MLS Table Talk (Week 21) - It's On Like Donkey Kong!

We're coming down the home stretch now, and things are getting really interesting. The lead pack vying for the Supporters' Shield now seems to consist of five teams: the Revs, United, Houston, Chivas, and Dallas. Behind the leaders, the Metrobulls and the Wiz are treading water - not quite in with the leaders and desperate to avoid being sucked into the chaos swirling around those final playoff spots. The Crewzers have already been sucked back down as the Rapids and Fire charge up the table, leaving moribund Toronto to sink back down to the the bottomfeeders - LA and RSL.

The points per game table paints a slightly different picture as DC United heads up a lead trio that also includes the Revs and Chivas. Chivas? Yep, those three teams each sit on 1.8+ points per game. Houston and Dallas are just behind the leaders, while the actual table is reflected in NY and KC sitting just above the three teams vying for the last playoff spot, all on 1.23-1.24 points per game. Talk about tight! The rest of the table are on pace to end the season garnering less than a point per game - all that's left now is the dubious "race" for the first draft pick.

United leads the way in goal scoring, averaging 1.71 goals per game, while RSL and Toronto are struggling at 0.78 and 0.82 respectively. Houston, of course leads the way defensively at 0.7 goals allowed per game, though Chivas are starting to mount an impressive challenge of their own, dropping below a goal per game at 0.95 allowed. At the other end, LA's woeful defensive efforts over the last few weeks have resulted in a league-worst 1.72 goals allowed per game. And that's with one of the best keepers in the league! Imagine how many they'd be letting in if they'd stayed true to Lalas-form and signed an over-the-hill, washed up vet like Waterreus.

The thing that really stands out from the table this week is goal difference. Take a look. The top four all have significant positive margins (+9 to +14). The next three teams, which look safe bets for playoff places, have slender positive margins (+1 to +4), followed by three contenders for the final playoff spot at slender negative margins (-7 to -2). And bringing up the rear, we have three clubs at significant negative margins (-17 to -10).

It's all happening now in MLS. Any of the top five could find their way to the Supporters' Shield, while three teams are fighting for that last precious playoff spot. Suspended between the two camps sit the Red Bulls and Wizards, who could find themselves in the next few weeks either making a run at the lead pack or being inexorably sucked into the whirlpool beneath them. I think it's also a fairly safe bet that the bottom three are well and truly out of the picture and we'll be seeing a lot of youngsters getting time as they try to figure out who to keep in an off-season sure to be filled with significant transfer activity.

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