[Strange weekend, eh? The normal order of things is flipped on its head as the West goes 3-1-1 against their counterparts from the East. Despite the weekend's results, all signs still point to five from the East and three from the West for the post-season. So who's climbing the Pile, and who's buried amongst the Mutts? Read on . . . ]
1. Columbus Crew (WLWWW)
Curse of the Alpha Dog be damned! The Hard Hats down the Hoops on the road to claim the top spot on the table. Can anyone in the entire universe (okay, I'll be more specific--anyone in MLS HQ) clue me in as to why Schelotto was left off the All-Star team? 16 assists? Are you freakin' kidding me? With no continental cup play to sap their strength, the Crew are looking good value to push on for the regular season crown. We'll certainly know more after next week's top of the table showdown at home to the Revs. Lose and they're back in second place. Win and they're five points clear at the top with seven games to go.
The Playoff Pack
2. (+2) Houston Dynamo (WWWLW)
Back on track and the New York nightmare is successfully swept under the rug--barring the worrying niggle that if the whole shebang came to an end today, Houston's opening round playoff opponent would be . . . the Red Bulls. Still, a solid result against a top half of the table club sees them grab a throttle-hold on the Western crown with a five-point lead, though the Crew's five-point lead in the race for the Supporters' Shield might be too much of an ask for the boys in Orange. Next week brings a visit from the struggling Wiz, a chance to almost sew things up in the West, considering the pile of merde that's trying to catch them.
3. (-1) Chicago Fire (WWLWL)
McBride off the mark for the Fire, but the result won't come. Fortunately, United and the Bulls drew beneath them, so Chicago maintain a three-point gap over the sides beneath them. Next week brings the Red Bulls to town in a match that could see the Fire confirm their playoff intentions and claim Osorio's scalp for the baying minions at Toyota Park. On a side note, how odd was it to watch McBride and Blanco embrace after El Hunchbacko set the table for an easy finish from McHead? Eerie.
4. (-1) New England Revolution (LLWDD)
Two draws in a row against struggling sides, and the late summer wobble now threatens to throw the Revs off their collective bike. Crappy keeping from the Galaxy and big goals from the Revs' big stars see them eke out a home draw. It's all set up for the big showdown next week as the Revs travel to face the new leaders--Columbus.
5. New York Red Bulls (DWWWD)
The chances were there, but after the late Moreno penalty miss, the Bulls will have to be more than satisfied to have escaped with a point that keeps them level with United and six points clear in the race for the final playoff spot. The Bulls normally struggle mightily in RFK, and it's testament to that Ol' Osorio Black Magic that they looked good value for what, on another day, might have been a three-point result. The unbeaten run continues for one of the hottest teams in the league, but next week it's back to Chicago for Osorio, for what promises to be a decidedly toasty reception from his former Fire faithful.
6. DC United (LWLWD)
Off the roller coaster as the Crayton-inspired defense earns yet another clean sheet. Despite having the late chance to win it, a draw is probably a fair result in their contest against the Red Bulls. Six points clear in the race for the final playoff spot with eight games to go is a solid position, but the fixture list starts to get particularly strenuous as United try to pace themselves for the run-in. Away to the reborn Quakes 2.1 just three days after the Open Cup final is not a promising scenario for the Black-and-Red.
7. (+1) Real Salt Lake (DWLLW)
RSL needed to deliver on the crappy plastic patch after a couple of painful weeks, and they did, shredding the Rapids. Could Espindola's return spark an RSL charge into the playoffs for the first time in club history? Their hold on the third, and most likely final, spot out West is under threat, but they hold a four point gap over fourth-placed Dallas. A win away to the Galaxy next week would be a massive boost.
8. (+2) San Jose Earthquakes (DWWDW)
It's all go for the Quakes 2.1. They're one of the hottest teams in the league and are mounting an unlikely playoff charge, currently just two points behind Chivas for the final post-season spot. Two goals from two transfer window arrivals have Yallop's boys flying high. And next week brings another home date--this time against a DC United side who will be fresh off a midweek cup final and a cross-country flight. Easy pickings?
Bum-sniffing Omega Mutts
9. (-2) FC Dallas (WWLDL)
Three games without a win and Dallas slip from the playoff spots. Cooper seems to have gone off the boil even as Cunningham starts to find the net again after shifting his personal scenery. Thursday Night Futbol at home to the worst team in the league should be just the tonic they're looking for to get the playoff charge rekindled.
10. (+2) Chivas USA (LDLDW)
It's always nice to see Esky amongst the goals (unless he's playing United, of course!), and Chivas make a dramatic surge up the table as their narrow win boosts them right into the playoff spots. Next week brings a quick rematch, as the Goats travel north to face TFC once again--this time in the not-so-friendly confines of Fortress BMO. Will Esky hang one on his former team again? I, for one, am pulling for the kid. Another victory should see them push into the Pile's Playoff Pack for the first time in a while.
11. (-2) Kansas City Wizards (LWLDL)
Down go the Wiz and it's looking more and more like they'll be on the outside looking in after all is said and done in the playoff hunt. They're only a point back of Chivas in 8th place, but owing to the persistence of the miserable conference structure, KC are actually six points out of a possible playoff spot. If they expect to make the post-season, they'll need a result next week away to Houston. Prospects? Not so good.
12. (-1) Toronto FC (LWLDL)
Three games without a win sees the playoffs starting to fade into the distance for the Reds. Six games back with eight to go means they need a result against the Goats in an instant rematch at Fortress BMO. Another loss and I think it's time to start gearing up to do some college scouting, cause the draft is the next significant action they're likely to take part in.
13. (+1) Los Angeles Galaxy (LLDLD)
Undone by crappy defense and lame goalkeeping, the Galaxy were oh-so close to a massive result that would have jumped them right into the playoff spots out West. Unfortunately for the Bruce, Kaptain Kissypant's brace on the counter doesn't give them enough to grab all three points. Hasn't this been the pattern for the Gal's all year--gotta score three if you expect more than just a share of the spoils. Next week, it's back home for a date with RSL, where a win would see them close to within two points of their opponents in the playoff hunt.
14. (-1) Colorado Rapids (LLWLL)
Clavijo may be gone, but this is still the mess he assembled. Anybody surprised that they've managed to hit bottom, plummeting right on past the expansion team in the process? The frustrating thing for Rapids fans is that they do have quality on the roster--it just isn't getting the job done. So what do the MLS scheduling gnomes throw up for a national TV audience on Thursday Night Futbol next week--these self-same cellar dwellers. At least the relative crapiness of the West allows a Colorado road win over Dallas to put them right back into playoff contention.