Lady luck has seemingly avoided Sporting Kansas City in recent weeks.
First came a bitter 1-0 home loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC in which Manager Peter Vermes' men conceded a goal against the run of play. A frustrating 1-1 draw followed at Minnesota United FC, where Sporting KC ransacked the Loons' penalty area in stoppage time but couldn't muster a winner.
The Houston Dynamo were next to snakebite Sporting KC, coming from behind to win 2-1 on Oct. 11 before goalkeeper Tyler Deric stood on his head to make nine saves on a scoreless draw four days later.
Heading into the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, an optimistic outlook suggests Sporting KC is due for a change in fortune.
With the regular season in the books, Sporting KC ranks first among the 12 playoff teams in the advanced statistic known as "expected goals."
So what is an expected goal, and how is it measured?
Simply put, expected goals (xG) are the number of goals that can be expected to be scored based on where and how a shot was taken. For instance, a shot in the six-yard box is more likely to go in than a shot from outside the 18. Similarly, a shot taken with the shooter's foot is more likely to score than one taken with his head.
Every shot attempt has an "expected goal" value. An easy tap-in might have an xG of 0.95, meaning it has a 95-percent chance of going in. A long-range golazo, meanwhile, might only have an xG of 0.10, or a 10-percent chance of scoring.
With that in mind, here is a look at an expected goal differential table for the 12 playoff teams. This is one way of measuring which teams were strongest at creating the best chances and conceding the fewest chances. The chart may not offer an exact portrayal of each team's scoring prowess, but it does convey the idea that Sporting KC should, in theory, be scoring more goals than it has recently.
As Sporting KC prepares for Thursday's showdown at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, that elusive Knockout Round victory just might come down to being clinical in front of goal. Fans can catch Thursday's match at 8:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, UniMas, Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.