Playoffs Scoreboard

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Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1LA
0SEA
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Leg 2
11/30 9:20pm
SEA
LA
ESPN
Western Conference Championship
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Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1NY
2NE
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Leg 2
11/29 3:00pm
NE
NY
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Eastern Conference Championship

Climbing the Ladder: Toronto FC's revolving door

A few weeks ago, we mentioned in this very space that Toronto and Vancouver led the league in players used, and that the possibility existed of either team threatening the record for the most used in a single season. Once again, that mark belongs to New York, who used 36 players in their inaugural 1996 season.

However, in past two weeks for Toronto FC, the likelihood has gone from “possibility” to “near certainty” as the Reds have blooded seven new players in their past three regular-season games: Terry Dunfield, Torsten Frings, Andy Iro, Ryan Johnson, Danny Koevermans, Peri Marosevic and Eddy Viator. This brings their total for the season to 35, which means that the next new player used in the regular season will tie the record.

There are still several players on the roster who haven’t played for them, including new acquisitions Eric Avila, Leandre Griffit and Dasan Robinson, as well as backup goalkeeper Milos Kocic, who has seen action in the CONCACAF Champions League but not in MLS play. With a full 10 games left, it should be a matter of when the record is broken, not if.

2. Better outside of the league?

Biggest Difference in PPG:
All Competitions vs. Regular Season

  Year Team Difference
1 2001 D.C. United +0.297
2 1996 D.C. United +0.274
3 2005 LA Galaxy +0.269
4 2010 D.C. United +0.238
5 2001 New England +0.219
6 2002 Columbus +.0210
7 2009 D.C. United +0.189
8 2007 LA Galaxy +0.182
9 2003 Chicago +0.181
10 2009 Seattle +0.170

Another interesting thing about Toronto’s 2011 season is their form outside of Major League Soccer. While they may currently be eighth in the Eastern Conference standings, after Tuesday night’s win, they now sport an undefeated record of 5-0-1 in the CONCACAF Champions League and Nutrilite Canadian Championship. When taking into account the team’s record in all competitions, it may still not be great, but it certainly seems more respectable.

The Chicago Fire are in a similar position, having made the US Open Cup semifinals. On that journey, they’ve racked up 10 points in four games, compared to 18 points in 20 games in what’s been a tough regular season.

By the season’s end, both teams could end up among the all time leaders in a unique category: The teams with the biggest difference between their records in all competitions vs. just the regular season. At right, take a look at the top 10 measured by points per game, which includes two MLS Cup champions and five Open Cup winners (shootouts from 1996-99 were counted as draws for comparison purposes).

In a 2001 season best remembered for the flurry of preseason trades that broke apart the league’s first dynasty, D.C. United still managed to reach the semifinals of both the Champions' Cup and the Open Cup. They also made the final of the only CONCACAF Giants Cup, but none of that was enough to save Thomas Rongen’s head coaching job after back to back disappointing MLS campaigns. Their regular-season total was 26 points in 26 games, but in all competitions they had 48 points in 37 games.

Another DC team ends up looking the worst when comparing overall versus regular season records, at -0.205 points per game. That would be the 2007 edition, which ended the season getting upset in the first round of the playoffs. They could only manage 15 points from 13 non-regular-season games. Not awful, but it compares poorly to a team that won the Supporters’ Shield.

3. Backe’s substitute usage rate among the lowest ever

Fewest Substitutions Used Per Game

  Year Team Subs Head Coach
1 1996 Colorado 1.56 B. Hougton
2 2006 New England 1.72 S. Nicol
T-3 1997 Kansas City 1.84 R. Newman
T-3 1996 Tampa Bay 1.84 T. Rongen
5 2004 New England 1.87 S. Nicol
6 2003 Colorado 1.90 T. Hankinson
T-7 2007 New England 1.97 S. Nicol
T-7 2005 San Jose 1.97 D. Kinnear
T-9 1996 New England 2.03 F. Stapleton
T-9 2007 Toronto 2.03 M. Johnston

One thing that New York Red Bulls fans have noticed in a way, especially when the team hasn’t played well, is their head coach’s reluctance to use all three of his substitutions. Indeed, Hans Backe’s team has used the fewest subs of any in the league in 2011.

Last season, the Red Bulls used the second fewest subs at 2.57 per game (New England used 2.5). While that may be low compared to the rest of the league, it’s not historically unusual.

But this season’s different: They’ve gone to the bench only 42 times in 23 games, for a total of 1.83 per game. The next-lowest team is San Jose at 2.5 per game. That’s a pretty big difference.

If the season ended today, Backe’s usage of substitutes would rank as the third lowest in league history.

Take a look at the chart at right to see which teams have gone to the bench the least in league history.