Wednesday, October 04, 2006

MLS: Home vs Away Differential

The 2006 Colorado Rapids are the modern-day American soccer equivalent of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: Awesome at home, pitiful on the road. In fact, 30 of their 39 points have been won in the confines of Invesco Field. That's a difference of 1.40 points per game. This begs the question, which MLS teams rank the highest historically? Despite the big swing in performance, the 2006 Rapids would only rank 7th all time.

(all shootouts are counted as draws)

Biggest Differential: Home vs Away PPG

1 2002 San Jose 2.07
2 2003 Los Angeles 1.60
3 1997 Tampa Bay 1.56
4 2000 Dallas 1.50
5 2000 Chicago 1.44
6 2002 DC United 1.43
7 1998 Kansas City 1.38
8 2002 Los Angeles 1.36
9 2004 DC United 1.33
10 1998 Chicago 1.31
10 2005 Los Angeles 1.31

You'll notice one thing right away on this list, which is that there are no Colorado seasons. However, the common wisdom that the Rapids are the kings of home/away disparity is pretty accurate. Among the original MLS teams, only the LA Galaxy has a bigger differential all time (and they're only 0.007 behind). So they're more consistently uneven.

To the Galaxy, it may seem like the HDC has caused them to get a little too comfortable at home; the non-listed 2004 season is tied for 27th. But this year hasn't fit that pattern, as there is hardly a difference (they've sucked everywhere).

So what happened in 2002 with the Earthquakes, who are way, way ahead of everyone else? They fell off from their 2001 season, although they still had the league's second best record at 14-11-3. That didn't stop them from putting up the greatest home record of all time, among all 110 MLS team seasons. Yes, it's even better than the undefeated at home 2005 Earthquakes. The only problem is, their away record is 95th.

14 Home 12 1 1 37 2.64 33 12 21
14 Away 2 10 2 8 0.57 12 23 -11

It all fell apart at the end though. They ended the regular season with their only home loss, which cost them the division title, and then lost the playoff opener, also at home.

There's also two other 2002 seasons on this list. At first I thought that since the league's schedule was only 28 games, fewer games meant that there was a greater chance of a big disparity. But 2001 is absent, when the schedule was even shorter thanks to 9/11. It really comes down to the parity of the league. The more parity, the better teams do at home vs away. Looking back on my post on home field advantage in MLS, 2002 saw one of the highest years for that.

Just to give you some perspective, considering all of MLS history the home team has done 0.67 PPG better (what I call home field advantage). This year's HFA is 0.77, up from 0.51 back in June. That's one of the higher seasons, and you can tell by the form of teams like Dallas and New York (and of course Colorado).

Smallest Differential: Home vs Away PPG

1 2002 New York -0.50
2 2003 New York -0.27
3 1999 DC United -0.25
3 1998 Los Angeles -0.25
5 1999 Tampa Bay -0.19
6 1997 San Jose -0.13
7 2003 San Jose -0.07
8 1998 Tampa Bay -0.06
9 1999 New York 0.00
10 1999 Colorado 0.06
10 1999 New England 0.06

What this means is that only eight teams have done better away than at home. Also, the famously bad 1999 Metrostars are the only MLS team to have done exactly the same in both categories.

1999 teams dominate the list, and if you clicked on the home field advantage link above, you'll see that 1999 was when it mattered least. Definitely it was the least even year of MLS, with several great and horrible teams.

One thing you'll notice on both lists is that neither is exclusive to good or bad teams. And even though the negatives numbers here aren't as big as the first list, both are about equally away from the average HFA of 0.67, as mentioned earlier.

New York historically has the least differential between home and away performance. Maybe that's because their stadium has never really given them a solid advantage. No idea what's up with 2002 and 2003. Zambrano was still the coach in 2002, while Bradley took over for 2003. So you can't blame it on one guy.

Comments on "MLS: Home vs Away Differential"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:10 AM, October 05, 2006) : 

It's because New York consistently has sucked. It will be interesting to see if their new stadium and Red Bull gives them wings! HAHAHA!!!!


post a comment