MLS Table Talk - Give Us The Damn Shield!
Well then. I suppose nothing says "give us the damn Supporters' Shield already" like stuffing the side right behind you and opening an eight point lead with just four games to go. All the Crew need to do now is avoid getting complacent before the playoffs kick off. Behind them, Chivas USA are making a sudden push to join the three team trailing pack consisting of the Revs, Fire, and Dynamo. New York has been sucked back into the maelstrom of do-or-die playoff scrappers (though Chivas has really yet to escape this group as well, it should be noted).
Colorado and RSL hold a slight advantage and both will be boosted by significant away victories this past weekend--not a trick either side is particularly known for. Dallas got a big result as well to keep on their heels, though their victory came at home against free-falling United, who are now level on points with the Hoops. Tucked in just behind are the Wiz. Each of those three sides is within one or two points of claiming a playoff spot, so they're all well and truly in the hunt.
If the Quakes can recover from this weekend's loss to take advantage of their game in hand, they are also potentially only two points off the pace. The Galaxy and TFC, however, need a miracle to claw their way back into the picture, sitting 5 and 6 points out of the post-season places with only four games left.
Goal difference? Glad you asked. The Crew, after a long spell of mediocrity where they hovered near the top without ever really posting an impressive total, are suddenly +14 and well on top, with Chicago, Houston, and (WTF?) Dallas looking solid at +9, +7, and +6 respectively. On the other end, it's no surprise to see TFC wallowing at -10. With the exception of Dallas, the other non-playoff sides all come in between -4 and -6, but then, so do 5th place Chivas. Ah, the wonderful world of parity!
The Crew also continue to close on LA atop the goal-scoring charts, trailing just 1.73 versus 1.92 goals per game now. United and Dallas can also boast of scoring at least 1.5 goals per game. What does it say about the league that three of the top four offenses in MLS are also currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the post-season? Defense is a somewhat more accurate picture, with the top three defenses (Chicago at 0.96, Houston at 1.16, and Columbus at 1.19) all relatively secure in their playoff places. Of course, #4 would be the second-from-bottom Quakes at 1.24.
Next week I'll start to include the conference seedings so we can talk about potential playoff matchups, but just to whet your appetite a bit, let's take a quick look at how things would align if we ended the season today . . .
Crew (E1) v. Red Bulls (E4)
Revs (E2) v. Fire (E3)
Dynamo (W1) v. RSL (W4)
Chivas (W2) v. Rapids (W3)
Is it just me, or is it hard to get excited about those matchups? True, Revs v. Fire series are generally heated affairs, but the way the Fire has smoked the Revs this year (ugh, ignore the rank punnery), you've got to wonder if the post-season will bring more of the same. The Chivas-Rapids encounter could provide goals aplenty, and might be the pick of the first round. It's hard to see either of the 4th seeds upsetting the top dogs, but MLS is a strange league that way.
What do you think? Any potential matchups that have you salivating? Or are you more excited by the season-ending scrap that's going to go right down to the wire with so many teams still harboring ambitions of playing for the cup?