Seattle Sounders star Clint Dempsey squinted his eyes and gave a firm reply. In the media scrum following Seattle’s second-straight victory over Portland, I asked Deuce if anyone in the locker room was talking Supporters’ Shield. He said, “You don’t earn trophies by talking about them.”
That’s too bad because I’ve done enough talking about silverware to earn Seattle the treble. Us media types and bloggers have all the fun. We can postulate and question and spin. All I want to think about is our chances of winning the Shield. Though we are just over the midway point of the season, I can’t help but look towards Week 34’s table.
The Sounders have such a commanding lead on the Supporters’ Shield race that it’s tough to imagine them losing their grip. Seattle currently sits at 38 points through 18 games played. They’ve been earning an astronomical 2.11 points per game. If they held this pace they’d finish the year with about 74 (73.76) points. That would be the new record, shoot-out era or not.
DC United and Sporting KC are the teams closest behind. Sporting sits at 32 points at 19 games played (1.68 ppg) and DC is at 31 in 18 (1.72 ppg). They both figure to finish with around 58/59 points. Mighty respectable point totals, as New York won the Shield last year with 59.
Others teams still in the running are LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC. LA (1.69 ppg) and TFC (1.56 ppg) both have games in hand, so could start to climb. But Sounders fans learned last year that games in hand are useless unless you get results. The darkhorse in the race is Real Salt Lake. They are tied with TFC at 1.56 ppg, but have played a full 18 games. RSL thus has less time to turn their season into a higher gear and catch up. The Shield will go to one of these six teams.
It’s Seattle’s race to lose, but I don’t want get all cocky after last year’s debacle. Sometimes climbing to the top of the mountain just gives you a loooong way to fall. There is comfort in numbers and science, so I started crunching numbers to see how realistic Seattle’s chances of running away with the league are. I chose some familiar Western Conference foes as comparables to discover how poorly the Sounders would have to play to lose the pole position. I left all the other Shield aspirants at their current ppg.
If Seattle played as abysmally as San Jose (1 ppg) we’d finish with 54 points, tied with RSL and potentially #1 in the West. However we’d probably be out of the running for the Shield (but not totally).
If Seattle played as poorly as Chivas (1.28 ppg) we’d be at 58.48 giving us a legit shot at winning the Shield. That is crazy.
If Seattle played as utterly atrociously as Portland (1.11 ppg), we’d finish at 55.76 giving us a puncher’s chance for the Shield.
I am not gonna jinx anything, so you can take these numbers as you will (but if pressed I’d say, We’re totally winning the Shield baby! We’ll have it clinched by Labor Day! Boo ya! Sounders for life!!”)
Seattle is sizzling but Portland is a flaccid, tepid french fry. They really are playing like trash. I don’t expect them to turn it around and make the playoffs. But can they? If Portland all of sudden went on a Seattle-esque run (2.11 ppg), they’d finish with around 53 points and be near the very top of the West. So an incredible Portland turnaround is possible. Sounders fans remember our late season surge in 2010. But let’s be realistic. Currently, Dallas is in the 5th and last playoff spot in the West. Dallas earns 1.37 ppg and are on pace to finish with 46 points. Portland would need to average 1.66 ppg to get more than 46 points. That means they’d have to start playing as well as SKC to just make the playoffs. Wow. Portland would need to play as well as the team currently in second on the whole table just to have a slight chance of sniffing the postseason.
Life is so good.