July 9, 2010

# Are the Wizards on pace for record MLS infamy? Or, why math isn’t fun

Here’s an astoundingly simple formula for soccer fans: If the number of games your team has played is greater than the points they’ve earned, then your team isn’t very good.

## The Full 90

Covering Sporting Kansas City and soccer throughout the Midwest and the world

Editor’s note: I’m going to be upfront with you, this article started as a semi-mocking attempt at humor. It took a dark turn once I calculated the Wizards projected goals for the entire season based on their current pace. Then it got ugly. Like “What Was Brek Shea Thinking” ugly. I tried to infuse some “light” into the “dark” numbers. Not sure it matters. Let’s continue with “The World’s Most Depressing MLS Preview Column...”

Here’s an astoundingly simple formula for soccer fans.

If the ”number of games your team has played” is greater than ”the points they’ve earned”, then ”your team isn’t very good.”

Not without coincidence, this is exactly where you’ll find the Kansas City Wizards. In 13 games they have collected just 12 points. (And, since wins are like worth “3” points or something, that’s pretty bad.)

As an added corollary (or is that coronary?) the Wizards have also played more games (13) than total goals scored for the season (11).

If you’re not into math:

11 goals divided 13 games = 0.85 goals/game.

*

*It’s really quite hard to score 0.85 goals. Kei Kamara’s missed sitter against Los Angeles is worth at least 0.95 goals.

That sinking feeling in your gut will only get worse before this is over.

Going back to 2002 (when Major League Soccer adapted to two divisions instead of three and begun to exhibit the league that it is now via expansion), there have only been five teams that finished the season with less points than games played: New York Red Bulls (‘09), Toronto FC (‘07), Real Salt Lake (‘07 and ‘05), Chivas USA (‘05) and Dallas (‘03).

For what it’s worth: Three of those teams -- Toronto (‘07), Chivas (‘05) and RSL (‘05) -- were expansion teams, and that Red Bulls team last year was just horrid.

Are the Wizards really on that pace?

No. But barely. And they aren’t alone on this razor’s edge. New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union, Chivas and D.C. United all have more games played than points. Only D.C. United can match the Wizards futility in front of the goal.

DC and New England have goal differentials in the double-digits; KC’s is only -6. Only.

In order to reach 31 points, and thus avoid that ignominy, Kansas City must record 19 points in their last 17 games. That’s not all together unreasonable, right? After all, four wins and seven draws gets you there over a 17-game stretch, right?

If they keep winning 23 percent* of the games they’ll play, they will top out at 6-7 wins.

*If you adhere to the “Soccernomics” model and count a draw as “half a win,” the team is slightly better, “earning at least a point” 34 percent of the time. The worst year for the Wizards in the modern-era of the last eight years? Last year, when they won 27 percent of the time and had a combined win-draw percentage of 41. Bright-light alert II:

If avoiding joining the elite of MLS futility is the goal, this means that the team can afford to lose six more games all season.

Of course, if you want to talk about making the playoffs (if you’re like, a super optimist or something), the Wizards would have to reach at least 40 points -- which has been a decent indicator the last five years for playoff inclusion. To reach 40 points, KC would need to go at least 7-3-7 (in other words, the complete inverse of their current record of 3-7-3) from this point forward. In other words, they have to “win-draw” at least 82 percent of their remaining games.

Here’s a photo of a puppy.

Of course, to pull off the not-altogether-unreasonable feat of 19 points in 17 games, the team will have to score... a lot more frequently than they do now. (If they want to earn 29 points in 17 games, well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.)

If Kansas City were to continue scoring goals at their current pace (0.85), they will only score 14.45* goals over the next 17 games. That means they’ll fall somewhere around 25 or 26 goals this season.** The record for MLS futility is Toronto FC in 2007. They scored 25 goals all season.

Here’s a video of a kitten.

*To avoid the weirdness of decimals and what-not, let’s just assume that Josh Wolff shots from outside the box account for 0.15 of a goal. No offense meant by that Josh. You’re playing out of position. **If you remember those five teams that finished with less points than games played, you’ll find that three of them (New York ‘09, Toronto ‘07 and Real Salt Lake ‘05) also didn’t find the back of the net as many times as games they played in. That’s an oddly constructed sentence that I just can’t figure out how to straighten. But you see where I’m going. If you can’t score, you can’t win. And if you’re really good at not scoring, you’re going to be really bad at winning.

And you probably thought this couldn’t get worse...

If you exclude the opening game of the year (and the team’s four-goal explosion), Kansas City has averaged 0.58 goals per game. And, yes, at that rate, the Wizards would “only” score about 9 more goals all season. Giving them an MLS record for fewest goals scored in a season.*

* I feel like Joe Friday, these are just the facts. I didn’t make them up. Don’t want them to be true either. Bright-light alert V:

Okay, deep breaths. While those numbers are frightening, all is not lost. Here’s an attempt to keep you all off the new Paseo Bridge this weekend...

• The Wizards have only a -6 goal differential through 13 games and have (mostly) dominated play so far this season.

• They still play New England (twice), Philadelphia, Chivas (twice, including this weekend), and Toronto and San Jose at home. There are five wins (at least) in that batch of games.
• Scoring droughts come to an end. They do. They may not seem like they do, but they do.
• OnGoal will not sit around and watch their team crumble while the new stadium is being erected mere feet away. They just won’t. A striker (or several) will be brought to town in the near future. Just watch.
• The dynamic Indian player Sunil Chhetri is yet to unleash his powers on Major League Soccer.

• Did I mention that they still play Chivas (x2), New England (x2) and Philadelphia (x1) this season?

So buck up. The preceding 1,000 words I just wrote weren’t an obituary for the team.

Unless they lose to Chivas USA tomorrow night.