The Sunday Statistical Showdown throughout the year has consistently looked at how many points would be needed for Orlando to reach the playoffs. So far this year the Lions are sitting on eight points and in third place garnering 1.6 points per match in this 2016 MLS season.
Until last Friday, when Orlando came up against the high flying Philadelphia Union in Philly, Orlando stood unbeaten and had taken ties in the first two home matches versus Chicago and Real Salt Lake respectively. Going away to New York City brought the first win of the year and was followed up by a trouncing of Portland here in Orlando.
However, the Philadelphia match last week did show some weaknesses--especially how Rafael Ramos and Antonio Nocerino played overall, both looking out of place and each having a hand in the Union's goals. On the other hand, the return of Kaká and the play so far this season of Adrian Winter has shown that Orlando has the players and perhaps the depth to compete for a playoff run.
Back to the central theme of this week's piece: looking at how Orlando has fared and the point total that may be needed to reach the playoffs. Last year through the first five matches Orlando sat on five points, this year we are well ahead of that pace but the competition is also a bit lacking. Considering that four out of the five matches so far in this 2016 campaign have come against teams that missed that playoffs last year, Orlando will need to show well today versus New England, a team who held onto the fifth place in the East in 2015.
Looking at the sixth place teams over the previous years in the Eastern Conference we see them sitting on these points:
2013 - 49
2014 - 49
2015 - 49
Assuming that the past few years will give a good reference point on how many points Orlando would need to muster throughout 2016 to reach the Eastern Conference playoffs, we can determine that Orlando is on pace for that. As Orlando is earning 1.6 points per game which would lead to the team ending the year with approximately 54 points. That point total would be good enough for a second-place finish in 2015 and a third place finish in 2014.
But the future seems to be a bit troubling as we look at the upcoming schedule, while using a visual from a previous Sunday Statistical Showdown we can see that Orlando has outplayed its expectations so far this season. To give a little reference on what this visual is showing here is a breakdown:
Below is the visual associated with the favorite or underdog look using point differential, where anything in green is a positive point differential and anything in red is a negative point differential. Anything in yellow is within the .5 and -.5 spread to show that the game is too close to call, all looks include point differential at home and away during the 2015 season and define the probability to earn points.
Through the first five matches Orlando has earned points from matches that were too close to call, but coming after this New England match Orlando will run the gauntlet for the next four matches where three will be away before returning to Orlando to play the New York Red Bulls. After this gauntlet we will have a bit more information on Orlando and whether or not it has the chops to stay in the playoff hunt.
Perhaps the Lions are overachieving a bit in 2016 and perhaps 11 points through six games would be too much to ask. But who cares? The Lions are in a good position currently and we can only hope their current run of form continues. We'll see how they do later today at the Citrus Bowl.