Friday, May 20, 2011

Sporting Kansas City's Rough Start A Lesson In Value of Home

Earlier this week, I heard some speculation on the radio about whether Peter Vermes would even make it to June as the coach of Sporting Kansas City. The team is off to a rough start, at 1-5-1 in their first 7 games, and currently has the fewest total points in the MLS. I'm here to tell you that they are probably closer to an average MLS team, that they might want to wait before making any judgments, and that I expect them to be in contention for one of the playoff spots by season's end.

Sporting Kansas City has started this season with 7 straight road games, and will have 3 more before they play the home opener. The team will christen Live Strong Park on June 9, and will play 17 of their final 24 league games at home.

So how big a factor is that? So far in 2011, if we exclude Sporting Kansas City, the remaining 17 teams have gone 14-32-28 on the road. That works out to just less than 1 point per road game, and only 19% of the visitors have managed an outright win. 7 of the 17 teams have yet to win a road game (and all others have played at least 4).

So while Kansas City's 1-5-1 mark is not ideal, it's also not exactly cause for major concern, because all the results have come on the road. Until the 4-1 loss at the Los Angeles Galaxy, the losses were all close games decided by a single goal. The playoff format in 2011 calls for the top three teams from each conference to get in the playoffs, plus four wildcards that play a play-in game. Sporting Kansas City is in the Eastern Conference, and the teams they will be trying to chase down are a combined 3-17-14 on the road.

Whether they make a coaching move or not, I expect Sporting Kansas City to "surge" in the second half of the season. There is no place like home.

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