for the Revs right now. Bruce Arena is gone. There’s reporting that current interim head coach Richie Williams was among those who filed complaints that led to his resignation.
There’s currently a public media divide brewing among coaching staff and players. This may be the worst weekend for the Revolution I can think of.
So I should probably talk about that, huh?
The problem there is… well… I don’t want to?
In fairness, I did spend about an hour and a half talking with Sean Donohue about Bruce Arena, Richie Williams, the last-second goal (and much more) on the Revolution Recap podcast over the weekend.
NEW PODCAST: The Bruce Arena Era is over in New England. @AndyRevsNation joins @SeanLDonahue to discuss Arena's resignation, another last minute blown lead by the #NERevs in Minnesota and answer your questions. | @BleavNetwork https://t.co/0OgTqxy3V9— Revolution Recap (@RevolutionRecap) September 10, 2023
Instead, I want to shift focus to the task ahead.
New England has just 7 matches remaining in their 2023 schedule before the playoffs come. They also currently sit in 2nd place.
Let’s take a look at some stats and see if we can estimate where they may finish the season.
Perhaps the most discordant part of the Revolution’s current self-destruction is that they still remain in 2nd place in MLS.
They’re behind only FC Cincinnati on points and points-per-game, and even with the disappointment of conceding at the last second on Saturday, they added another road point to their now 48 total.
Given the fact that 9 of 15 Eastern Conference teams get a chance to play post-season soccer, playoffs actually seem very likely for the Revs right now.
That doesn’t mean it will be an easy road forward.
The #NERevs have 8 remaining matches. They are:— Andy From Revs Nation (@AndyRevsNation) September 7, 2023
AT #LegionOfLoons (ppg at Home= 1.33)
AT #Rapids96 (0.83ppg H)
AT #CF97 (1.5ppg H)
VS #ForTheCrown (1ppg A)
VS #Crew96 (0.92ppg A)
AT #OrlandoCity (1.69ppg H)
AT #EveryoneN (2.07ppg H)
VS #DOOP (1.21ppg A)
Drop your predictions 👇
The Revolution closed out their season by playing 4 Eastern Conference opponents that are within 8 points of them on the table. Three of those opponents are currently within 3 points and are in 3rd, 4th, and 5th, behind the Revs’ 2nd place in the East.
Those are crucial matches that have a very high likelihood of determining the seeding for the playoffs.
Fortunately, 2 of those 4 matches are at home, where New England has yet to lose in 2023.
The Revolution do, however, have to contend with 4 of their remaining 7 matches being on the road, where they aren’t nearly as good.
While the Revs are undefeated at home, racking up 2.43 points per home game, they average just 1.08 points per game in road contests. Their goals dip from over 2 goals/90 at home to about 1 goal/90 on the road, and they concede nearly twice as often in road matches.
As an aside, this disparity in home vs. road ppg is not uncommon in MLS. In fact, New England does fare better on the road than all but 3 other Eastern Conference teams.
Projecting the Playoff Line
Even after all of the turmoil and uncertainty, all the injuries, and player sales/acquisitions, New England finds themselves firmly in the playoff hunt. But will it stay that way?
We have a substantial amount of game data that we can use to predict the final standings. The simplest way would be to use each team’s results to calculate their points per game and extrapolate that figure over the remaining games.
However, because home/road points per game are usually so different in MLS, it makes sense to adjust for that when making predictions.
It’s worth noting here that I did, in fact, plot everything myself. It just so happens that only moments later, I found a similar plot made by Ben Wright of Broadway Sports Media.
It also just so happens that he looks much better than mine, so instead of subjecting you to yet another Excel screenshot, here are his projected standings.
Updated #MLS table projections after the matchweek 31. #InterMiamiCF keep climbing, now projected to finish on 37 points, just four points out of the playoff spots.— Ben Wright (@benwright) September 11, 2023
Solely factoring their ppg with #Messi𓃵 & co, they're on track for 48 points and an 8th-place finish. pic.twitter.com/fouALNe7ua
His plots are a home/away ppg, extrapolated over the rest of the season. He also includes each team’s current (minimum) points and their maximum possible points total.
The Revs’ current home/away ppg projects them to finish in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference.
What Could Change Between Now and Then
There are. to me, 2 teams that could likely throw a wrench in these predictions. The obvious one is Inter Miami, who have not lost since acquiring Messi and a large chunk of peak FC Barcelona. They could reasonably be expected to outperform their projections.
Ben addresses that in his tweet above, stipulating that given Miami’s results since Messi arrived, 8th place is a realistic projection (instead of 13th).
The Revs, given all the turmoil, are the other club to stand out as a team that could mess up these predictions. They sold the best keeper in MLS, lost Brandon Bye to injury, and saw Bruce Arena resign as head coach.
Now the interim head coach, Richie Williams, has to find a way to balance all of those things with the fact that he was among those whose complaints eventually ousted Bruce from the league. It’s hard to know how the players will respond to all of that, but there are already rumors of discord within the locker room. It feels safe to assume the on-field product might suffer.
So, let’s lean into that assumption.
Below is a chart, the same as Ben’s above, except it assumes that the Revs implode in the wake of *gestures generally*.
Using the same home/away ppg calculations as above, I’ve re-plotted the projected standings, except, this time, I’ve given the Revs 7 straight losses.
Conversely, their opponents have each been granted a win, and New England has been removed from their schedule.
This takes the Revs down from a projected 3rd place finish, down to a projected 7th place finish. That is notable because, for one, they still make the playoffs.
It’s not a guarantee yet, as there are scenarios where the Revs can still miss out on the post-season.
But it may bring some comfort to fans to know that the work they’ve already done has given them a solid chance to make the playoffs, even if things don’t appear great now.
It’s also notable in that it removes their projected home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Given what we talked about above, that could spell another quick post-season exit.
The truth is probably somewhere in between 2nd (current) and 7th (implosion projection). That said, MLS is a crazy league. Maybe everything goes awry, and New England misses out on the playoffs altogether. Maybe they get hot at the right time and win the whole thing.
Either way, it will be interesting to see how they handle all those rough-and-tumble scorpions waiting above the well.
Photo: New England Revolution