[A somewhat stagnant week in MLS this time around, as the Fire's slight dip and the Wiz' decent climb mark the only significant movement on offer in the table. Things are about to get a whole lot more difficult for DC United and the Houston Dynamo as their respective six-week jaunts through the Champions' League get underway. So did we experience any significant shifts in power this week? Let us consult the book of Dogpile, chapter 24, verse 3 . . .]
1. Columbus Crew (LWWWD)
No Schelotto + Reds with international players back in the fold = draw for the league leaders. On a side note, how many yards off his line was Sutton when he saved Moreno's PK? It was a pretty lame PK, nonetheless, but still . . . Regardless, nobody else made enough of a move to dislodge the men in yellow from their lofty perch, and once Guille returns, they'll be firing on all cylinders again--or so Sigi hopes. It's back home next week for a visit from Osorio's Black Magic Red Bulls.
The Playoff Pack
2. Houston Dynamo (WLWWD)
Doesn't this match have some sort of mythological basis? You know, the one where you have to fight and kill off a younger version of yourself? Whatever the case, two of the hottest sides in MLS (lumped in with the Crew) collided, scrapped in the streets, and emerged bloody but deadlocked. Results elsewhere pretty much sewed up the Western Conference crown for Kinnear's boys. Now it's a question of whether to try and make up five points and have a real go at the Supporters' Shield, or focus on advancing in the Champions' League whilst holding serve in MLS? We'll have a clue to Kinnear's thinking next week as the tables are turned and the Quakes visit Texas this time around.
3. (+2) New England Revolution (WDDLW)
Last week I wondered if the Rev's veteran moxie would get the ship turned around quickly enough to build momentum for the playoffs. I suppose Ralston answered that question in spades with two assists and a goal as the Revs rolled 4-0 over Chivas. Has Ralston been the missing link? Is he the Revs' Schelotto? The rot is stopped. Now we'll see if they can resurrect their Supporters' Shield hopes with a visit to a Rapids side that's somehow managed to put together back-to-back wins.
4. New York Red Bulls (WWDLW)
It took some quality saves, some wasteful finishing by the opposition, the mandatory MLS referee brain-fart, the woodwork, and a healthy dose of luck to preserve the win, but a win it enters the record books as. The Bulls shore up their playoff position and right themselves after a slight wobble. New faces are rumored to be arriving before the transfer deadline, but the only new thing I want to see in the Swamp is that stadium. Gods--that field was painful to look at, particularly when wet. Thankfully, they'll be in Columbus next week, though Estadio del Crew will probably be hosting high school football or some such nonsense and get the lines regardless. Ah well, at least they'll be on grass and not some shiny wet plastic.
5. (+1) San Jose Earthquakes (WDWWD)
Irresistible force vs. immovable object. Result? A draw, duh! The Quakes long unbeaten run continues despite being pegged back by a late Ching equalizer. The playoffs are just a few sweet points away from becoming a reality for Yallop's revamped and efficient squad. How long will they be kept at bay? Next week brings an instant rematch against the Dynamo, this time in Houston.
6. (-3) Chicago Fire (LWLWL)
Wow--big chance to close the gap at the top to just three points, and the Fire lay an egg. Whither the flowering of an offensive juggernaut led by by the Grand Old Men of CONCACAF? Instead, we're treated to the up-down of another roller-coaster of form by the Fire. They better get things sorted, because inconsistency and that troubling lack of home form spell trouble for the post-season. Will Toyota Park be a happy hunting ground next week against Super Coop and the Hoops?
7. DC United (LWDLD)
Ouch! United needed this one badly, but the defensive mistakes were too frequent and too costly as Dallas earned their 2-2 draw. Will United "pull a Nicol" and sacrifice the CONCACAF Champions' League upon the altar of their MLS ambitions? We'll know soon enough as 6 international games get blended into their playoff run-in. Next weekend's visit to the Galaxy looms large as a "must win" to keep the playoff wolves at bay.
8. Real Salt Lake (LLWDL)
A few weeks ago, RSL looked to be building a fortress around their #2 spot in the West. Now it's under siege by pretty much the entirety of the conference. Regardless, they weren't outplayed by the Bulls in the Swamp. If their finishing were only a bit more accurate, and they had a bit more luck with posts and refs, the tune being played this week might be a more hopeful one. From one plastic patch to another, next week RSL return to their home plastic to face a visit from a Chivas side reeling from a beat-down at the hands of the Revs.
Bum-sniffing Omega Mutts
9. (+2) Colorado Rapids (WLLWW)
Holy crap, who are these guys? The Rapids notch back-to-back wins to gain something resembling forward momentum towards the playoffs. Can the schizophrenic Rapids keep it together long enough to complete a post-season push, or will it all fall apart again? Next week brings another Eastern Conference high-flyer in uncertain form as the Revs pay a visit to the Dick.
10. (+3) Kansas City Wizards (LDLLW)
I said last week that the best pick-me-up in MLS is a visit from the Galaxy, and KC took full advantage, resurrecting their faint playoff hopes with a 2-0 win over the hapless LA crowd. Onalfo's rejiggered the attack in a bid to make a late surge. Is it too little, too late, or is an unlikely charge up the table on the cards for the Wiz? Or was it just the case of looking more competent by standing next to the Galaxy? It's home again next week for a showdown with fellow Eastern Conference strugglers, TFC.
11. (-1) FC Dallas (LDLLD)
After grabbing the early lead, they were hit by two United goals. Still, Hyndman's charges did enough on the balance of play to deserve their late equalizer, and while they're not at the head of the queue for a playoff spot, they're not exactly wandering lost in the wilderness either. Still, two points from the last fifteen on offer is a terrible way to make a case for deserving a post-season place. Will they fare any better next week away to the Fire?
12. (-3) Chivas USA (LDWWL)
Two wins over a shorthanded TFC does not a renaissance make. The Goats hit a brick wall manned by tri-corner-hatted men with muskets and feel the pain of a missing keeper and a missing Kljestan. Can they rebound to keep their faltering playoff dream alive? We'll know next weekend as they travel to face direct playoff rivals RSL.
Back to full strength and looking to restore their flagging chances at the post-season, the Reds earn a draw against the Schelotto-less Crew to keep hope alive. With six games remaining, they need to make up six points to catch United, and even then, United have the tie-breaker. Can TFC make up seven points in six games with only two of those games at home? Doubtful. Knocking KC back a peg next week will ensure they have company in the conference cellar though.
14. (-2) Los Angeles Galaxy (DLDDL)
Geez. The Gals' woeful defense can't even keep goal-shy KC from tickling the twine. What few hairs remain to the Bruce will surely soon be gone. MLS can do little save the "flagship" from going down in ignominy. Another season without playoff soccer? Yep. Next up comes a visit from Arena's past--DC United, perhaps the only side in MLS that can rival LA for craptacular goal concession.