MLS Teams and Mario Characters

As I was balancing my iPad on my stomach while lying on my couch last Sunday, watching NYCFC play the league’s newest darlings, LAFC, in their pretty new stadium, it struck me: this is the Wario vs. Waluigi Derby. This is the enemy, our dark mirror, our bizarro selves, playing their own reflection, while both of these teams are reflections of original MLS clubs. I then got to thinking, which Extended Super Mario Brothers Universe character would every MLS team correspond to?


New York Red Bulls

Mario

This one is easy. We are one of the originals, maybe the team that MLS wanted to be the star of the league the most. We had the first ever player signing, a handshake deal between Tab Ramos and Sunil Gulati that swooped up the local-boy-made-good before he could sign with Mexican power Tigres. We even went through a dramatic rebrand, just as Mario himself did, evolving from the largely anonymous yet loveable Jumpman to the fully formed character of Mario. We have the best stadium in the league, built in New Jersey where most New York teams play, and the supporter culture surrounding the club is some of the richest in MLS, as rich as the lore of Mario. Metro is Mario.

And, just like Mario, sorry Metro, but - the princess will always be in another castle.

LA Galaxy

Luigi

This was also not a very difficult correspondence to make. LA Galaxy was always meant to be our counterpart, the league’s premier teams in the country’s premier cities. Stocked full of talent, the team also built a reputation for signing theatrical players like Jorge Campos, Mauricio Cienfuegos, David Beckham, and literal actor Andrew Shue to contrast the stars of the old MetroStars and Red Bull. And, like Luigi, our younger, slimmer, and more handsome counterpart eventually found more success than us, winning their first MLS Cup in 2002 on the way to many more. God dammit.

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NYCFC

Wario

As much as we are Mario, NYCFC is Wario. Our double, the evil, bizarro mirror of ourselves. A perversion of everything that Metro was to be. Rather than inclusive of the region, emphasizing the beauty of New York and the richness of Upstate, New Jersey, Long Island, and Connecticut, and all the diversity of these places, NYCFC has chosen to embrace the contrived chauvinism of the Five Boroughs, willing to lobby the state and the city to build a literal giant toilet seat of a stadium in Harlem for them. They have willingly chosen to play on the cursed ground of Yankee Stadium on a postage stamp rather than a beautiful stadium in New Jersey as we have, and have most New York sports team. Just as Wario was drawn to be a hyper-masculine to the point of absurd version of Mario, NYCFC took to signing even more extreme and absurd versions of aging superstar players that Metro once did, forcing a retired Andrea Pirlo to play for them despite his wish to be left alone with his wine collection. The founding promise of NYCFC was always that Metro sucked, and would always suck, and had no true identity, but just as plucky Mario will always find a way, so will Metro find new ways to embarrass NYCFC, both on the field and by organically developing a rich supporter culture that backs the team whether winning or losing. Rather than needed an ersatz identity based on absurd geographical boundaries, Red Bull and Metro identity was forged in the crucible of utter disappointment, unbridled joy, and everlasting solidarity. NYCFC has never had this, and everything about it is a perversion of this - it is the Wario of MLS.

LAFC

Waluigi

This is a little complicated but hear me out - the logic is sound. There is no way LAFC can exist without the existence of RBNY, LA Galaxy, and NYCFC.

It begins with this infamous copypasta describing the ontology of Waluigi:

Waluigi is the ultimate example of the individual shaped by the signifier. Waluigi is a man seen only in mirror images; lost in a hall of mirrors he is a reflection of a reflection of a reflection. You start with Mario – the wholesome all Italian plumbing superman, you reflect him to create Luigi – the same thing but slightly less. You invert Mario to create Wario – Mario turned septic and libertarian – then you reflect the inversion in the reflection: you create a being who can only exist in reference to others. Waluigi is the true nowhere man, without the other characters he reflects, inverts and parodies he has no reason to exist. Waluigi’s identity only comes from what and who he isn’t – without a wider frame of reference he is nothing. He is not his own man. In a world where our identities are shaped by our warped relationships to brands and commerce we are all Waluigi.

First, there was the Metro, the original New York team, Mario, embracing the region as all New York teams are required to do, eventually building itself a home in heart of the original American Soccertown, USA - Harrison, NJ. Then there was the Galaxy, the team of the sidekick city, Los Angeles, Luigi, a sprawling suburb which defines itself as a city only insofar as it can be compared with New York, with its expensive juices and celebrities and nice weather and cars and whatever. These two buddies formed the original partnership within our universe.

Next, is NYCFC, Wario. Wario cannot be defined except as the perverted version of Mario, a club so absurd and chauvinistic that it completely rejects all other places in the metro area and confines itself to the imaginary identity of the Five Boroughs, despite constructed ersatz identity being such a self-own they have force themselves to play in a baseball stadium to support it. Much like Wario, they are also consistently thwarted by Mario, and usually let out a pathetic cry every time this happens.

And so, this leaves us with LAFC, Waluigi. There is no basis for the existence of Waluigi in the Mario Universe except if all 3 of the previous characters conditions are defined - Mario, Mario Sidekick, Bizarro Mario, and, then, Bizzarro Mario Sidekick - Waluigi

LAFC is a team that has attempted to construct an instant identity through the geographical chauvinism employed by NYCFC, but without having an actual city to even be chauvinistic about. Most LA landmarks and people don’t even live within these supposed borders. People in LA don’t whine about “the bridge and tunnel” crowds like they do in New York. But, this template upon which LAFC has been built was already established as a winning formula for the league through the Hudson River Derby - why not export it to LA? And why not get a shiny new stadium built on even more expensive real estate out of it as well?

If you want further proof, consider this: the league already tried to create a second LA team once before. However, Chivas USA was a huge failure, because of course, Waluigi cannot exist if Wario doesn’t first exist. The template of civic chauvinism used to generated ersatz identity and new stadiums for the league first had to be established by NYCFC against Metro before it could be exported to LA. LAFC is Waluigi - a reflection of a reflection of a reflection.

DC United

Donkey Kong

When Mario was brought into this world as Jumpman in 1981, valiantly leaping from platform to platform avoiding treacherous flying barrels, the irascible Donkey Kong was the original enemy. The kinship that existed in the old RFK between human fans and the racoons was pure because DC United itself is a member of the lower rungs of the animal kingdom. Just like Donkey Kong, as well, DC United has been overtaken by new rivals like Wario and Bowser, and the club is no longer truly relevant to our universe.

Philadelphia Union

Diddy Kong

Never a part of the original universe, Diddy Kong was only drawn as a character once Donkey Kong was effectively excised from the Mario Universe. Similarly, the Philadelphia Union was only created as a character one DC United started to suck consistently enough the many RBNY fans stopped really caring about the Atlantic Cup, and the league decided to give Mid Atlantic people something else to care about besides their Steak-Ums sandwiches. Never truly relevant as a team, the Union are really just a goofy sidekick to the whole league, a laughingstock - Diddy Kong.

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Toronto FC

Bowser

A huge, grotesque dinosaur, motivated by a reptile brain to consume all in its path, Toronto is the Bowser of our universe. Just as Donkey Kong, a fellow lowly primate, was usurped by the hideous dinosaur Bowser as the primary antagonist of Mario, so has Toronto FC usurped DC United. In many ways, Toronto’s approach is the perfect opposite of RBNY. Whereas the heroic Mario uses his craft, guile, and academy system to try to rescue the princess, Bowser steals the princess with his sheer size, army of koopas, and overpaid DPs. However, sometimes, Bowser’s size can be his undoing, as those DPs can sometimes hilariously sky a penalty in the Champions’ League Final.

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Impact Montréal

Bowser, Jr.

While Toronto can beat us in a conference semifinal in an epic matchup of two league juggernauts in 2017, lowly Montreal can beat the Eastern Conference Champions when they are not on their game. You underestimate Montreal and almost always you can get the better of them, except for that one time. This is what Bowser, Jr. can do to Mario when Mario underestimates Bowser, Jr. Also, Montreal is just the quirky, tiny, more funny, and more French version of Toronto, just like Bowser, Jr. is the quirky, tiny, more funny, and more French version of Bowser.

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New England Revolution

Chain Chomp

A large, bloated mass of a team, brimming with a history of outsized egos like Alexi Lalas, Taylor Twellman, Clint Dempsey, and Jermaine Jones, this team was an original superpower of the league, able to reach multiple MLS Cup finals without ever securing a championship themselves. This could be down to the fact that they are effectively chained to the albatross of Gillette Stadium and an ownership group and front office of infamous headcases like the Kraft family and Mike Burns.

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Columbus Crew

Pauline

The original princess of MLS, much like Pauline was the first princess that Jumpman was to recuse from Donkey Kong. They were the first MLS team to achieve the holy grail of having a soccer-specific stadium, and they’ve always had some of the best graphic identity and swag in the league, much like the well-dressed Pauline. And also like Pauline, who famously moved to New Donk City and became mayor, the Crew are themselves likely to set off to a new city, Austin, and likely won’t become mayor but will probably fold since the recent stadium proposal only calls for 1000 parking spots.

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Minnesota United

That Penguin You Threw Off The Cliff

Let’s be real - we all did this.

Toad - Real Salt Lake

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Real Salt Lake

Toad

Toad, the princess’ attendant, is a member of the royal court who has no apparent utility besides reminding Mario that the princess will always be in another castle. That is Real Salt Lake - nobody know exactly why they are royal, and it seems like they serve no true purpose other than reminding us that even THEY have an MLS Cup.

FC Dallas

Yoshi

FC Dallas, formerly the Dallas Burn, is like the little taurine sidekick of Red Bull. We share a similar commitment to youth development, but let’s just say that Dallas have never actually gotten the pipeline to work in as sophisticated or reliable a way as Red Bull.

Sporting KC

Kamek

Sporting KC, of course, was formerly known as the Kansas City Wizards, and thus share the mystical backstory of Kamek, the sorcerer Koopa. Like Kamek, who can deceive Mario and Yoshi through spells that can shrink and grow creatures to extreme proportions, so can Sporting Kansas City deceive Red Bull by mystically allowing diminutive players like Latif Blessing to win headers in the box against far larger defenders.

All of Cascadia

Sonic the Hedgehog

This is mainly because they're annoying, the league can't shut up about how important they are, and no one really cares about it outside of their fans. Seattle is Sonic, Portland is Tails, and Vancouver is Robotnik, but nobody cares.


That’s mostly all I can figure out at this point. Please comment or get at me on twitter if you think any other teams apply, and I will likely not really care about what you have to say. If you are not already listed, you are not a part of the Extended Universe.

2018 Away Days Ranked

The team site has issued a list of five best "away days" in 2018. It's a fine list, but unfortunately it seems to be based more on general match-up intrigue rather than actual feasibility of making an away trip out of it. So here is a list of our top five away days based on your ability to say "fuck it let's go" and make a weekend out of it without it being a proper long haul of a trip, both when it comes to budget and time.

A couple notes:

  • As derby days in the Bronx don't require any intercity travel and you get to sleep in your own bed afterwards, they're in a different category and won't be on the list. We're ranking the desirability of folding in an away day into a weekend excursion.
  • Long distance flights are generally disqualifying. A 1.5 hour flight to Toronto? Sure (although trekking through airports and TSA does detract from the quick-weekend trip vibe). But a round trip six-hour flight to San Jose or Seattle is not really quite on the same level.

1) Saturday, September 1 at Montreal Impact

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Montreal is a lovely city, but unfortunately the last couple of times we've played there on a weekend it's been early in the season, when they are still in the midst of their terrible winter and playing in the Big O. Not so this year, as a Labor Day weekend match date offers an opportunity to both not freeze and to use Sunday to shake off that hangover with poutine and Monday morning to travel back. Our only gripe is that due to a too-curvy rail alignment and a long stop over at the border, the Amtrak up here is not as feasible as one would like, so borrowing a car for the weekend remains the best move.

2) Sunday, September 16 at DC United

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Our first game is at Audi Field is in July, but that is on a Wednesday -- so fuck that. Hats off to you if you're one of the devoted who treks four hours each way on a work day for a regular season game, but unless you take Thursday and Friday off as well, a weekend trip is out of the question. And honestly, would you want to be in DC all the way from Wednesday to Sunday? No, a weekend is just the right amount. Dia de Independencia is calling you in DC. And it's still early enough that springing for an Amtrak "saver" ticket could be worth avoiding the indignity of the MegaBus.

3) Saturday, March 31 at Orlando City

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Here we agree with the team site -- the Sacha/Rivas/Redding reunion will be exciting even if both teams get out to a slow start, and by all accounts Orlando's stadium seems worth seeing in person. Now seems as good a time as ever. This is the first flight on our list, as the two-ish hours to Florida aren't that bad and Disneyworld's presence helps depress flight prices. We will (hopefully) be at the death of winter by this point, so why not go reward yourself with some actual sun. And then go to Epcot for a day or some shit, I don't know.

4) Sunday, October 21 at Philadelphia Union

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Not gonna lie -- we like Philly a lot. (The city, obviously fuck its teams.) And this is the easiest and best bus trip you can do with a supporters group. We still have fond memories of SWP's assist to BWP to put away the Union in the City of Brotherly Love. While the bus trip is great, this time we're tempted to try our hand at the surprisingly expansive SEPTA regional rail system to trek down to Chester as we might if we actually lived in Philly. And of course, this will be Decision Day as well. Being in the stands on a hopefully crisp fall afternoon sounds nice.

5) Sunday, July 1 at Toronto FC

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Going more out on a limb on this one -- we've never been to Toronto, so cannot vouch for the city itself (although we hear vaguely good things?). But with BMO field now in its fully-built stage, TFC and Metro seemingly building some bad blood, and a summer match date that won't freeze you next to the lake, seems like a good time to check out the place where we all live according to the movies.

RBNY at SKC Predictions

Due to conflicting work schedules and other commitments, we will be recording after Wednesday's game in Kansas, and including it with discussion of the Chicago game.

Below are our score and starting 11 predictions, with supporting blurbs:


Brit: The Red Bulls fail to find offensive rhythm on tired legs and a rotated squad, and, like in Orlando, make one defensive lapse that's enough to sink them. 0-1 Loss.

Sam: The boys will continue to play poorly on the road against a strong SKC with excellent home form; looking forward to more minutes from Veron and anticipating lackluster performances from Sacha, DP & Muyl. 1-2 loss.

Peaches: SKC seem to be a legit team this season, and their offensive threats are definitely something to be cautious of.  I do think that we will see some roster rotation, but I think that we might see more of that on Saturday against a weaker Philadelphia Union.  I think we should be a bit concerned with our defensive depth with Collin out, but Perrinelle offers a dynamic to the attack that Collin doesn't.  We might see a midweek goal fest tonight, and I don't know if we can pull through with all three points.  Still, I remain optimistic. 3-3 draw.

The All New York Hip Hop Starting 11 (and Bench)

The folks over at Dirty South Soccer recently released a pretty strong all-Atlanta hip hop starting 11.  Atlanta certainly has a pretty strong hip hop scene, and we are known to be fans of it ourselves.  However, hip hop started in the Bronx, and New York lays claim to some great hip hop.  There are too many great artists from NYC to count, so here is not only a starting 11 for New York's hip hop super team, but also the bench players.  Of course, we set a couple of ground rules:

  1. All rappers must be alive.  There are of course great rappers who have passed on, but they can't play soccer from the grave
  2. Unfortunately, we're limiting our selection to male rappers.  Nicki, Kim, Remy Ma, and Young M.A. are great, and we'd just put a starting 11 of just them if it were up to us, but soccer is segregated right now, and we simply have so much talent to pick from that we needed to cut something based on arbitrary distinctions.  We are aware of the misogyny within hip hop and its culture, and we recognize that that also leads to low female representation, but for the purposes of this exercise, we will contribute to the hip hop patriarchy.
  3. We decided to go with a 4-2-3-1 because, like New York hip hop set the standard for hip hop, it set the standard for modern soccer formations.

So, without any further ado, here it is (be sure to peep my reasoning under the graphic):

Forwards

Strikers

Leading the attack for New York is 50 Cent ("Fifty" in our diagram because Lineup Builder wouldn't let us put a number in the name).  50 Cent is ruthless, can take many hits from defenders, and will act as a strong number 9 for the city.  He is a prolific rapper, and definitely has the ego and selfishness we need from a great striker.

Backing up Mr. Curtis Jackson are DMX and A$AP Ferg.  Both loud, proud, and prolific rappers of their own.

Midfielders

Attacking Midfielders

Wingers

Out wide, we have a young, flashy winger on the left and a speedy vet on the right.  A$AP Rocky as our left midfielder is the type of dude to do you in with a couple of stepovers, nutmeg you into the shadow realm, and leave you in the dust as he cuts in and scores a screamer.  His backflip celebration is topped off by the shine from his diamond grill.  Behind him on the depth chart are Q Tip and MF Doom, both creative and technically skilled vets who despite their age haven't lost a beat.

On the right is Busta Rhymes.  Busta has been in the business forever, but his blazing speed and technical ability is unmatched, and he will blow past you like his syllables and rhymes blow past mach speed.  He's getting up there in age, but will still put in a stellar cross after beating his man to the touch line.  Backing him up are Desiigner, a raw talent with a high ceiling, and Papoose, who is in NY because his passion for the city is immense.

Central Attacking Midfielders

GZA, the genius, is our obvious number 10.  Just absolutely brilliant, his mind is unmatched and his creativity overflowing.  GZA will give our attackers the through balls that nobody can think of, but also has the talent to take on defenders one-on-one and come out with the ball afterwards.

Our bench players are no slouches either, and are constantly fighting for the starting spot.  We have Immortal Technique, who, as his namesake suggests, has insane technical skill.  Many would consider him the GOAT, many would consider him overrated, but he can challenge for that starting spot.  Also on the bench is Pharoahe Monch.  He's one of those dudes who's been around a surprising amount, and definitely has the talent and creativity, but he's been plagued with injury, and has played on-and-off for most of his career.

Defensive Midfielders

The greatest midfielder pairing of all time.  They push each other to be better, and they even bicker often.  But these two are the two pillars of New York hip hop.  Jay Z and Nas each deserve a statue, and while the chemistry between the two of them started off poorly, both are such tremendous players, that they make the best pairing of all time.  Backing them up are another pairing of Talib Kweli and Mos Def, who are possibly some of the more underrated players in the game, but both of them have great chemistry together, having played for so long together.  In the reserves are Swizz Beatz and RZA, who while strong in certain ways aren't the best on the field for their abilities on the ball.  Gritty and persevering, they are good guys to have in the fold and in the locker room.

Defenders

Centerbacks

New York's centerbacks are scary, man.  They will kill you, and they are immense.  Fat Joe and Ghostface Killah both have seen everybody come and go, but one thing remains constant: they are still there.  Our centerbacks will absolutely bully you, and Donald Trump can only hope to build a wall like this.

Backing them up are no slouches as well.  Jim Jones might be from The Diplomats, but there is no diplomacy when it comes to stopping a counter attack.  Action Bronson is obviously the guy to step up after Ghostface Killah.  Rev Run is a vet who's mostly there for locker room orale, and Joell Ortiz, despite his great form, can't seem to make it off the bench.

Fullbacks

Fullback is not a particularly deep position for New York, or anywhere else.  Going for experience over youth, Cam'ron and Jadakiss are both on their own amazing one-on-one defenders.  Cam'ron will frustrate you and will make u mad when he stops your attack, and Jadakiss is just absolutely ruthless.  When there's a need for more attacking fullbacks, we have French Montana and Joey Bada$$, who are highly aggressive and will overlap well with the wingers we have on the roster.  Juelz Santana is a veteran presence who can still contribute, but has seen his production drop off in recent years, and Troy Ave is one of those, couldn't-play-other-positions-well-enough-so-let's-try-him-out-at-fullback players who plays an occasional cup game.

Keepers

KRS-One, the teacher, is our man between the poles.  He is a shot-stopper, but he can also spray a ball to midfield effortlessly.  He's been around forever, but his game is timeless, like the verses that he spits.  KRS-One is a living legend, and deserves a statue outside the stadium.  Behind him is Puffy, or Puff Daddy or P. Diddy or Diddy, who has been known to pull the strings of a successful attack.  Unfortunately, he has always tried to put himself in drama, and has never had loads of ability, so he is riding the pine.  Also available for selection is Aesop Rock, an underrated talent, who unfortunately has never really grown more than a niche support despite his talent and influence.

On the IR is Bobby Shmurda and Max B after suffering from a prison sentence earlier in the season.  Also in the reserves are Flatbush Zombies, the rest of Pro Era, Method Man, and others.

So, what do you think?  Are we right, do you have other ideas?  Tweet them to us @ViewFrom202 or email us at contact@viewfrom202.com

All those away goal graphics are misleading you. [Updated]

They also told me that you look like you got fat.

by Brit Byrd - Updated November 5, 7:57pm

Keeping track of all the possible outcomes of a 2-leg playoff series can be cumbersome. Luckily over the past week a series of visualizations have popped up across the soccer internet to help us all out.

However, you are being misled. Very lightly and subtly, but misled nonetheless. The trouble is that these are great reference tables, but bad data visualizations -- and the key inclusion of color is ensuring that your eyes are interpreting these graphics as both. 

By coloring in each entry according to the winning team, the grid moves beyond being a dry reference table and takes on a new life as a kind of area map. We’re not just looking at this to see how many goals Dallas needs to score if Seattle scores one, we’re looking at that huge wave of rave green and that tiny dot of red and thinking “wow Dallas are screwed.”

Which, as it happens, they are. But yet these graphics are still being sloppy in communicating how much -- especially for the other closer games.  More space is communicating better chances, so the shape and size of each entry in the grid matters. There are two ways in which I think the existing graphics fall short on this front:

  1. uneven axes and rectangular grids

  2. over representing low frequency results

Ultimately, adjusting for both of these aspects would leave us with something more like this:

 

 Numbers in each grid represent % of occurrence of given score in select European leagues from 2005-2010

Numbers in each grid represent % of occurrence of given score in select European leagues from 2005-2010

 Uneven axes and rectangular grids

These things are made of rectangles. This is probably just because people didn't fudge with the excel defaults, and didn't mind having the extra padding for text. But the result is that one team's axis is significantly shorter than the other. Now this is not the worst sin, as ultimately the area of each team's rectangles are the same. But our eyes interpret  height and width differently. There's no reason to not try to control for this uncertainty by making them all squares, so that one team doesn’t command more of our attention from unconscious bias.

Additionally, the original graphics posted featured a 5x6 grid. I'm not sure why, but the result is that the home teams get an entire additional row of real estate -- and sometimes low information real estate at that (but more on that later). Now in this case it worked out so that it was the y-axis that received this extra row, which somewhat compensates for the "wider" x-axis. Maybe this was an intentional evening-out of sorts, I don't know. But either way it's imprecise and presents an uneven universe of possibilities, and there's no reason to not make the entire graphic a square.

Over representing low frequency results

Even though all the grids and axes are evened out, we’re still over-representing certain data. Specifically, we are over-representing very high scoring games and blowouts. Many more games end 0-0 or 1-1 than 4-0 or 4-4, but the graphic is representing these score lines with the same visual weight. For reference, here is a distribution of scores in a similar grid:

Consider that while the 5x5 grid (goals from 0-4) represents 96.7% of all scenarios, a 4x4 grid (goals from 0-3) still represents 89.5% of all scenarios. That final row and column represent just 7.2% of all actual outcomes, yet they are taking up 36% of the space. That’s a disproportionate amount of area representing pretty unlikely events.

By shading in each entry corresponding to its frequency, we can avoid some of these pitfalls. In the straight color version, Montreal occupies 72% of the graphic even though only 64.3% of the time they get a score that sees them advance. The gradient helps adjust for this.

When I raised this stink on Twitter, the creator of the original graphics somewhat agreed, but offered that due to the unusual scoring incentives of the playoffs, he felt uncomfortable making score line distribution too central. (He also provided the very handy graphic of score line distributions which I have used to fill out these tables.) While it’s not ideal to be applying regular season data to the playoffs, I think it is certainly better than nothing. A 4-0 result is still rare and remarkable in the playoffs, and a 4-4 result especially so. And the playoff incentives are more likely to distort the distribution at the lower scores, as teams might bunker more than they would in a regular season game (as you would expect of Montreal on Sunday). I’m more interested in diluting the outer fringes of the board, where currently a score line with 0.1% frequency is occupying 4% of the space. Even if that 0.1% figure is off by an order of magnitude, it’s still a worthy change.

Also worth considering is how much information we’re really getting from some of these 4-0 squares anyway. The four- goal row is most useful when it’s telling us that the Red Bulls need to score four when Montreal scores just two. And Montreal scoring two is not a crazy scenario, it happens 19.3% of the time. But stepping back into a little bit of common sense tells us that when it gets to some of these more extreme score lines, it’s not very informative at all. Obviously the Red Bulls cannot afford to give up four goals, and obviously they cannot tie 4-4, as they are already behind. You know this without referencing the table or away goals. This part of the grid is only here as the extension of the more interesting part of the array, but we can de-emphasize it appropriately.

 

These 4-0 squares are kind of like if FiveThirtyEight somewhat prominently displayed one of their 10,000 simulations in which Hillary Clinton wins every single electoral vote. Sure it could happen, but it’s very unlikely, and in any case very obvious. The Red Bulls cannot afford to lose 0-4, just like Donald Trump cannot afford to lose every state. Now of course your brain know this, but your eye doesn't; at a glance, it first picks up that this square takes up the same amount of space as the most likely score, a 1-1 draw.

If this were a more robust, respectable, and generally better publication, we might have a nuanced model a la FiveThirtyEight to generate a distribution of likely scores taking into account match-up specific ELO rankings rather than imported frequencies from other competitions. Alas, this is a pedantic rant conducted over a lunch hour so this is what you get. But we can at least avoid representations that we know to be bluntly misleading (and indeed, imperfect and low information analytical efforts can be better than doing nothing at all).

UPDATE: I've done the graphics for the other three match-ups.

The Toronto - NYCFC graphic was actually fairly close in its original form. The original graphic was overstating Toronto's chances by only 4%, and the gradient may be a little harsh to NYCFC's primary color of light blue. Even at full opacity, it might look weak compared to Toronto's strong red, and at the bottom of the spectrum, it barely registers at all, even though the 4-0 and 4-1 squares are half of their entire entries. 

LA - Colorado is, as you'd expect, the exact same thing as RBNY - Montreal. The original graphic is over-representing both teams' chances, but the gradient redirects our attention back to the more meaningful part of the graphic.

For Seattle - Dallas, the original graphic was actually understating how screwed FC Dallas are. Even though Seattle is being given all that low information, but eye-catching 4 goal territory, the frequencies of the score lines Dallas's needs are so low that they were still getting the better of the graphic. I've reintroduced the 5 goal row for Dallas here, as I think it effectively communicates the daunting task ahead of them, whereas this row was just not as relevant for the other match-ups. Ideally I would have been able to throw in a 5 goal column for the away team as well, but alas the data was not available.

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comments, questions, and general snark can reach the author at brit.byrd@gmail.com