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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
NBCSN
Eastern Conference Championship

Climbing the Ladder: Are goals on the rise in 2012?

Though there’s been plenty of excitement already, the month old 2012 MLS season hasn’t quite been full of goals: The average so far is 2.34 per game, and unless the New York Red Bulls are involved, high scoring games have been hard to come by.  Is it normal to have fewer goals at the beginning of the season?

Goals Per Game - April vs. Rest of Season
Year Through April Rest of Season Change
1996 2.75 3.44 25.0%
1997 3.00 3.32 10.6%
1998 3.28 3.64 10.9%
1999 2.44 2.95 20.8%
2000 3.12 3.21 2.8%
2001 2.92 3.35 14.9%
2002 2.27 3.18 39.9%
2003 2.27 2.96 30.4%
2004 2.18 2.67 22.6%
2005 2.86 2.87 0.3%
2006 2.71 2.60 -4.1%
2007 2.27 2.72 19.7%
2008 2.94 2.79 -5.2%
2009 2.62 2.52 -4.0%
2010 2.57 2.44 -4.8%
2011 2.51 2.60 3.9%

It’s hard to compare all 16 previous seasons using the calendar because the date of First Kick has shifted around from year to year. However, it seems like a fair comparison to look at all games through the month of April, which has always been the first full month of the schedule. That has represented on average 16.1 % of the schedule in previous years, which compares to the 16.4% of 2012 that has elapsed so far.

In 12 of 16 seasons, the average goals-per-game number through April has been lower than the average for the remainder of the schedule. However, those four years where the total declined have all occurred since 2006.

Looking at every single game in league history through 2011, the all-time goals-per-game average of 2.88 breaks down like this: 2.70 in March/April and 2.91 for every other month combined.

That works out to an increase of 7.8% for the remainder of the season. Now, there may not be a large increase in 2012 like in the early years of the league. Those were likely due to fewer total games being played, as well as a less defensively-savvy style of play. However, given the final totals of the last few years (2.54, 2.46, 2.58), it seems likely to expect the 2.34 for this year to go up. If that exact all-time increase were to occur, it would put this year’s final average at 2.52 – right in line with the past few seasons.

Rain-shortened game just the latest MLS statistical quirk

On Sunday, the match between the Chicago Fire and Houston Dynamo ended midway through the second half due to the weather conditions. The game will go down as a 1-1 final even though it wasn’t played to completion. For anyone who pays attention to MLS statistics, it will be important to remember how this game was officially only 66 minutes long compared to the normal 90.

It’s another in a long series of statistical anomalies throughout the league’s history that are easily missed, like the 1999 Tampa Bay-Colorado regular season game which doubled as a US Open Cup quarterfinal.

It’s not the first time in MLS history that a game has gone into the record books without being played to completion. D.C. United’s home game against Kansas City on June 10, 2000, was suspended at halftime with the score 0-0 and never resumed. That created the unique scenario (at the time) of a game ending in a draw without overtime being played, the only such instance in the regular season until extra session was done away with following the 2003 season.

There have been plenty of other unique things in MLS history: shootouts, fourth substitutions, allocations. It’s all part of the fun of being an MLS fan throughout the years. But there’s one game, from the 2002 playoffs, that stands out.

Before the current two-legged format, the MLS playoffs, from 2000-02, were contested using a “first to five” system, which referred to the number of points necessary to advance. If the teams were tied after the third game (with each stuck on four points or less), then a 20-minute “series overtime” was played. Even though all the substitutions and cards would carry over from the conclusion of the third game, it would be wrong to call it just a simple overtime. That’s because each individual postseason game also had its own 10-minute overtime period, just like in the regular season.

So when Colorado and Dallas entered Game 3 of their 2002 first-round series tied at a game apiece, a draw would mean a series OT. That’s exactly what happened. After the regular 10-minute OT, the Rapids and "Burn" lined up for the series-deciding "mini-game." Mere seconds after the kick off, Mark Chung scored and the Rapids advanced. That led to an extremely unusual circumstance: The Rapids scored two goals on the night to Dallas’ one, but officially, it has been recorded as a draw.

There were two other series overtimes, but in both of the others the team that won Game 3 also won in the mini-game as well – most famously when Miklos Molnar scored in Kansas City to defeat the Los Angeles Galaxy en route to the 2000 MLS Cup.