MLS Cup 10: Revolution vs Galaxy
Only the second MLS Cup rematch (DC-LA the other), this game is also notable for featuring two teams at the opposite ends of the table. Very rarely in the ten year history of MLS have we seen a championship match where one team was obviously better than the other. The last time was in 2002, where the Revs got there despite a losing record. Now, the tables are turned. New England has been consistantly good all season, and they should win this game. But also like 2002, the other team has something in their favor. Landon Donovan is carrying the team on his shoulders, and his brilliance has made the difference for the Galaxy. As I noted earlier, him playing is the difference between Los Angeles being average and good. It will be close, but the Revs should still manage to win. They can overcome Donovan, just like the 2002 Galaxy overcame the Revs' home field advantage. I don't expect a goalfest like the past two years, because these two coaches aren't the types to allow that to happen. Nicol should play a more offensive game than in 2002 though, because now he has the talent that he didn't before. My pick is 2-1 Revs.
And now, because it just wouldn't be a Climbing the Ladder post without some statistical analysis, here is some info on the previous MLS Cup matchups:
1. During 2000-2002, all playoff teams were seeded 1-8 instead of by conference.
2. Ties were not broken for the "table" ranking.
3. APPG (adjusted points per game) simply means that I counted shootouts as draws.
4. Under APPG, OFF (goals per game), and DEF (goals allowed per game), those are alltime rankings among all 110 MLS regular season preformances.
5. POR and PGD stand for playoff record and playoff goal differential respectively, going into the title game. Playoff records do count shootout wins in this case.
So comparing the two title contenders in each category to see who's best, which best predict the winner?
I didn't break ties here, but overall, the favorites (based on seed, then using tiebreakers) have only won 4 of 9 times. So it's no surprise that the categories here didn't show much of an advantage anywhere. Playoff record could be a factor (favors Galaxy), but it looks like the best predictor was the better team defensively (favors Revs).
Of the five "upset" winners, (1996 DC, 1998 CHI, 2001 SJ, 2003 SJ, and 2004 DC) 3 were better defensively and 2 offensively. Only once has one team been better in both categories, and that was the 1997 game. That is, until this year. This year's Galaxy team may have Landon Donovan, but they are very similar to that 1997 Colorado team. They both were 4th in their conference and got hot in the playoffs, and both are the only two MLS Cup finalists with a negative goal differential for the regular season.
1997 DC was probably the biggest favorite ever of the 9 games, not even taking into account the home field advantage they had. The Galaxy are better than those Rapids, and underachieved for much of the year. But the Revs must win this game, or else they'll be on the losing end of the greatest MLS Cup upset so far.