No more games in hand, no more disparity between games played at home and on the road, no more asterisks denoting games that didn't really count because the opposition was bad. With the regular season over and playoffs under way, we can finally look back on the MLS regular season and compare statistics through 34 games, where every team played every other team twice.
The Philadelphia Union and Houston Dynamo met once in PPL Park and once in Robertson Stadium this season, in games that totaled 53 fouls, 3 goals, and 5 yellow cards. The Dynamo out-passed the Union 970-610 during the series and they registered 45 open-play crosses as the Union managed only 11. The U were outshot 35-15, yet they got 4 points out of two games. Sure, playoffs are all about momentum and experience, but how do the players on each team stack up after the long haul? Hit the jump for a look at statistics on either side of Sunday's Eastern Conference Semifinal...
Who scores the goals & the ones that got away
Houston didn't have any player finish on the top 25 scoring chart this season and Sebastien Le Toux is the only Philly player in the top 25 (tied for 9th in the league). Carlos Ruiz, the Union's second highest scorer, hasn't played since mid-July, and Danny Mwanga hasn't scored since June. The Dynamo dumped Dominic Oduro (who ended up tied for 5th in league scoring) after a 29-minute season-opening performance against the Union in which he didn't score, replacing him with the virtually non-existent Calen Carr. Rookie Will Bruin scored 4 of his 5 goals in April (3 in one game). Lovel Palmer and Koke each chipped in a goal but are no longer with the team. Both squads have spread the scoring around...
|Sebastien Le Toux (11)||Geoff Cameron (5)|
|Brian Ching (5)|
|Danny Mwanga (5)||Will Bruin (5)|
|Justin Mapp (3)||Bobby Boswell (5)|
|Veljko Paunovic (3)||Brad Davis (4)|
|Roger Torres (3)||Colin Clark (4)|
|Michael Farfan (2)||Cam Weaver (4)|
|Freddy Adu (2)||Danny Cruz (2)|
|Kyle Nakazawa (1)||Adam Moffat (2)|
|Sheanon Williams (1)||Je-Vaughn Watson (1)|
|Keon Daniel (1)|
|Gabriel Farfan (1)||Hunter Freeman (1)|
|Carlos Valdes (1)||Carlos Costly (1)|
|Jack McInerney (1)||Andre Hainault (1)|
|Brian Carroll (1)|
|Danny Califf (1)||Alex Dixon (1)|
|Calen Carr (1)|
Brad Davis led the league (along with David Beckham) in assists with 15. Houston's next highest assist-giver was Geoff Cameron with 5. Sebastien Le Toux lead the Union in assists (tied for 5th in the league) with 9. Danny Mwanga was second on the team with 4.
Cam Weaver and Andre Hainault each finished in the top 25 in fouls committed (47 and 44 respectively), though neither collected many cards. Carlos Valdes ended the season with fewer fouls (38), but he managed to double their combined yellow card tally, finishing 3rd in the league for most yellow cards behind Aurelien Collin and David Beckham.
The Dynamo were awarded 3 penalty kicks and sank all 3 of them. The Union were just as effective with the 4 spot kicks called in their favor. DC United led the league with 10 PKs for (8 scored), while Chivas USA went 34 games without earning a single penalty.
Brian Ching ranks 15th on the all-time MLS scoring list with 77 goals, though he has only taken one penalty kick... which he missed. The 33 year old is just 3 goals from passing Preki and tying both Josh Wolff and Brian McBride.
In a league where the road team has only won about 20% of the time since July (Eastern Conference teams were 26-67-60 through the whole season), the Union can breathe a sigh of relief that they avoided the once-and-done wild card round. Now it will come down to who can win biggest at home. The Union finished the regular season 7-1-9 at home and 4-7-6 on the road. The Dynamo were 9-3-4 at home and 2-6-9 on the road.
Dominic Kinnear was an assistant coach for the San Jose Earthquakes during their 2001 and 2003 championship winning seasons before taking over as head coach, winning the Supporters Shield, rebranding / relocating to Houston, and winning two more championships. Brad Davis, Corey Ashe, Brian Ching, and Eddie Robinson (though he's only played 2 games this season) have all won at least one MLS Cup under Kinnear.
Of the 28 players on the roster, only 6 have MLS experience outside of their time with the Union:
Sebastien Le Toux
Of those players, all 6 have MLS playoff experience, 4 (Adu, Carroll, Califf, Mapp) have played in an MLS Cup Final, and 4 (Adu, Carroll, Califf, Miglioranzi) have been on an MLS Cup winning roster.
Other playoff tidbits:
- The Los Angeles Galaxy were undefeated at home (12-0-5), scoring 47 goals and only allowing 25. They will face the New York Red Bulls, who managed only 2 road wins all season.
- The #1 seed from the Eastern Conference has been knocked out of the playoffs in the Conference Semifinals 4 times in the last 6 years. They have only won the whole thing three times in the 16 year history of the league (DC in '97, DC in '99, Crew in '08).
- For the past 2 seasons, no Eastern teams have made it to the MLS Cup Final. In 2008, 2 Eastern Conference teams competed in the finals.
- Under the current format (and because of the Wild Card round results), an Eastern Conference team could face a Western Conference team in the MLS Cup Final as winners of the other team's conference.