Magic Numbers and a sprint to the finish

Growing up as a kid outside of Atlanta, I learned very early on about the ‘Magic Number’. I didn’t necessarily understand the math behind it, but it was important. It was this mythical number, typically a combination of wins and losses between the Braves and whoever was behind them, before the Braves would clinch the playoffs or a division title.

Now that I’m a good deal older, that ‘Magic Number’ doesn’t have quite the mythical status as it once did, but it’s still important.

Before we go any further it’s important that we understand that there are two different numbers. The first is the Number necessary to make the playoffs. For United, that number currently sits at 9 points. In the case of this magic number, it’s the total number of points either won by United or dropped by, in this case, Real Monarchs SLC.

Based on the current standings, the Monarchs can reach a maximum of 28 points. So, in the simplest explanation if United reaches 29 points they officially secure themselves a spot in the playoffs. Pretty simple, right?

That number starts to change depending on the outcome of today’s match. Here are the possible magic numbers:

  • United win: 3
  • United draw: 6
  • United loss: 9

As a side note, El Paso’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 11 points.

Clinching the group is another matter altogether. There are a number of different scenarios that could play out, suffice to say United doesn’t control their own destiny. The simplest path in terms of points is to win out.

That’s something to think about another day.

The first thing that United has to do is pass the next test in Herriman, Utah. Real has played better in the two most recent matches, keeping their playoff chances alive with back to back wins over Tacoma and Colorado Springs. Let’s be honest about those wins though, they were over clubs that have little to no shot at making the playoffs this season. Sure, the Switchbacks have played better this year and yes, Tacoma has a chance to hit 25 points, but the reality is that neither of them is much of a challenge, even for a rebuilding club like Real.

Today marks the third match between United and Real this season, with United already having won each of the first two. Looking back at those first two meetings, United had Real’s number, no matter what they did. Troy Lesesne’s men played deep in the first match, typically overloading the ball side. The scone time out they played more of a possession based game plan, and both worked nearly flawlessly.

We keep saying that these clubs meeting four times each this season will allow them to all get very familiar with each other and what they want to do. In order for United to get another win in Utah this season, they’ll have to figure out a way to keep the Monarchs on the back foot. So far, the third time through the group hasn’t been positive for the men in yellow and black.

United’s key to the match will be controlling the middle of the park. Andrew Tinari had a rebound match against El Paso and will be looking to continue that trend today. In his first professional season, Tinari hasn’t looked like a rookie and will have to help contain veteran Jack Blake today. Blake’s contributions to the Monarch’s success in the past can’t be understated. He’s a leader on a young squad and can help unlock the Monarch’s attack in the final third.

After last week’s loss to El Paso, United knows that they have to eliminate mental and physical mistakes. We’ve speculated for some time now that the constant travel and playing away from home would potentially have a negative effect on United and it’s possible that it’s finally showing. Last year United faced a similar issue, but that was also paired with multiple matches on short rest. The experience from last year should help the club as the season comes to a close. Within the next 18 days, United will play the final five matches of the 2020 regular season.

And every single one of them will matter.

Our Predictions

Jacob: 2-2

Seth: 3-1 United

Earl: 2/3-1 United

Saturday’s match is scheduled for a 12 p.m. (Mountain) kickoff from Zion’s Bank Stadium. The match can be viewed live either on ESPN+ or Estrella TV. The match can also be heard on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM, via The TEAM app, or The TEAM website. Spanish language commentary is also available on La ZETA 106.3 FM.