MLS Dogpile (Week 13) - Now With Form!

Week 13 sees the addition of current form to the Dogpile, as represented by indicators as to the last five results for each club, whether they be (W)in, (L)oss, or (D)raw. As a result, the determination of a club's position in the Dogpile is going to shift from merely a glance at the table and a general subjective impression of current form, to include the more factual evidence presented by recent records. The immediate upshot is a few wild swings in ranking as I realize how far off of early season form some sides are sliding, though such disparities should level out in succeeding weeks.

ALPHA DOG

1. Houston Dynamo (+3) - W W W W D - The win streak stops with a draw away to Dallas in the Lone Star Showdown, but what the Dynamo have done while missing significant chunks of their starting lineup has been nothing short of outstanding. Their latest match could really have gone either way and a draw was probably a fair result, though the Dynamo probably had the better quality chances despite not having quite so many as the Hoops. Houston now gets to return home for matches against two of the top sides in the East with the Red Bulls visiting for Thursday Night Futbol and DC United rolling in at the weekend.


PLAYOFF PACK

2. DC United (+3) - D W W L W - United shrug off last week's loss to RSL with an emphatic spanking of the woeful Rapids. The scoreline was a bit flattering as United really didn't play that well until late, but once they found the net, they couldn't stop scoring. Emiligol keeps charging up the Golden Boot rankings, while Fred and Addlerly get off the mark, bagging their first goals for the club. United also dealt the often erratic Erpen for the veteran presence of former US national teamer Greg Vanney. Coach Tommy Soehn will hope that the experienced Vanney can stabilize an often shaky back line. He'll certainly get a chance to make an immediate impact as DC hits the road for KC and Houston with defensive mainstay Boswell still away at the Copa America.

3. Kansas City Wizards (-1) - W D L L D - The Wizards are struggling a bit, but they're still playing dangerous, offensive ball (25 shots anyone?) and creating chances even if the finishing has dried up a bit as of late. EJ can't return soon enough for KC, but will he be the same player when he returns as his confidence may have taken a hit during national team duty? You'd think with the sort of run-and-gun, free-scoring (and free-conceding) side that Onalfo is putting out, they'd be able to draw better crowds. Somebody rescue them from Arrowhead - please! July 4th sees a similarly high-scoring (and wobbly defensive) side come to town in the form of DC United, and at the weekend, they'll probably have plenty of chances to find the net against a porous Galaxy back four at the Toolbox.

4. FC Dallas (+2) - W W L W D - An even game against the in-form Dynamo sees the Hoops continue their improbable run atop the MLS table. They still sport a negative goal differential and never really "wow" the casual observer, but Morrow's boys are quietly getting results, as indicated by their current run of form. The Dallas midfield has been impressive and they controlled possession for the most part against their cross-state rivals, though they only created a few half-chances at goal. With Ruiz back in the fold, that may be all they need. The stadium also looks a lot better now that the bare concrete walls are painted, though they probably could have filled it up a little better. Maybe it was just the way the cameras were positioned, but was that the orange-clad fans having the most fun and making the most noise in the park? Dallas will be one of the least busy sides this week with only an Independence Day visit from the Goats to deal with.

5. Chivas USA (+3) - W W W L W - Quick! Who's the hottest team in MLS right now? Well, Houston with 13 out of a possible 15 points in their last five matches, duh - but right behind them are Chivas with an impressive 4 wins in 5, the solitary loss coming at the hands of . . . Houston! A big victory at home over a wasteful Revs side that usually travels well will give them a boost going into tough road week away to Dallas and then a rematch with New England. Anybody know why Suarez got sent off? Will Chivas be able to cope defensively without him? More miserable crowd numbers have me wondering, which sounds better - Chivas de San Diego, Chivas de San Jose, or Chivas de Pheonix? Imagine - the Wing├ęd Goat arises in flames from the ashes of Los Angeles to rock the desert with a ferocity and attacking flair unparalleled in modern domestic futbol! OK, OK, maybe a tad too much to ask - but still.

6. NE Revolution (-3) - L D D W L - The Revs are tripped up by the Goats after looking to be back on track. They were wasteful with their chances against Chivas and are desperately missing the lethal presence of Twellman in front of goal. Reis may question his positioning on the Chivas second, but those were two goals of real quality (Jesse Marsch? quality? do my eyes deceive me?) that downed the Revs. They'll have a week to stew on the humiliation suffered in LA before they get a rematch with Chivas at the weekend (got to love MLS scheduling!).

7. Columbus Crew - L D W W W - The hot streak continues with a big win over the visiting Red Bulls. They probably should have had more goals as almost all of the good chances fell the Crew's way, but Waterreus denied them on multiple occasions. They're missing some players to the Copa and the U-20's, but it looks like those folks may be back in camp soon. An impressive about face by Sigi's boys, but I'm not yet convinced that the change is permanent, so they remain at #7 this week. They may be moving up next week though as this week's matches are an away trip to a Rapids side in free-fall and a weekend visit from an RSL side looking to build on the fragile confidence instilled by their first victory of the season.

8. Red Bull NY (-7) - L W L D L - Don't look now, but the Bulls are struggling. The Crew bossed the match in Columbus and though Arena's side had chances on the counter, the field seemed permanently tilted in favor of the side in yellow. Wattereus came up huge to keep the Red Bulls in the match, but they've got work to do this week to climb back up the Dogpile after failing to take advantage of having most of their squad available while other sides lost key components to the Gold Cup and Copa America. They'll be on the road again for Thursday Night Futbol against the mighty Dynamo before heading up into the Rockies to face the Rapids at the Dick.


BUM-SNIFFING OMEGA MUTTS

9. Toronto FC - W L W L D - TFC overcome the road hoodoo to bag their first away point after a spirited fightback to get a draw away to KC. Their first result on the road against a quality side like the Wizards should give them an extra dose of confidence as their long road trip continues with trips to an RSL side looking to build on recent success and a Fire side that is struggling royally.

10. LA Galaxy (+1) - L D L W L - A week off allows the Galaxy to recharge and integrate the new (and returning) pieces of the SuperClub puzzle. Buddle and Xavier will have had another week to familiarize themselves with the club and Donovan's return will be a big boost. Will the veteran Honduran hitman Pavon get a run out this week? What, you think Nate "What Barn?"Jaqua gets the nod over him? Ha! The Galaxy will welcome the desperate Fire to the Toolbox on July 4th, followed by a weekend visit from the Wizards.

11. Real Salt Lake (+1) - D D L L W - Kreis bagged his first victory and had some time off to get the side focused on a week that may present them with opportunities for more points. Wednesday brings road-weary TFC to town, though the Canadian side will be confident after snatching a point at the expense of Kansas City. The weekend brings a trip to a Crew side that has been on fire of late, but may not have the horses to sustain such a run.

12. Colorado Rapids (-2) - L L L L D - The Rapids were on life support after a seemingly even game against DC United got out of hand and ended in a 4-1 defeat at RFK. They did manage to halt the bleeding, but only at the expense of fellow strugglers Chicago in a battle of futility that they probably should have won as they did have the better of the chances. They'll get a chance to get back home this week but the relief may prove scant as they entertain the suddenly hot Crew and a Red Bull side looking to get back on track. How much longer does Clavijo have in the Rapids hot seat? Dealing Vanney for Erpen is a positive move for the future of the club, but the Rapids need help now.

13. Chicago Fire - D W L L D - The bleeding has stopped a bit and Mapp and Blanco are on the way when the Copa America wraps up in the next week or so. How long till Rolfe is healthy again? It took another struggling, goal-shy side to help end the skid, but the Fire still nearly managed to lose it late as the visiting Rapids had more and better chances throughout. The low crowd turnout will almost certainly get a huge burst with the immanent arrival of Blanco, but can he prove a savior for this side? This week sees a trip to the SuperClub-under-construction at the Toolbox (nice sponsor tie-in there having the team that is constantly rebuilding itself playing in the Home Depot Center) and a visit from the Canadian road warriors of TFC.

This is going to be a busy week for MLS. How will it all go down? Will the previously dominant clubs reassert themselves, or will they continue to fall by the wayside as parity rears its flat and ugly head? On the horizon, you can hear the throngs in LA and Chicago beginning the chant - "the DP's are coming, the DP's are coming!" Both teams are in desperate need of a savior and the stage has been set. But who will deliver?

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