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Through the First XI: A little historical perspective



... or, as Jet Age aerial ace Rocket J. Squirrel used to say: "Those two look familiar, Bullwinkle."


Or do they?

Through the first 11 games, I'm also a bit uneasy because it's clear that the team could have more points and be in a better position in the standings than they do and are, but let's take a quick look at history here to put things in some sort of context.

With 14 points through 11 games, Dynamo (3-3-5) currently sits in third place in the East, three behind the Union and two behind NYRB, both of whom have played 10.  Except for the Sparks from Chicago and Sporks from KC, the east is a tight bunch, with only five points separating first-seventh.

In 2006, Dynamo (Supporters Shield winners in San Jose in 2005) were 5-3-3 through 11 games with 18 points. They would eventually finish 11-8-13 before the playoff run.

In 2007, Dynamo (defending MLS Cup champs)  were 5-5-1 through 11 games with 16 points. They would eventually finish 15-8-7 and win the cup again.

In 2008, the defending champs were 3-3-5 with 14 points, same as this year, but would eventually go on to be the best team in the West at 13-5-12. A poor performance against NYRB in the first round cost them the chance for three in a row.

In 2009, with De Ro gone and in Holden and Clark's last year, the team started 6-2-3 (21 points) before finishing 13-8-9 (48 points). They then went on to beat Seattle over two legs and then fall to the Galaxy unjustly (wrongly disallowed goal and the lights going out twice in HDC) in the semi so they could not beat RSL (which I have no doubt at all they would have) in the final.

Then there was the DLS (dreaded long season ) of 2010. The start went 5-5-1 (16 points) before the free fall of summer brought them in at 9-15-6 (33 points) and out of the playoffs.


So to recap:
2006: 5-3-3 (18 pts) through 11 games. 11-8-13 (46) final mark and MLS Cup champs.
2007: 5-5-1 (16 points) through 11. 15-8-7 (52) and MLS Cup champs.
2008: 3-3-5 (14) through 11. 13-5-12 (51) and best in West.
2009: 6-2-3 (21) through 11. 13-8-9 (48) and in playoff semis.
2010: 5-5-1 (16) through 11. 9-15-6 (33) and disaster.
2011: 3-3-5 (14) through 11.

So while the team is admittedly off to its worst start ever in terms of points, it's clear that the association between the points earned through 11 games played and final tally is a tenuous one at best. Had Dynamo beat NYRB on Saturday night, the team would be 4-3-4 with 16 points, identical both to 2007 and 2010. What would there be to make out of that?  Would we be saying the team had not progressed since 2010? Clearly the answer to that is no. Would we be saying they are as good as they were as defending champs in 2007?  Clearly, the answer to that is also no.  Mehdi Ballouchi's late header and JeVaughn Watson's defensive lapse on same Saturday night does not turn the 2011 Dynamo into an also-ran for the season. And neither would Watson sticking an arm into that guy's back on the same play have made us anymore contenders for MLS Cup than we are right now.

I draw inspiration from the previous worst start, 2008, in which we finished with 51 points following an amazing, amazing summer run.

I also draw inspiration from a couple of facts. RSL with 11 points through 11 games (3-6-2) in 2009 went on to win the MLS Cup. Colorado at this point last year was 6-3-2 (20 points) but would not win again until August before barely making the playoffs and needing a George John own goal (which was mighty sweet by my standards) to lift the cup themselves.

So the point of all of the rambling through the stats is simple: Make a big deal out of the first 11 games at your peril. Unless you have a total crater job (Sporting KC this year and DC United a year ago, to name but two.), the point is just to stay in the hunt, keep in the conversation, make the playoffs, don't let the bottom drop out (See: 2010 Dynamo season. Or better yet, don't. I was there last year and have no wish to see it again.), and above all else, stay cool.

So, is we Boris, or is we Natasha? I offer no serious predictions on this rebuilding season based on what we have seen so far because I have seen nothing so far that wouldn't turn that into little more than a crap shoot.  In truth, there are many positive signs, in fact, many, many more than at this point last season. There are also some worrisome signs, to be totally fair and honest. It would be nice to actually win an away game once and awhile, as well as put away a home game with over 25,000 fans in the stands (which will not be possible in the spiffy new 22K-seater we move into next year, remember).  Also would be nice to start notching some more clean sheets. 

But, again, staying cool, are these harbingers of Cthulhu's return I mention here, or mere assignment sheets and areas of work? I opt for the latter, but if the former, well then, it'll be off for Frostbite, Falls to find us some real, honest-to-gosh heroes.