The Midseason Slump: Is Your Team in Trouble?
It’s July and the MLS is just about in the middle of a long season. The temperatures are soaring while some teams are floundering. The “midseason slump” is starting to set in for some teams who came out of the gate swinging back in March. Frustration starts to set in for fans who start seeing Ts and Ls instead of Ws this time of the year. If this is you, allow me to try and alleviate at least some of these frustrations for you.
For teams in foreign leagues, this is legitimately one of the worst things that could happen. Precious points are slipping away and, since collecting as many points as possible are the only way that teams in those foreign leagues can have a successful season, any missed opportunities can be the difference between a glorious finish at the top of the table and a disappointing just fell short finish in any other standing. Eh. This is where the MLS differs from other leagues, boasting an established playoff system, which garners both praise and criticism. A quick review for those unfamiliar: at the end of the season, the top teams from each conference play each other in a two-leg style tournament until the two conference championship games and then the final championship game, the game which determines that year’s MLS Cup Champions. This system gives teams who didn’t necessarily finish with the best records a chance to become champions because, as we’ve seen countless times before, anything can happen in the playoffs.
With the league set up this way, the key is not necessarily peaking right away but peaking at the right moment in the season. Let’s take my hometown team, the Houston Dynamo, for example. There were few people, if any, who would’ve told you that the Dynamo were going to be in that final MLS Cup Championship game. Sure, we didn’t win. Yes, it still stings a little (read: a lot), but I digress. The point is that the Dynamo found some sort of momentum towards the end of last season to claw their way into the playoffs and ultimately launched themselves into the championship game. OR your team can just be good game in and game out all season long and this argument of a midseason slump wouldn’t apply to your team. But that would be no fun.
It’s difficult to determine whether a “midseason slump” is just a phase or if it’s something that’s actually worrisome. For an underachieving team such as Toronto, who have recently found themselves in a four game undefeated streak, it’s certainly an improvement on their dismal start. Granted, 3 out of those 4 games were draws but it’s an undefeated streak all the same. For the teams who started the season on fire, a lull in performance doesn’t necessarily mean a downward spiral but it’s worth keeping an eye on. What’s important to remember is that it is a long season. Teams still have time to pull it together. No reason to light yourselves on fire just yet if your team is starting to slow down. Conversely, no reason to go out and start popping bottles of bubbly yet either if your team is seemingly on the upswing.
Well. There’s always reason to pop bottles of bubbly but we won’t go into my glaring alcoholism here. In any case, everyone keep your heads on straight and keep any pyromaniacal impulses at bay. We’ve still got a long way to go.
(Ironically enough, this is being published on America’s birthday, a holiday which is notoriously accepting of alcoholic indulgences and pyromaniacal impulses… Happy 4th, y’all!)