The benchmark of success from Round 3 was a group of players – starters AND substitutes used – which had played at least 42 percent of the team’s MLS minutes on the season. Teams at or higher than 42 percent had a .727 advancement percentage, while teams below that mark were 0-for-5.
|TM||% MLS Mins.||Result|
Two of the teams cut it particularly close, with Chivas USA starting a lineup at exactly 42 percent (escalating to 52.3 with substitutes) and San Jose’s starters accounting for only 40.7 percent (60.1 percent with subs). Interestingly, both teams left their wins exceedingly late, winning on goals from Juan Pablo Angel in the 90th minute and Steven Lenhart in the 85th minute.
New York started the strongest lineup of the four teams (63.7 percent) but was still the only MLS side to lose, continuing the trend (can we call it a trend after only 12 games?) that numerical strength after that 42-percent threshold seems to have minimal impact on the result. The fact that the Red Bulls used only extra-time subs, one of whom has not played an MLS minute this year, may not have helped. Nor, of course, did a missed hand-ball call.
The other team to consider was the Seattle Sounders, who started a lineup at 53.4 percent, with the number rising to 63.5 after subs (all of whom were inserted after the game had been decided).
In the two all-MLS games, Philadelphia (59.8% starters, 62.5% total) edged D.C. United (57.5% starters, 66.5% total) in extra time, and Kansas City (70.5% starters, 71.1% total) took down Colorado (56.7% starters, 59.9% total). Not a whole lot to draw from there, especially with the impact injuries and absences had on lineup selection, but still a slight edge for the ‘stronger’ lineups.
Once again, I’m not trying to draw any major conclusions – I haven’t looked (and probably won’t look) at enough data for that – but it is interesting that, above that threshold of MLS minutes, the advancement percentage stayed consistent for a second consecutive round. We’ll get three more MLS vs. non-MLS games in the quarterfinals, so it’s worth keeping an eye on. Percentage of MLS minutes certainly seems to be a better predictor of results than home-field advantage, which has produced an exact 12-12 split in Rounds 3 and 4, or regular-season record.