MLS coaches and players tend to talk about the season in different stages, especially with a nod to the second half of the year being what really counts. Start racking up the points late and it could coincide with a rush into the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
This year, one of those tipping points comes after the Concacaf Gold Cup break, and there’s a lot to dissect about where team’s seasons are trending. Points per game since June 22 are the reference point here.
For starters, it’s no surprise to see the Eastern Conference leaders New York City FC leading the way with 2.07 ppg. Then there’s Western Conference champions LAFC with 2 ppg, followed by the Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake in a 1.93 ppg deadlock. Portland have benefitted from a home-heavy second half after waiting for Providence Park renovations to conclude, while RSL have weathered the storm of Mike Petke's dismissal and Freddy Juarez taking over.
Sticking out West, impressive form for Minnesota (1.85 ppg) and the San Jose Earthquakes (1.79) starts to become a little more clear. The former made the U.S. Open Cup final, while the latter have been revolutionized under head coach Matias Almeyda.
Another positive step forward comes from the New England Revolution (1.77), as they became more settled under new head coach/sporting director Bruce Arena. New England had an 11-game unbeaten streak at one point. Another pair of Eastern Conference leaders, Atlanta United (1.69) and Philadelphia Union (1.67) have similarly turned heads.
On the flipside, the Gold Cup break also marked teams petering out after racing out at the start of 2019.
The LA Galaxy, in danger of missing the playoffs for a third straight year, have 1.08 ppg since June 22. The Montreal Impact are on just 0.83 ppg, while the Houston Dynamo are on 0.63 ppg. Both teams fired their head coaches in August – Remi Garde at Montreal and Wilmer Cabrera at Houston – amid the rough patches.
The two teams already eliminated from playoff contention, Vancouver (0.64) and expansion newcomers Cincinnati (0.54), have endured similar struggles. Meanwhile, the Columbus Crew have rebounded some (1 ppg) after a miserable 1-13-2 stretch midseason.
Sometimes it’s all about getting hot at the right time, folks.