[Just a quick note before we get started. The Dogpile was starting to get a bit out of hand, with near recaps of matches taking place in the discussion of each team's weekly fortunes. I'm going to try a more limited commentary style, so let me know if the shorter "quick hits" work better for you than the rambling mess that this column was starting to evolve into. Not that there's anything terribly wrong with rambling messes ;-).]
1. New England Revolution (WDLWW)
The Revs continue to wait patiently on the sidelines, maintaining their grip on the top spot in the league (and on the Pile) despite not playing any games. With a game or two in hand on most of the league and that ugly but efficient buzzsaw ready to get back to doing nasty things to MLS sides, Nicol's men will be eager to sink their teeth into the Fire--a matchup that often carries violent overtones.
The Playoff Pack
2. (+1) Houston Dynamo (DDDWW)
The unbeaten string is extended as the Dynamo convert their only two shots on goal and benefit from poor Crew finishing in a match that seemed almost a carbon copy of the KC-DC match. The Orange Express is back and looking a good bet to make some noise come the post-season. With a game in hand, they're just a point back of RSL atop the West, but both sides will be cooling their heels this week.
3. (-1) Real Salt Lake (LDWDW)
RSL cling to the lead in the West, but only by a point. They get victimized by their idleness this week, and will hope to avoid the same fate next weekend as they continue an extended break from league play.
4. (+1) Chicago Fire (DWDDW)
Nyarko extends the unbeaten run and has this pundit, and I'm sure many others, wondering how Barrett started so many games for this side before he was traded away. Perhaps the wait for McBride to return from Olympic duty won't be such a trial? This weekend will be telling, as the Fire travel to New England to renew their often heated rivalry with the league-leading Revs.
5. (+2) DC United (WWWLW)
Back on track and finally with a shutout to their name, United rolls at home early and holds off the KC attack late. The win isn't enough to boost them to their previously lofty perch on the Dogpile, but the upward momentum is back on for banged up United. A win against the Red Bulls next Sunday would be enough to maintain the positive trajectory.
6. (-2) Columbus Crew (DLDWL)
One win in the last five, and the Crew are starting to stumble. Still, they did manage to outshoot the Dynamo despite being on the road to a genuinely hot side, and their high league standing means they can come out on the other side of a late-summer wobble still in a dangerous position heading into the playoff stretch. Even the idle week won't sting too much as they'll either remain comfortably in second or be within shouting distance of the leader(s).
7. (+2) FC Dallas (DDDWW)
The big pile of Euros waiting for Super Coop continues to build as he notches another brace, this time at the expense of TFC. Five games unbeaten, back-to-back shutout wins, and six goals over the last two games, all while missing some key components, have me considering a little taste of crow when it comes to the Hyndman era. Can they maintain their momentum after a week off?
8. (-2) Chivas USA (WDWDL)
There was still some good stuff to be found from a Chivas side that lost its starting goalkeeper to Europe, its creative force to the Olympics, and its defensive bedrock to a first half concussion. The chances were still there and the Goats might feel they could have nicked a point. Still, they'll need a result next weekend away to KC to keep from slipping out of the Playoff Pack entirely.
Bum-sniffing Omega Mutts
9. (-1) Kansas City Wizards (DWDDL)
DC committed the expected defensive wobbles, but KC couldn't find the finishes to punish them. After a bit of a surge up the table, the Wiz' charge seems to have stalled. Next week, it's back home to the "intimate" little ballpark to entertain Chivas.
10. (+1) New York Red Bulls (DLLDD)
I don't know what it is that has me suspicious about the Bulls starting to put things together. Perhaps Osorio's successful turnaround of Chicago last year is coloring my vision. We'll see if the changes start paying dividends this weekend when a banged-up United roll into the Swamp.
11. (-1) Toronto FC (LLDLL)
Ouch! So much for the vaunted Fortress BMO. Ill discipline runs rampant as the Reds see red, and Barrett is supposed to be the answer to their problems? Break out the iron underpants, it's cloudy with a chance of pain in Toronto. But every cloud has its silver lining, and TFC's comes in the form of a visit to the Rapids next weekend.
12. (+1) Colorado Rapids (LWDDL)
A week off, but the Clavi-holes rise slightly on the back of LA's ineptitude. Next up is a clash of the downtrodden as TFC pay a visit to the Dick. That's got nil-nil written all over it, doesn't it?
If it wasn't for all those draws, the Quakes might be making a little more noise about now. As it stands, it looks like Yallop did some good shopping, with his new signings popping up all over the scoresheet against the Gals. Too bad they won't get a chance to build on their first win in a long while next weekend, but such is the genius of the MLS scheduling imps.
14. (-2) Los Angeles Galaxy (LDDLL)
Man, I can't help tittering like a little schoolgirl as Alexi's Titanic slips beneath the waves. How much must it suck for LA's offense to know at kickoff that they have to score at least two to have a chance at any points and at least three to make sealing the deal a real likelihood? Anyone want to lay bets on how many heads will roll prior to the renewal of the LA Derby in a little over a week's time?