Last night broke pretty well for RSL's slim chance of winning the Supporter Shield. Seattle's loss was a huge help and KC only getting a draw against Houston helped as well. Currently there are seven teams within five points of the Shield leader Red Bulls. Every point is crucial right now.
As I was looking at the updated standings I kept thinking how I wish we had even one more point. One more point would greatly increase our chances of winning the Shield. Now in every season there are going to be games that you get a late goal to win or at least get a draw. There will also be those heart breaking games that the opposing team scores late and you lose out on points. The hope is that your team has the former happen a lot more than the latter. At the very worst you hope they even out. The last thing that you want is to be a team that is giving up many late goals so that you are dropping a lot of points. Unfortunately that is exactly where RSL has been this year.
I went through and reviewed RSL's season and discovered they have been poor at finishing out games. Not only poor, very poor. To make matters worse, they have not been particularly good at coming back to salvage points from a losing position.
RSL has been very good at jumping out and taking early leads in matches. In 21 of RSL's 32 games played they have scored the first goal. That is 65%. Not bad at all. The problem is that RSL is not holding on to those leads.
There have been four matches where RSL has had the lead and the opposing team came back to get a draw. That is eight lost points for RSL. There have been four more matches where RSL has had the lead at some point in the match and the opposing team came back to win. That is another 12 lost points for RSL. If RSL could have held on to all of their leads they would have 20 more points in the chase for the shield. 20! Could you imagine if RSL currently had 72 points?
Now as I said above, no team holds on to all of their leads. Every team is going to have dropped points. But you hope that you came back in more games than you let slip away. This hasn't been the case for RSL. There have been four occasions where RSL was trailing and they came back to salvage a draw. That is not too bad. It matches up with how many times other teams came back to get draws against RSL. The team has only come back one time from being down in a match to end up winning that match. That hurts compared to the four times other teams have come back to win.
So let's just throw out the draws as a wash. RSL dropped four and gained four. All of RSL's problems comes from the fact that four times they held the lead and then ended up losing the game. Since RSL did come back to win a match from a losing position that is still nine points that RSL dropped. Nine extra points right now would be huge! Three of those four losses came to goals scored in stoppage time. And all four had multiple goals scored after the 65th minute for the opposing teams.
And then there is the disaster in DC; currently DC United only has 15 points on the season. That is pitiful. Three of those points came from their victory over RSL in the beginning of the season. Now granted, RSL was never leading in that game, so it is a bit different than what I was talking about above. But how painful is it to think that 20% of DC's total points came from their win over RSL? (and I won't even bring up the USOC Final) How nice would it be for RSL now if they would have gotten a win or even just a draw against the worst team in the entire league?
As things look today there is a good chance that the NY Red Bulls will win the Supporters Shield. If they do win the Shield they will have RSL to thank for it. Or more appropriately, a five minute stretch against RSL to thank for it. If you think back to July 27th, in the 89th minute RSL was leading NY 3-2. Five minutes later the final whistle was blown and NY walked away with a 4-3 victory. What would today be like if RSL could have just held on for the victory? They would be currently sitting with 55 points and a three point lead over the rest of the league in the race for the Shield. And the odds of NY winning the Shield would be slim to none. That is a huge difference than what we have today.
There is a chance that I am writing this article premature. RSL might win their last two matches, get some breaks along the way, and they will take home the Shield. I hope that this will be the case. But if RSL does end up losing out on the Supporters Shield (along with the US Open Cup) we will always look back at this season and think what might have been.