Monday, August 25, 2008

No defending the west

I got an e-mail earlier today from a faithful reader asking me to help stick up for the Western Conference.

Now, as much as I would like to defend the West, I just can't do it. Not right now.

The Western Conference is clearly the weaker of the two conferences. There's no debating that. The only thing you might be able to debate is just how much distance there is between the two conferences. Maybe you think none of the Western teams could compete in the East, maybe you feel that the Western conference has some of the league's best players and that it's only a matter of time before they get their act together, or maybe you want to let the season play out until making a final decision.

But there's not much to debate. Here are some stats way in favor of the Eastern conference:

- Kansas City and Toronto are tied for last in the East and are five points out of a playoff spot. In the West, each team would be tied for third.

- Two Eastern teams have a negative goal-differential, compared to five in the West.

- Four Eastern teams have more wins than losses. One Western team has the same.

- Eastern teams have won a combined 22 road games; Western teams have combined for 11 road wins.

- Eastern teams have yielded an average of 26.9 goals. Western teams have given up nearly three goals more, with a 29.7 clip. The Galaxy is throwing off the average, you say? Take out the Galaxy and Western defense are still more porous with a 27.5 average.

- Even with the Galaxy's prolific but slowing attack (which DC United may surpass soon) Eastern teams have outscored Western teams 199 to 197.

Now, those should be some sobering statistics for Western teams. It's a good thing the league allowed for three Western teams to reach the playoffs instead of the two guaranteed spots a year ago because three is two more spots than the West deserves this year.

Of course, we can only hope that this would send a message to the league, that conferences should be done away with, that there should only be one table with the top six or eight teams getting into the playoffs regardless of anything else save points. Balance the schedule, let every team play every other team once at home and once on the road and have equal footing for everyone.

We all know, though, that such moves are too drastic for a league that is often reactive instead of proactive, especially when it comes to playoffs and the like.


nothingtoseehere said...

The good thing about MLS, and all American sports, is that these things tend to be cyclical as long as team management is decent.

Take the NBA for example, the West has been dominant for a long long time, but with a succession of NBA drafts and GM/coach changes, the East is slowly returning to decency.

I really don't think it is MLS' best interest for a single table. The conference system allows for the creation of more intense rivalries, especially when MLS moves to 18 teams and the schedule has to be adjusted accordingly.

There's much more value in having multiple LA/SJ and LA/CHV games a season than just two. Same thing with Seattle/Portland or Vancouver. Ditto the eastern seaboard and Philly vs. the world or NY/DC.

Anonymous said...

There is NO value in having more than teams play each other in home and away series.
When a team is on the calendar for one match at home it becomes an event.
There are more than enough oppotunities - Open Cup, Playoffs, Champions League etc. - for the teams to meet in an additional match.
(Of course the way LA and CHV are playing maybe it would be best if they just faced each other for 30 matches - then one might end up with a winning record)