Apr 1, 2012; Carson, CA, USA; Chivas USA have been battered by the league's toughest schedule through the first four weeks Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE
We are a month into the MLS season, and while it is still very early, I felt a trend was apparent so far concerning Chivas USA's schedule. Their first four opponents were the Houston Dynamo, Vancouver Whitecaps, Real Salt Lake, and Sporting Kansas City. Those four teams have 35 points combined. SKC and RSL are leading their respective conferences, while Vancouver and Houston are both in playoff contention at the moment (and that's with Houston playing only three games so far). Above all, Chivas have played four of the top nine teams in the league so far this season.
All of this is to say that Chivas have had the hardest schedule in the league through the first four weeks of the season. I found a table on a website called playoffstatus.com with a table devoted to strength of schedule. Now, I'm going by this table on trust, as I am not sure of the veracity of the algorithm used to calculate this. If you find a more accurate calculation, send it my way. But this table seems to confirm my feeling that Chivas have had a brutal stretch to open the season.Not only does Chivas currently have the toughest schedule so far, but the rest of their schedule is projected to be the toughest overall. While the form of opponents will make that number fluid, it certainly demonstrates the tall task the Goats have this season. Although the numbers look tough, the 75% winning percentage that has been the trend for Chivas' opponents so far drops to a 53% winning percentage for opponents the rest of the way, as of this week. So the sledding will theoretically become a bit easier moving forward.
In practical terms, Chivas can take heart that they've been in every single game they've played this season, and they are capable of hanging with some of the best teams in the league. But they can't get hung up on the strength of schedule, and keep working to get results. If they chalk up failures to the quality of their opponents, and then fail to take care of teams that haven't been in form, which this month includes the Portland Timbers, Toronto FC and the Philadelphia Union, they aren't as good of a team than even fans thought. But if they can bounce back and start to rack up points this month, in games that won't be easy but should be easier, then we can point to their strength of schedule to open up this season as a main factor in their slow start. But again, we need to see some results in order to reach that conclusion. They are not in control of the schedule, but they are ultimately in control of their destiny.
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