MLS Dogpile - That Brilliant Orange Jaqu-ality?

Alpha Dog

1. (+2) Houston Dynamo (DDWWW)
The Dynamo continue their second half of the season surge by tearing the Western Conference reins out of Salt Lake's hands in a 7-goal extravaganza. Jaqua's return has sparked the Houston offense, but there is a worrying lack of that sterling team defense that has delivered so often for the Dynamo in recent years. Next up is a busy stretch involving entertaining Chivas in midweek followed by a weekend joint to the Big Apple . . . er, Swamp.

The Playoff Pack

2. (-1) Chicago Fire (DDWWL)
Another long unbeaten run comes to an end as the Curse of the Alpha Dog bites the Fire on their big red bum. The chances were there to grab at least a draw, but the Fire's home woes continue. How long will it take to get McBride integrated, or is his inclusion the death knell for whatever chemistry the Fire had brewing? We'll get a quick chance to see as Blanco and Beckham meet for Thursday Night Futbol in LA, and a clash between the two most high-profile DP's in the league, seasoned with a healthy dollop of Arena.

3. (+3) Columbus Crew (LDWLW)
A much-needed victory over Dallas not only gives the Crew breathing room ahead of the pack nipping at their heels, but also puts them at the top of the entire league. Was Noonan the final missing piece or is it all just Sigi's Magic House of Smoke & Mirrors? One thing is for sure--without Schelotto, it might be a struggle to set the table for goals. The home stand continues next week against an RSL side looking to get back on the winning track.

4. (-2) New England Revolution (LWWLL)
Holy crap! Is removing Joseph like pulling the fatal log from the Revolution's Jenga tower? First the Revs succumb at home to a late Fire surge (after Joseph's dismissal), and then they go and get hammered 4-0 by the expansion bottom-feeders (with Joseph suspended). It's all hands on deck for Nicol's crew as they attempt to put out the small fires that are suddenly threatening a once-impenetrable Man-O'-War. The two chances to right the ship come with the midweek visit of DC, followed by the weekend journey to the frozen white north and Fortress BMO.

5. (+2) DC United (WLWLW)
A set piece goal and some staunch defending sees the Black-and-Red roller-coaster on an upward trajectory this week. I pegged this one as a make-or-break game for a side in crisis, and United answered the call. A result midweek away to a Revs side that's hit a bit of a sandbar could boost United even further up the Pile. Then they'll have to regroup quickly for a home date with the Rapids this weekend.

6. (-2) Real Salt Lake (DWDWL)
When two of the top three defenses meet, you always knew that the contest was going to throw up seven goals, right? A wild one in Texas, but RSL come out on the wrong end of a 4-3 score line and will need to regroup quickly and get that defense back on the same page. They'll need to do it by the weekend, because Schelotto has been piling up the assists in Crew-land.

7. (+2) New York Red Bulls (LDDWW)
Burn the witch! Osorio's black magic has the Red Bulls climbing steadily up the table. An efficient, if somewhat brutal, performance sees the revamped Bulls start to flex their newfound muscle. But if Angel goes down, the war may yet be lost. And how long will the suspension hounds be kept at bay? Next up is a real test, as the Orange-clad Alpha Dogs invade the Swamp.

8. (-3) FC Dallas (DDWWL)
The long unbeaten stretch ends at the hands of the new league-leaders. But . . . they had chances, Cunningham got off the mark quickly, and they pushed the Crew to the wire. The new additions have not yet had time to bed in completely, but this is a team that looks ready to make a little noise in a very quiet Western Conference. Up next is a winnable trip to KC's adorable little ballpark.

Bum-sniffing Omega Mutts

9. (-1) Kansas City Wizards (DDLWL)
So much for softballs! KC gets the wrong end of the "inconsistent Rapids" stick and suffer the consequences as they get knocked out of the playoff places for the time being. It's back home next weekend, but will the goal-shy Wiz have the firepower to overcome a threatening Hoops offense?

10. (+2) San Jose Earthquakes (DDDWW)
So much for Expansion Fever. The new-look Quakes put a hurting on the former league-leaders, humbling them to the tune of 4-0. Yallop has a once-moribund offense starting to fire on all cylinders. Is it too late for a possible playoff charge? Time to hit the road for the Chivas half of the HDC to see if the surge can continue.

11. (-1) Chivas USA (WDLLD)
So close, and yet so far, as the Gals grab a late equalizer in the LA Derby. And when the hell did Atiba Harris morph into a competent, nay--dangerous, forward? He scored one and assisted on the other, and looked to be at the heart of every Chivas attack. Are we in Bizarro World? Or is it just the magic of the Galaxy defense that they make the ordinary seem special? The Goats get double-duty this week with a midweek visit to the Alpha Dogs in Houston, only to return home at the weekend to meet Yallop's renaissance Quakes.

12. (+1) Colorado Rapids (DDLLW)
Three points at long last for the Rapids, and, owing to parity, they're right back in the playoff hunt. A hungry Conor Casey feasts on the KC defense, bagging a brace to the delight of the dozen or so on hand at the Dick. Next up is a trip to DC to visit a side that haven't exactly been excelling when it comes to keeping them out of the net.

13. (+1) Los Angeles Galaxy (DDLLD)
With the nattily attired Cobi Jones presiding (was that the Carib-Angelino mob boss look?), the lowly Gals snatch a draw from the jaws of their close friend Defeat. But it's yet more of the US Nat's old guard riding to rescue as the Bruce takes charge and Eddie Lewis arrives to beef up the seldom used Galaxy left wing. Coaches and versatile wide-left players are nice, but when is that defense going to get fixed? It'll need to be in pretty good shape to withstand Blanco and the Fire as they pay the HDC a visit for Thursday Night Futbol.

14. (-3) Toronto FC (DLLWL)
Ouch and double ouch. Barring work permit troubles, Mo Edu is moving on, leaving TFC with a giant void to fill in midfield. And even up a man for nearly half the match, the Reds couldn't find an equalizer against Osorio's Bulls. Such is the peril of having Barrett as a go-to striker. It may all be about to come apart for TFC. Can they mount a furious home stand against the visiting Revs next weekend to resurrect a season on life-support?

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