MLS is ridiculous, and it seems that it enjoys it.
The playoffs continue, despite the fact that both the top clubs and the league’s finest player have been ruled out of the conference finals.
Last night, the second round of the Major League Soccer playoffs ended with some of the league’s signature hilarity. Both No. 1 seeds failed to win a game in the league’s genuine nothing-means-anything way.
The New England Revolution looked like a team that had been off for three weeks this time, as they were unable to string anything together against NYCFC, losing on penalties after a 2-2 draw in extra time. It didn’t help that coach Bruce Arena’s strategy was never more complicated than “get the ball up to our three forwards and do crap.” With their rust showing, the Revs were fortunate to even get it to overtime or penalties.
They made it to the first because to some sloppy finishing from NYCFC, and they made it to the second due to some sloppy thinking from NYCFC. After scoring in extra time to give The Pigeons the lead, the league’s Golden Boot winner, NYCFC‘s Valentin Castellanos, was sent off a few minutes later after receiving a second yellow card. This was compounded by right-back Tayvon Gray’s hamstring deteriorating, as well as the fact that they had exhausted all of their substitute options. As a result, the Revs had around 10 minutes against nine-and-a-half men, allowing them to finally push players forward and play with the intensity they’d lacked for the previous 110 minutes. Tajon Buchanan tied it up not long after, but the Revs couldn’t find a winner, and the game ended in a draw, putting them at danger of penalties. All of NYCFC’s were manufactured, and the Revs were fucked.
If I want to be a genuine jerk (which I usually am), I guess this was the rare case of a playoff game actually going the analytics crowd’s way. Typically, the sample size of a single game debunks all of the underlying data, and our reasoning fails us. While the Revs were the top team in the league, the statistics showed that NYCFC was really better, with an expected-goal differential that was significantly greater than the Revs’. It definitely seemed that way last night, as NYCFC dominated for the most of the match.