[I was tempted, sorely tempted, to drop a couple of "actual" playoff sides out of the Playoff Pack (I'm looking at you, Revs and Red Bulls, but seeing as how the playoff field has been decided, I've chosen to leave them in the top eight for this season-ending Dogpile. Next week, the Dogpile and Table Talk will give way to MLS Playoff Prattle. See you there . . .]
1. Columbus Crew (WWDLW)
United were desperate and sent everything they had at the Crew, even managing to ping the ball off the woodwork on three occasions, but Sigi's men found the winner when they needed it to march into the post-season with a victory. Considering the narrow nature of the Crew's triumph (at home), if Houston had managed to hang onto the win on the road, I might have put the Dynamo atop the Pile to end the season. But as it stands, and has stood for lo these many months now, the Crew's yellow banner flaps in the winds of victory. Let's see how far they can carry it into the post-season. The Wiz await.
The Playoff Pack
2. Houston Dynamo (WDWWD)
Houston's long unbeaten run continues as they head into the playoffs. The late Chivas equalizer was perhaps a bit unfair to Houston, but they look to be heading into the playoffs in fine form and relative health given their bruising schedule. Given their history, they've got to be considered co-favorites with the rampant Crew. Let's see if the Red Bulls can put up more of a fight than they did in their "must win" season finale against the Fire.
3. (+1) Chicago Fire (WDDLW)
Despite looking wobbly over the last two weeks, the Fire were emphatic in dismissing a Red Bulls side desperate for a result. Combine this 5-2 result with New England's meek entrance into the post-season, the Fire's complete dominance of the Revs in the regular season, and the fact that the Revs will be missing two starters to suspension in the first match, and the Fire are looking definite favorites to progress.
4. (-1) Chivas USA (WWWLD)
A loss and a draw heading into the playoffs, but the late equalizer will make that final match seem more like a win when it comes to confidence for Preki's men. While Chivas' toughness may raise questions about their post-season longevity, they have a decent record against their first round opponents, RSL, this year. Rio Tinto may also be a blessing in disguise as the quality field will be a big bonus over Rice-Eccles for a technical side like the Goats.
5. Kansas City Wizards (LDWWW)
The Revs fall apart mentally, and the Wiz don't fail to take advantage. KC are riding a hot streak heading into the playoffs--hell they nearly caught the Revs on the table with the win--but will their fine form allow them to compete with the Supporters' Shield winners? They've only managed a single point in three games against Sigi's men--not the most encouraging of signs, though the two sides haven't met since mid-July. Let the battle of the agéd Argentines commence!
6. Real Salt Lake (WDDWD)
RSL enjoy the late, late show as Movsisyan completes the scramble to snatch a playoff spot from the jaws of relentless mediocrity. Despite the draw and the playoff spot smash-and-grab, the Rapids were the better team in this match, and that doesn't bode well for RSL's post-season hopes. Their first round opponents, Chivas, grabbed a late equalizer of their own, and have shaded the season series with Kreis' men. Will RSL's first playoff appearance be a short one?
7. New England Revolution (LDLLL)
Wow. Nicol's going to need to work some serious voodoo magic to pull the Revs out of their current tailspin. A woeful end to the season, marked by four losses in the last five, and three losses on the trot, would seem to indicate that the Revs' post-season stay will be a short one. The Fire have dominated them this season as well, so it's going to take something really special from a Revs side missing their creative heart in the injured Steve Ralston. I'd drop them below the Red Bulls, if only the Red Bulls hadn't fallen down completely in a game they need to win to ensure a playoff spot.
8. New York Red Bulls (LLDWL)
Seems that last week's win was a bit of "lipstick on the pig", eh? When push comes to shove, the Red Bulls roll over and present themselves for a rollicking. Chicago's fans will no doubt be delighted to have dealt Osorio such a hefty blow, but will be cursing United's inability to lock the playoff door in the Red Bulls' faces. So, do they stand a chance against Houston? Frankly, that answer has to be a resounding "nope."
Bum-sniffing Omega Mutts9. Colorado Rapids (WLLWD)
So, so close, but alas, the Rapids' FO left Clavijo in charge for a few too many games. The late dagger from Movsisyan kills their playoff chances, but they have to be encouraged by how the team seemed to come together as the season wound down. It'll be interesting to see what sort of moves they make in the off-season.
10. (+1) FC Dallas (WDDLD)
Whimper, whimper. The Hoops sashay into the sunset boasting the fourth best goal difference in the league but no playoff spot to show for it. How will Hyndman handle the off-season? Does his collegiate experience pay when it comes to the draft, or does the Ellinger Youth Curse reign supreme in Frisco?
11. (+1) DC United (LLDWL)
So close. Three pinged off the woodwork before one finally bounced in. Unfortunately, it came at the other end to stick a dagger in United's unlikely late charge into the post-season. One last curtain call in the Champions' League and then it's off to the shop for a little tinkering. Is Soehn done? Will Gallardo be around next year? For that matter, how about the flying Gonzalos? There is a good solid core to this team, they just didn't have the depth or luck with injuries to compete on so many fronts. Do the FO head south again, or do they test the waters in the draft?
12. (-2) Toronto FC (DWDWL)
Ouch. Not that the Reds had anything to play for, but the Quakes were rampant, and only the efforts of Sutton in the TFC net kept the scoreline respectable. There is a deal of promise on the roster, but will Mad Mo find it anathema to his nature to resist tinkering with the side?
13. (+1) San Jose Earthquakes (DLLLW)
Too little, too late, but the Quakes finally started to resemble the team that had been mounting a serious playoff charge just a month or so ago. Now that they've got a settled roster, and Yallop has another off-season to build the side, does anybody doubt that they'll be much more of a player next year?
14. (-1) Los Angeles Galaxy (LLWLD)
Well, I suppose the season-ender wasn't meaningless as Donovan grabbed the Golden Boot, but questions about for the Gals. Is Becks' trip to Milan temporary? Will Donovan be around in the spring? Can they manage to beef up that ultra-thin roster? Will an off-season without Lalas produce a team built to compete in MLS?