Alexander Pope wrote that "Hope springs eternal in the human breast," and so that hope springs in the collective breast of the Philadelphia Union faithful. I too found myself shattering the Sunday afternoon peace of my house - when CJ Sapong swung his left foot and found the back of the net - with a loud yelp. This is what sports is all about, right?
But there is also a thing called wisdom, which often is at odds with the flight of the heart. The brain and the heart - what should we lead with? We tend to let the heart lead the way. Of course the idea of a competitive Union season is great to think about, but do these two wins really tell us anything about what to expect for the rest of the season?
In an effort balance out the gushing spring I compiled the results of the last five MLS seasons. I looked at how the results of the first three games of all the teams correlated with their next 31. Here is what I found.
The bottom line is there is absolutely no correlation between the first three games and what happens next unless you feel good about the number .03. It looks like you're only screwed if you have zero points in three games, as no team with zero points has made the playoffs. But even teams with one point have made the playoffs plenty of times. Eighteen teams in the last five season have earned six points through three games like the Union, and the average points for those teams at season's end is 51. That's right on the playoff line. But there's a wide range of outcomes too. From this point the Colorado Rapids finished with just 37 points in 2012. The San Jose Earthquakes in that same year started with six points and finished with 65. Literally anything is possible. Hope and despair, ecstasy and agony, these are still very much staring each other down from inside your chest.
In fact the biggest thing that Union fans can take away from the first three games of the season is that the team has six points. It's a good start, and it means nothing from here on out.
But wait, what's that my heart just said?