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Re-Examining Home Field Advantage

The Timbers have not been good at home by most measures. Is there any other way to look at it?

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013 the Portland Timbers were one early season loss to the Montreal Impact away from being unbeaten at home. Since joining MLS in the 2011 season, the Timbers have built a reputation as a team that, even during the rough days of 2012, were hard to beat in Portland.

In 2014 things are different. The Timbers may only have lost twice at home through the first half of the season, but they have looked far from fearsome while doing so.

The 2013 Timbers, the team's most successful iteration since joining MLS, took an astounding 2.24 points per game at home, joint highest in the league next to the San Jose Earthquakes. This year has seen the Timbers pick up a single point for each home game of the season, the worst mark in the league and one that they share with the Chicago Fire and Philadelphia Union. Even if they were to win every home match for the rest of the season, the Timbers could not reach the heights of last season's home form.

So the team has not had much success at home this year in terms of winning; what if we look at the Timbers in terms of how their opponents have fared in Portland?

Rather than looking at the number of points won by the home team to measure their success at home, looking at the number of points allowed to the visiting teams will show us how difficult a team is to play against at home.

At Providence Park this year, the Timbers' opponents have earned 1.30 PPG. In this measure the Timbers are the 14th best team in the league, a nice step up from dead last, coming in ahead of San Jose, Chicago, the Montreal Impact, Philadelphia, and Chivas USA. Chivas, until their 1-0 win over Montreal on Saturday, had allowed 2.00 PPG at home and have now dropped down to 1.78 PPG allowed, still the league's worst.

At the opposite end of the table are the Seattle Sounders, The Timbers's hosts for two matches this week, one of which will be at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila for the US Open Cup rather than at Centurylink Field in Seattle. The Sounders, along with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Real Salt Lake, have only allowed their visiting opponents 0.75 PPG. What puts Seattle slightly ahead of Vancouver and Salt Lake in their home results are their points earned: a crazy 2.25 PPG at home.

The Timbers may be struggling to get points, but they remain a very difficult team to play against in Providence Park, a trait made apparent by their seven home ties on the year.

Caleb Porter, for his part, has repeated that the Timbers have been close to turning their ties into wins and losses into ties at home this season, but that the team has just not yet been able to do so.

Here is the league table, organized by points per game allowed at home.

Team Name Home Games Points Won at Home PPG at Home Points Allowed at Home PAPG at Home
Chivas USA 9 10 1.111111111 16 1.777777778
Philadelphia Union 7 7 1 10 1.428571429
Montreal Impact 8 11 1.375 11 1.375
Chicago Fire 8 8 1 11 1.375
San Jose Earthquakes 9 12 1.333333333 12 1.333333333
Portland Timbers 10 10 1 13 1.3
Toronto FC 7 12 1.714285714 9 1.285714286
New York Red Bulls 7 9 1.285714286 9 1.285714286
Columbus Crew 8 10 1.25 10 1.25
Houston Dynamo 9 14 1.555555556 11 1.222222222
FC Dallas 10 19 1.9 10 1
New England Revolution 7 13 1.857142857 7 1
DC United 10 18 1.8 9 0.9
Colorado Rapids 10 15 1.5 9 0.9
Sporting Kansas City 9 14 1.555555556 8 0.8888888889
LA Galaxy 6 11 1.833333333 5 0.8333333333
Seattle Sounders 8 18 2.25 6 0.75
Vancouver Whitecaps 8 15 1.875 6 0.75
Real Salt Lake 8 15 1.875 6 0.75