Audi Player Index Playoffs Analysis

Audi Player Index Playoff Analysis: Top 7 questions for the postseason

Audi Player Index blog - Rapids - Howard and Sjoberg

With the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs set to start, here are the seven questions we are most eager to explore in the second installment of the Audi Player Index Playoff Analysis.

1. How will FC Dallas perform in these playoffs?

How will the team manage the expectations that come along with winning the Supporters' Shield but losing one of their key players (and one of their two players in the Audi Player Index top 20) in Mauro Diaz to injury? After losing in the conference finals last year, do FCD have enough to propel themselves to the championship match this time around?

2. Are the New York Red Bulls ready to take the next step forward?

Audi Player Index Playoff Analysis: Top 7 questions for the postseason -

The last two years have seen RBNY's playoff runs ended by the eventual Eastern Conference champions (New England, then Columbus). With neither that duo nor the defending champions from Portland qualifying, is this the year the Red Bulls do it? They are the only playoff team with two active top 20 players from the Audi Player Index in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan.

3. Will the Colorado Rapids be able to cap their historic turnaround?

Last year the Rapids finished in last place in the Western Conference and tied for second-fewest points in the entire league with only 37. This year Colorado finished second in the Shield standings, but only scored 39 goals over the course of the season. They also ranked 17th in average team score on the Audi Player Index. Does this team have enough attacking firepower to do real damage during their playoff run?

4. Will any teams figure out a way to win away from home?

To make a deep run in the postseason, teams usually have to figure out how to achieve results in front of away crowds. No team in either conference earned more wins than losses on the road in 2016. Check out MLS away records here.

Audi Player Index Playoff Analysis: Top 7 questions for the postseason -

5. How will Audi Player Index predictions stack up against how things actually unfold?

If we reseeded the playoff teams based on their average team Audi Player Index score, the playoff picture would look like this:

Eastern Conference
Avg Audi Team Score
Western Conference
Avg Audi Team Score
1. Toronto FC
1. LA Galaxy
2. Seattle Sounders
3. NY Red Bulls
3. FC Dallas
4. Philadelphia Union
4. Sporting KC
5. Montreal Impact
5. Real Salt Lake
6. D.C. United
6. Colorado Rapids

Are Toronto FC and LA Galaxy settings themselves up for MLS Cup runs?

6. Is it really an advantage to have a bye?

Each conference’s top two seeds don't play again until Sunday, while Knockout Round participants are in action midweek. Will it be better for Dallas, the Rapids, Red Bulls and NYCFC to have that time off? Or might teams who play in the Knockout Round benefit from finding a rhythm before trying to spring ambushes at home vs. higher seeds at the weekend?

7. Can a team with limited star power up top win in the playoffs?

Out of the top 20 ranked players in the Audi Player Index, only two playoff teams have none on their teams: D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union. Have these squads found a recipe for success where all 11 players share the offensive load evenly? Or do you need at least one consistently dynamic and more statistically impactful player to make a run in the playoffs?

Sam Polak has written for FourFourTwo and the NSCAA, and became interested in coaching and tactics after an unfortunate knee injury. When not watching soccer, he is very likely tuning in to an NBA game.