Week 10: Nashville SC stagnates in the Points Off Playoff Pace Model

Nashville SC proved once again on Saturday that they will never give up and will fight and claw their way back from a deficit.

I wrote that exact line to start my last Points Off Playoff Pace model article just about a month ago following Nashville’s come from behind draw in Atlanta. It felt wrong to change it. Since then, I took an extended international break from writing to move across town. Over that time, Nashville’s come-from-behind ability remains the constant theme of both this month and the entire season. Back-to-back games featuring stoppage time goals can make for entertaining soccer. But with only the expected four points earned from two home matches, Nashville remains two points off a comfortable playoff-securing pace.

Explaining Points Off Playoff Pace

For those unfamiliar, the Points Off Playoff Pace (“POPP”) table is a set of standings that I created that aims to show how a club is progressing towards earning a playoff spot. 

The basic premise that underlies the POPP table is that the target line for making the MLS playoffs is 50 points. In any typical year, 50 points is enough to safely secure a playoff berth. 

On average, MLS teams earn roughly 1.85 points per home match and 0.93 point per road game. Rounded up, it comes to 2 points / 1 point. Hitting this target of 2 points per home game and 1 point per away game would yield 51 points in a 34-game season, one point clear of the playoff target line. 

POPP Table as of June 28, 2021

But if Nashville wants to firmly secure a playoff spot in the fall, they will need to start picking up some wins in place of draws. 

Another line from the same article that resonates just as loudly today as it did one month ago prior to the international break. Nashville’s fighting spirit must be commended. But in a weak Eastern Conference, the Boys in Gold need to start coming up with a few more wins rather than draws. 

Nashville faces a tough test this week as the reigning Supporters’ Shield holder Philadelphia Union come to Nissan Stadium. Gary Smith’s squad rose to the occasion the last time it faced a top-tier Eastern Conference rival when it defeated the New England Revolution in May. Nashville will need to rediscover that form if it has any designs on capturing all three points Saturday night.

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