1. (+3) Kansas City Wizards (WWLDW)
After some stumbles a week ago, the Wiz bounce back in emphatic fashion, grabbing a win on the road to press their claims for early-season favorites in the East. The defense looks a bit more solid than I would have given them credit for, mainly due to solid organization (a formula that the Dynamo have ridden quite hard in recent years), but I still think they're a bit thin and probably exploitable. Regardless, they stick a tentative blue flag atop the Pile and await all challengers. The road show continues next weekend as Onalfo takes his men a bit further north to Fortress BMO where the Reds are riding high after back-to-back wins.
The Playoff Pack
2. (+3) FC Dallas (-DDWW)
Despite some injuries to key midfield men, Morrow's boys made it look easy at injury- and suspension-plagued Chivas to maintain their unbeaten start to the season. Cooper and Alvarez are in excellent form, and the defense is starting to look a little more watertight. Of course, Chivas could only trot out wounded or green strikers, and pretty much every creative bone in their midfield was out through suspension. Still, a shutout on the road is good stuff for the Hoops, and this game highlights a surprising depth in the Dallas side. Next up is Thursday Night Futbol and a date with another injury-hit side that will be missing some midfield creativity due to suspension--the Revolution. Victory could see the Hoops making their own claims for the top spot.
3. New England Revolution (WLWLD)
Down and man and outplayed for much of the match, Nicol's men still manage to find a way, rallying from a man down to snatch an unlikely draw in the Jersey swamplands. Though the manner of the performance will not be encouraging, the result will, as the Revs continue to get the job done with some of their big guns still on the shelf. Next up is another tester as they head south to confront the surging Hoops and the bad memories that flitter and sway in the oregano-scented shadows of Pizza Hut Park.
4. (-2) Chicago Fire (-DWWL)
I believe that I said I was looking towards this game as a true gauge of the Fire's strength, given that they've played two pretty poor teams and one that was injury-hampered and played with 10-men for most of the match. Well, looks like I got my answer. No late heroics from the Hunchback this time as the Wiz make an early road goal stand up to hand Chicago their first loss of the season. Until Blanco has some more lethal partners to feed up top, I don't think that Chicago are anything more than middle of the road in MLS. Fortunately, next week brings slightly off to the side of the road and starting to smell a bit in the afternoon sun Colorado, which might boost the Fire back up the Pile a bit.
5. (-4) Chivas USA (-DWLL)
And down go the Goats--rather predictably given the injury bug that is cutting a swath through the forwards and the suspensions to half of their starting midfield. I picked this as a match that Dallas would probably be able to get something out of, but given their own injuries in the midfield, the comprehensiveness of the victory was a bit surprising, thus the precipitous tumble for the Goats. Next up is the LA derby, and the midfield will be restored and the forwards will have another week of healing under their belts. If Galindo can get the afterburners going, it's going to be a long, long night for the snail-footed Vanney and Xavier and another ascent up the increasingly slippery slopes of the Dogpile.
6. (+5) Columbus Crew (-WLWW)
Okay, okay, I really should have given the Crew a bit more credit after last week's win against Chivas, but I just couldn't bring myself to believe (and I was too busy bitching and moaning about diving and whining). But now it's full speed ahead for the Hard Hats as they follow up last weeks epic win over the 2007 Western Conference champs with a battling victory over defending Supporters' Shield winners DC United in RFK. Moreno is his usual pesky, terrier self and manages to propel the Crew to a lead that their parked bus refuses to relinquish. Moreno will get a chance to punish a former side next week as Houston come calling at Sigi's Hut(t) (aka: The House of Glidden).
7. (+1) Houston Dynamo (-LDDD)
Three consecutive draws and the Dynamo are still winless in the league. Without Robinson and Onstad, the defense is just not as solid, and that has to be worrying for Kinnear. Last year, it seemed like he could plug-and-play just about any of the pawns at his disposal and the machine would keep on ticking. This year's edition doesn't seem to have the same ability, which is going to hurt when the summer fixture pileup of international matches rears its ugly head. I'll temper the pessimism a bit with the realization that Robinson and Onstad will eventually return, and even if Houston look shaky at the back and aren't winning games, they're not losing them either. Next up is another match on the road as the Dynamo head to Columbus to face the killers of giants who happen to be a bit down on their luck. Gee! Anybody seen an orange-clad one of those around?
8. (+2) New York Red Bulls (--WLD)
Jozy's magic bullet isn't enough as Larentowicz sticks the dagger in for the 10-man Revolution with New England's only shot on goal. The draw will be massively frustrating for Osorio as the Bulls were in control even before Castro's ejection for attempted genital mutilation, and they had more than enough chances to run out comfortable winners. The most promising sign for New York will have to be the play of Reyna, who was rolling back the years with an inspired midfield performance. Can he do the same two weeks in a row without pulling up lame and getting stuck on the shelf for a month or so? We'll see next week as the expansion Quakes come calling at the Swamp--a big opportunity for the Bulls to claw their way further up the Pile.
Bum-sniffing Omega Mutts
9. (-3) DC United (-LWLL)
A second straight drop of three places finds the Black-and-Red sniffing around some unfamiliar kennel-mates. United is on the skids in a big way, dropping all three points at home to the Crew. Let the finger pointing begin! Wither Captain Caveman? Where did the 2007 Emilio disappear to? Jaime's still gimpy! Too many fixtures in quick succession on early season legs! My personal villains? (1) Poor finishing (Emiligol, where art thou?). (2) A worrying vulnerability to balls cut back from the byline (both goals plus another that Wells made a great save on) highlighting either poor marking in the center, poor wide defending, or just a general lack of communication at the back (or all of the above). (3) Trying to figure out how all of the puzzle pieces fit together, quickly, with a lot of games in rapid succession not allowing for rest or the successful implementation of tactical changes. Now they've got a little over a week to rest up, figure things out, and do the prep work on a cold dish of revenge as RSL come calling at RFK. Should United recover, they'll be climbing back into the Playoff Pack. If not, the slide towards the bottom will continue apace.
10. (-3) Colorado Rapids (-WLWL)
Thud! And there's the sound that all of MLS was waiting for--the sound of the Rapids crashing back to reality. I refused to get carried away and allow them to scale the Pile because I knew this sort of thing was comin' round the mountain(s). Goal-shy (and point-shy), expansion San Jose come strolling into the Dick, and walk out with all three points courtesy of a 2-0 result. The Rapids have a promising midfield, but they lack a lethal finisher and are saddled with a mediocre-at-best back line. Of course, next week they face the mediocre-at-best forwards of Chicago . . . Wait, two negatives can't make a positive, right? Right?
11. (+1) Toronto FC (-LLWW)
Back-to-back wins and the Canucks continue their slow creep up the Pile, putting some distance between themselves and the bottom. The last-second transfer deadline dash seems to have paid off for Mad Mo as his wheelin' and dealin' ways are repaid with solid play from new boys Robert, Ricketts, and Guevara. How long can the success continue? Next week will be a big test with high-flying KC coming to town.
12. (+1) Los Angeles Galaxy (-LWLD)
I've always disliked Donovan, but this weekend dislike hopped aboard the express train to Hatred-ville. What a classless punk! I don't mind getting angry about some play you found unfair (although shoulder-to-shoulder was perfectly legal last I checked, and little men still need to be cautious whilst racing about on lightning feet around the mighty oaks), but standing over a player and screaming at him after you score a goal? What the hell? Give him the cold stare, celebrate with your teammates, be a freakin' professional man! You're arguably the most dangerous player in this league and the best to ever pull on a USA jersey--have a little class please. And hello, MLS officials? How about a card for bringing the game into disrepute? Whatever my feelings about Captain Kissypants, the Gals turned in a credible performance--enough that I'd be willing to believe a little more if it weren't for that absolutely abysmal, molasses-slow center of defense (making Caraccio look fast--YIKES!), and the fact that Donovan and Beckham occasionally decide that they're so much better than the rest of the team that they'll just do it all themselves by playing a little two-man game. Chivas and the fleet-footed Galindo are coming next week for the big LA derby. Better get Vanney and Xavier some speed pills, rapidement!
13. (-4) Real Salt Lake (-DLWL)
You may think that such a big drop isn't merited, but this is getting to be a familiar pattern for RSL. We saw it time and again last year--the inability to build upon promising results. Last week's massive 4-0 hammering of United will be all but forgotten as RSL fail to continue their winning ways north of the border. And that's probably not too bad of a thing for RSL as it means they won't be resting on their laurels as they get to take on United again next week--this time at the more finely-turfed RFK and against a rested side sharpening its claws for a bit of vengeance.
14. San Jose Earthquakes (--LLW)
Expansion Fever baby--catch it! The Quakes 2.0 took a week to get rolling, but last week they seemed to have everything but the finish. This week, they found it, notching their first goals and their first points of the season to get off the hump more quickly than recent expansion franchises. I've never had any doubts that the Quakes can get results. The big questions were always going to be getting goals and staying healthy, which is why I keep them on the bottom despite a strong inclination to let them climb the Pile a bit. Next up is another road date, this time in the stagnant swamplands of Jersey, where Yallop will look to build on this week's success. Should he do so, the Quakes will scramble over some of their fellow Omega Mutts.