The Angle

So, You’re Sayin’ There’s a Chance: How MNUFC Could Take the Fall Crown

by on 9 September 2016

It’s been a strange season. Between MN United’s injuries, strange lapses in defense, scoring droughts, and even a team misplacing their turf, the NASL Fall Season has been anything but boring. While it’s been fun, the Loons’ story hasn’t gone according to plan. But Andrew Lovgren looks at the various scenarios that might lie ahead for United.

After entering the Spring Season with high hopes, Minnesota failed to capitalize on several opportunities, eventually losing out to Indy. However, a strong finish led to some hope that the Fall Season might yield different results. Yet, here we are, seemingly locked in fourth place with slim chances to take that top spot. Meanwhile, Edmonton, New York, and (a much rebuilt) Miami all seem to be on pace to finish the season strong. Can the Loons break out in the last nine games and catch up to secure a home playoff game? Doubtful. BUT (because we MN sports fans love being let down) let’s take a look at three possible scenarios for the rest of the season.

First off, it’s important to look at the last three winners of the NASL Fall Season. This year there are more games than ever (22), but looking at past winners gives an idea how many points per game a team should expect to need to win the fall title. While the spring saw an unusually low points-per-game (PPG) for the winner, more games and stronger play seem to indicate a fall point total that is closer to the norm.

Year Team Points Games Avg. PPG
2013 NY Cosmos 31 14 2.21
2014 SA Scorpions 35 18 1.95
2015 NY Cosmos 45 20 2.25
2016 ???? ~42-48 22 ~1.95-2.25

With this goal in mind, let’s dive in.

(The following three predictions are the result of some extreme estimates based on current form and some wishful thinking. For a full list of the remaining match predictions and the resulting tables, check out this document. Take them as you will.)

The Glass is Half-Full

Sit back and sip a tall, cool glass of black and blue Kool-Aid as we take a look at what it would take for the Loons to win the Fall Season.

Spoiler Alert: It’s a lot.

With nine games remaining, Minnesota would need to hope for a lot of help, while taking care of their own business. Thankfully, the Loons have a fairly favorable schedule. This weekend’s away match against the Cosmos represents the team’s biggest hurdle. Even a point on Saturday would provide them with some hope to finish the fall on top. After that, the team has home matches against Ottawa, Jacksonville, Edmonton, and New York and away matches against Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Puerto Rico, and Carolina. All eight of those remaining matches should be winnable, especially those at home.

Optimistic Fall Table
Team GP W D L Points
Minnesota United FC 22 12 7 3 43
New York Cosmos 22 11 6 5 39
Miami FC 22 9 8 5 35
Indy Eleven 22 9 7 6 34
FC Edmonton 22 9 6 7 33
Carolina RailHawks 22 8 7 7 31
Rayo OKC 22 8 6 8 30
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 22 7 8 7 29
Tampa Bay Rowdies 22 4 10 8 22
Jacksonville Armada FC 22 3 10 9 19
Ottawa Fury FC 22 4 7 11 19
Puerto Rico FC 22 2 10 10 16

The next piece of the puzzle is what the other teams decide to do. New York is picking up steam and is currently seven points ahead with an absurdly high goal differential to ward off any ties. Meanwhile, FC Edmonton has a four point advantage with two games in hand. A slumping Indy (who, remember, has a home playoff game locked up with the spring title) is up by only a point and Miami is gaining ground, down by only a point with two games in hand. Let’s say the Loons can finish 7-2-0 somehow. They would finish the Fall Season with 43 points. To keep Minnesota on top would require the currently hot Cosmos to go 3-3-3, Indy to continue slumping, and the Eddies to regress.

Picking games with these four factors in mind, Minnesota could go for a run (with little wiggle room) and secure the top spot of the Fall Season. Many, perhaps too many, chips would need to fall Minnesota’s way to clear the path, but it’s not out of the question. There’s the chance.

The Glass is HalfEmpty

For this simulation, I’ll bring out the Minnesota sports fan in all of us. Let’s say things just don’t go our way for the rest of the season. The Cosmos are still the Cosmos, after all, and the team has fallen apart every time it has put itself back together so far this season. Why would that change now? In this scenario, we’ll assume the Loons still can’t get more than a point on the road. That said, several of the home games should be wins, even with a pessimistic attitude toward the current state of affairs. Furthermore, the Cosmos stay on their streak, the Eddies and VanOekel stay solid, and even Miami makes a run for the fall title.

Pessimistic Fall Table
Team GP W D L Points
New York Cosmos 22 14 6 2 48
FC Edmonton 22 12 6 4 42
Miami FC 22 11 6 5 39
Minnesota United FC 22 8 10 4 34
Indy Eleven 22 9 7 6 34
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 22 7 8 7 29
Rayo OKC 22 7 5 10 26
Carolina RailHawks 22 6 7 9 25
Tampa Bay Rowdies 22 4 10 8 22
Ottawa Fury 22 4 6 12 18
Puerto Rico FC 22 2 11 9 17
Jacksonville Armada FC 22 3 8 11 17

Perhaps most interesting is seeing Miami surge in the fall only to come just short due to a disaster of a Spring Season (7 points). Indy still deservedly get into the playoffs, but their continued hold on the home game advantage highlights the ridiculous NASL split season. While falling to fourth or fifth (depending on goal differential), Minnesota would still hold the fourth spot in the overall table fairly comfortably. That’s a silver lining that I’ll take.

Technically, the Glass is Completely Full

This is where all of you who have been scoffing at the predictions (and yet somehow kept reading) might find some more grounded ideas. With several home games and a largely favorably schedule, Minnesota has a good chance to go undefeated in the last nine. Assuming the rest of the league sticks to their current trajectory, the club will be able to make a decent push to the top, but will still fall short of the fall title.

Realistic Fall TABLE
Team GP W D L Points
New York Cosmos 22 12 7 3 43
Minnesota United FC 22 10 9 3 39
Miami FC 22 10 8 4 38
FC Edmonton 22 10 8 4 38
Indy Eleven 22 10 7 5 37
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 22 7 8 7 29
Rayo OKC 22 7 5 10 26
Carolina RailHawks 22 6 8 8 26
Tampa Bay Rowdies 22 4 11 7 23
Ottawa Fury FC 22 4 5 13 17
Jacksonville Armada FC 22 3 8 11 17
Puerto Rico FC 22 2 10 10 16

Minnesota would retain a comfortable lead on fourth place and possibly even take third, depending on goal differential. This would mean an away game against either Indy or the Cosmos in the semifinal. Looking at the remaining schedule for each club, expecting a road playoff game doesn’t seem too far-fetched in either direction.

The mostly likely scenario remains a Cosmos victory of the fall and overall table, Indy draws its way into the playoffs, the Eddies continue with a stout defense, and the Loons take the final spot to play the upset role on the road.

Saturday’s match at New York will be a telling one for the Loons. Finally, getting three points on the road (in NY no less) could signify a Minnesota squad with some drive to get it done in the last nine games. But, realistically, at the very least the team can use these games to get tuned up to make the last two NASL playoff games of the club’s tenure really count.

Realistic Combined Table
Team GP W D L Points
New York Cosmos 32 18 7 7 61
Indy Eleven* 32 14 13 5 55
Minnesota United FC 32 15 10 7 55
FC Edmonton 32 15 10 7 55
Miami FC 32 11 12 9 45
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 32 11 11 10 44
Carolina RailHawks 32 10 10 12 40
Tampa Bay Rowdies 32 8 15 9 39
Rayo OKC 32 10 8 14 38
Ottawa Fury FC 32 6 8 18 26
Jacksonville Armada FC 32 4 12 16 24
Puerto Rico FC 22 2 10 10 16

*Indy Eleven is guaranteed a home game due to winning the Spring Season.

Keep an eye on this document, which will be updated week by week to track the Loons’ hunt to finish above fourth place.

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