First, New York City FC lost playmaker Maxi Moralez for several games due to a serious knee injury, then Heber was lost for the season with an ACL injury and Alexandru Mitrita was loaned out to a Saudi Arabian club.
Now, Ronny Deila’s squad will try to navigate an Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs berth with the toughest remaining schedule in the league.
We have calculated the strength of the remaining schedules for all 26 teams from now through Decision Day on Nov. 8. NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls are neck-and-neck when it comes to difficult schedules to finish out the regular season, but Chicago Fire FC don't have a walk in the park, either.
On the other hand, Minnesota United, Orlando City and the Vancouver Whitecaps have the opportunity to gain some points and climb the standings as they close in on the playoffs, something Vancouver desperately need.
The strength of schedule for each team was calculated by taking the 2020 average points per game at home and on the road for each team's opponent to come up with a number that reflects how difficult the schedule is (or isn't) for the final weeks of the season. A higher number means the schedule is more difficult, while a lower one means it's easier.
It's important to remember that this season is unlike anything we've ever seen before. Most matches will be played in empty stadium and the Canadian clubs aren't on their home pitches, which adds another layer of difficulty to the schedule.
Four points separate seventh-place RBNY in the Eastern Conference standings from the 11th-place Chicago Fire, sitting just below the red line, and with both sides having a more difficult schedule to over the next month, they'll need to find some consistency. Additionally, the Red Bulls just hired Gerhard Struber as their new manager on October 6, which could give them a fresh perspective or require an adjustment period, though they'll have to wait on his arrival.
Of the bottom three with the statistically easier schedules, Vancouver are the only club still looking to get above the playoff line, hoping to snap a four-game losing streak in their upcoming game against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, October 10. They finish out the season with five of seven games at "home," which is actually Providence Park in Portland.
Orlando haven't lost a match since August 22 and Minnesota have also picked up steam lately with a 3-game unbeaten streak, so if they can keep this momentum going, they will likely find themselves in a good spot for the playoffs.