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Rudimentary Strength of Schedule So Far

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

It is early in the 2015 season still and, despite Sunday's unfortunate loss, the Portland Timbers are approaching the point where we all thought their season would really begin: the return of Diego Valeri. Still, the Timbers find themselves close to the bottom of the Western Conference sight games into the season and, despite picking up four more points than they had at this point in 2014, they are in a hole.

Before we look forward, let's take a moment to look back at the Timbers' start of the season.

First: the MLS standings, arranged by points per game.

  1. D.C. United (2.00 point per game)
  2. New York Red Bulls (2.00)
  3. Seattle Sounders (1.86)
  4. Vancouver Whitecaps (1.78)
  5. New England Revolution (1.75)
  6. FC Dallas (1.75)
  7. Columbus Crew SC (1.57)
  8. Chicago Fire (1.50)
  9. LA Galaxy (1.50)
  10. San Jose Earthquakes (1.29)
  11. Real Salt Lake (1.29)
  12. Houston Dynamo (1.25)
  13. Sporting Kansas City (1.25)
  14. Portland Timbers (1.13)
  15. Orlando City SC (1.00)
  16. Toronto FC (1.00)
  17. Colorado Rapids (1.00)
  18. New York City FC (0.75)
  19. Philadelphia Union (0.67)
  20. Montreal Impact (0.50)

The Timbers, we can see, are the second worst team in the Western Conference on points per game, but only fourteenth overall in the league.

Next up, let's look at the strength of schedule around MLS so far this season using the simplest possible method: opponents' points per game.

  1. San Jose Earthquakes (1.71 opponent points per game)
  2. New York Red Bulls (1.60)
  3. LA Galaxy (1.60)
  4. Montreal Impact (1.50)
  5. Toronto FC (1.48)
  6. D.C. United (1.43)
  7. Portland Timbers (1.40)
  8. Colorado Rapids (1.40)
  9. Seattle Sounders (1.38)
  10. Vancouver Whitecaps (1.36)
  11. Columbus Crew SC (1.35)
  12. Houston Dynamo (1.34)
  13. Philadelphia Union (1.29)
  14. Real Salt Lake (1.27)
  15. Sporting Kansas City (1.29)
  16. Orlando City SC (1.25)
  17. Chicago Fire (1.17)
  18. FC Dallas (1.15)
  19. New England Revolution (1.12)
  20. New York City FC (1.09)

The Timbers find themselves toward the top of this ranking, having faced off against a slightly higher than average class of opponent, including the top four teams in the Western Conference by points per game. A large part of where this measure gets gummed up is in the Eastern Conference, where the strong teams appear truly formidable, but the weak are just pathetic.

Of note is New York City FC, who find themselves with the easiest schedule to date by this measure but have still only managed 0.75 points per game. While they are waiting on Frank Lampard to arrive and bolster their team, similar to the Timbers and Valeri, New York appear to have squandered an excellent chance to get out of the gate strong.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the other New York side, the New York Red Bulls. With one of the strongest schedules on the board, the Red Bulls have faced fellow Eastern Conference powerhouses D.C. United twice and a several strong Western Conference sides as well and have emerged undefeated six games into the season.