MLS Dogpile - The Hard Hat Express

[What are the chances that the West would do it two weeks in a row? Were they pacing themselves? Whatever the case, the West went 3-1-1 against the East this week, resulting in the conferences drawing level with four sides each residing in the playoff spots. But it's still those Hard Hats that are looking unbeatable at the moment, even without their talisman . . .]

Alpha Dog

1. Columbus Crew (WWDWW)
Can anyone stop the Crew? Sigi's men have shrugged off the absence of their best player by continuing to pile up results. If anything could be said to dismiss the claims that they're an average team without their Guille figurehead, beating the #2 team in the league in their own house should do the trick. With the Shield wrapped up, it's time to focus on getting everybody at peak fitness and keeping the morale strong for a potential run at the MLS Cup. Next week they head home to welcome Sigi's old boys, the Galaxy.

The Playoff Pack

2. Houston Dynamo (LWWDD)
Not a spectacular result, but enough to keep their lead in the West relatively comfortable and allow the attention to be split between the league run-in and the Champions' League. Kinnear will have to keep one eye on the Goats though, as they've closed to within four points. Still, Houston have a game in hand, and should have enough about them to seal the deal in the West. Next up is a trip to a Colorado side that seems to be finding its sea-legs after years adrift in the Gulf of Clavijo.

3. New England Revolution (DLWDL)
The Revs had their chance to stake a claim for the Shield, but they let it slip away, and now they'll be in a dogfight for the #2 spot with the Fire. Of course, assuming the Revs don't slip too far, and neither DC or NY suddenly catch fire, the Revs know that they'll be facing the Fire in the first round anyway. Not a particularly fortuitous matchup, given the recent history of results between the two sides. But then, Nicol's teams always seem to have that magic playoff voodoo about them, don't they? Next week, they'll be home again--this time to an RSL side desperate to book their first playoff passage.

4. (+2) Chicago Fire (LWLLW)
Rolfe with a pair as the Fire pretty much secure their post-season place. In fact, with the Revs' loss, the battle is now on for the #2 spot in the East--a spot which secures a slight home-field edge by having the second leg at home in the conference semifinals. Of course, given the Fire's dominance of the Revs this year (9-1 on aggregate over three wins, including two wins at the Big Razor) and the almost certain guarantee that they'll be playing each other in the first round, maybe home field doesn't matter so much. Next Sunday, the Hunchback and the Head show hits the road for Kansas City.

5. (+2) Chivas USA (WWLWW)
I'm not a Chivas fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I am an Esky fan, so it's great to see him looking healthy, sharp, and dangerous. Check out these stats for the kid: Chivas had 10 shots (6 by Esky), with 5 being on frame (3 by Esky). Four wins in their last five sees Chivas coming together at exactly the right time. The only problem is that most of their closest rivals in the West, one of whom will be their likely first round opponent, are doing a similar dance. A victory away to reeling DC United next week, would solidify their hold on the #2 spot in the West.

6. (+2) Colorado Rapids (LWWDW)
I'm not sure that any coach will look at a 5-4 result and be pleased, but the Rapids continue to win, perhaps proving once and for all to GM's looking in Clavijo's direction that they should avert their gaze lest their franchises be turned to seething pools of mediocrity. Casey has been a beast of late, and I'm wondering how long it is until he plays his way back into the USMNT player pool. Next week brings a stern test in the form of the conference-leading Dynamo.

7. (+3) FC Dallas (LLDWW)
Not as dominating a victory as the 3-0 scoreline would have some believe, but the results are coming for Coop and the Hoops--a phenomenon that might be more apparent in the table if a whole slew of playoff contenders weren't embarking on similar runs, thus keeping Dallas just a point out of the post-season, for now. The question remains: how long can they stay afloat with Ellinger chained to their necks? Thursday brings a potential challenger to town in the form of the Quakes 2.1.

8. (+4) Real Salt Lake (WDLLW)
An absolutely huge win for RSL. Movsisyan is helping to dismiss memories of Espindola's celebratory stupidity by suddenly finding a rich vein of goal-scoring form. Two quality bits of control and finishing help them to all three points at the expense of one of the hottest sides in the league. And it wasn't just Movsisyan--RSL dominated the stats and the chances, making their case for a playoff spot. Next week, they hit the road to pay a visit to the Revs.

Bum-sniffing Omega Mutts

9. (-5) San Jose Earthquakes (DWWDL)
Whoops! Huckerby continues to impress, but the normally solid Quakes defense ships three as playoff rivals RSL deservedly take all three points. The majority of San Jose's spectacular run of late has come at the hands of teams on the wane. Have results flattered them, or did the week off just kill their forward momentum? A Thursday Night Futbol trip to Dallas gives them a quick chance to fire the motor up again in midweek.

10. (-5) New York Red Bulls (DLWLL)
What happened to the Osorio black magic? The Bulls looked ready to surge to a comfortable spot in the post-season, but now it's all starting to crumble a bit as they are sucked back into the whirlpool of teams competing for those precious post-season places. Is the Metro-curse starting to rear its ugly head? They'll be home again next weekend, and if TFC's Guevara returns to haunt his former side, there'll be some Red Bull blood in the water.

11. (-2) Kansas City Wizards (LLWWL)
Blam! Not exactly a death blow to their playoff chances, but the loss to Chivas does deliver a decent forearm shiver to the little charge up the table they've been making of late. And to have a big chunk of that shiver delivered by Victorine (with a goal and an assist), a player they traded away to the Goats just a month or so ago, has to hurt. Home to the Fire next Sunday brings a chance to get the charge started again.

12. (-1) DC United (DLDLL)
It's all falling apart for Soehn's charges. Evidence of such can be boiled down to three scenes from yesterday. #1 Emilio pulling up lame. #2 Moreno dishing an elbow. #3 Cooper waltzing through an onlooking defense to score Dallas' third. All is not yet lost for the Black-and-Red, but their recovery must be swift and emphatic. The omens do not look good for either cause if Moreno and Emilio are out for any significant period through suspension or injury. The friendly confines of RFK should be of some help after their recent travels, but victory over Chivas has become an absolute necessity. No pressure, boys!

13. Los Angeles Galaxy (DDLWL)
Last week's win breathed some life into the failing lungs of the Gals, but the Fire socked it right out of them. Five points out of a playoff spot with four games to go isn't an impossible task, but given that LA only have one win in recent memory, it doesn't look good for MLS HQ's marketing arm, with Becks and Lando sitting out the playoffs yet again. It doesn't get any more difficult than they'll have it next week--on the road to the league-leading Crew. Which means, of course, that Donovan will probably get a stick up his bum and play with righteous anger and net five or something ridiculous. And the Crew will, predictably, tickle the twine six times in answer.

14. Toronto FC (LLDLD)
So, did the Bulls trade away Freeman just to make sure TFC wouldn't make a late charge at them? Despite the hilarious own goal by one fullback, another, Wynne (even if he was playing in midfield, or as a wingback, or whatever), proves that he actually may turn out to be more than just an athlete, with a great bit of individual skill (or did he just get lucky with that hit?) to net the equalizer. Regardless, TFC's last chance to stage an unlikely run to the post-season has pretty much evaporated. Any Canadians in the draft? And I call dibs on this particular conspiracy theory if Freeman puts another in the net next week against his old side.

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