[The West was starting to look ascendant, but a hatful of road draws this weekend sees the East reclaiming a little of its former glory. Once again, we're back to that old 5/3 playoff split in favor of the East, but with everybody still in with a shot at the postseason, that split may just reverse itself in the weeks to come. Down the stretch they come! . . .]
1. Columbus Crew (DWWWD)
Not one of their better performances, but a result nonetheless, and a result that seals the deal for the Supporters' Shield. So that's one down, and one big one to go for Sigi's men. It's just a matter of keeping everybody healthy and letting the yellow machine purr over the next couple of weeks. I wonder if Sigi risks Schelotto on the plastic crap away to the Red Bulls next week?
The Playoff Pack
2. (+1) Chivas USA (LWWWW)
Quick! Who's the hottest team in MLS? The Goats are climbing the charts rapidly. There was a lot of backs-to-the-wall defending going on, but it worked. Chivas have booked their place in the postseason courtesy of a strong late charge that sees the lean months of summer look a fading memory. Next week, it's back home to entertain a Colorado side who will be desperate for points.
3. (-1) Houston Dynamo (WDDWD)
The Dynamo haven't lost in a while, but three draws in their last five matches might spark a bit of worry. In particular, not being able to maul a decimated DC side in decline at home might cause panic in lesser sides. But Kinnear's boys know what they're about. They're not losing, and they're pacing themselves well through two competitions. They might need to keep a wary eye on Chivas though. Two home matches against the dregs of the West this week should see them clear of the Goats' late challenge.
4. Chicago Fire (WLLWDD)
McBride is starting to find the goals, and just in time for the playoffs. You think maybe seeing all those yellow shirts brought the old MLS scoring touch back? Whatever the case, despite McBride netting twice, the Fire couldn't end the Crew's long unbeaten run. They've also booked their postseason place. Now it's just a matter of figuring out if they'll start at home or away against the Revs. Next week, the Fire head north to Fortress BMO. Will Barrett make them pay for shipping him north? Probably not.
5. New England Revolution (WDLDL)
Remember last week's "endless series of hiccups and false starts"? Here we go again. Four games without a win and it's starting to look like the Revs, who always seem to round into form going into the playoffs, are going to stumble into the post-season, where we already know they'll be facing the Fire. Ruh-roh, Shaggy McNicol! The Fire have savaged the Revs all season. Anybody want to take odds on that trend continuing? Thursday Night Futbol away to a desperate DC side backed into an increasingly small corner should have the warning lights flashing.
6. Real Salt Lake (LLWDD)
RSL open the lovely new stadium and MLS fans everywhere rejoice to see the backside of Rice-Eccles and its pathetic plastic patch. Unfortunately, RSL can't get the result that would have put them in the pole position going into the final two weeks. Instead, they maintain their fragile hold on what might be their first playoff appearance. That stadium deserves it . . . but will the team? Next week will offer a big clue as RSL entertain Dallas in a what has to be considered a playoff six-pointer.
7. (+3) Kansas City Wizards (WWLDW)
3 shots on frame in the entire match, and only one of those by the home team, KC? That's Wiz-tastic! Jeebus, how long can KC continue to ride vital goals from Jimmy Conrad, and what happened to those heady attacking days of Onalfo's early tenure? Perhaps he overcompensated defensively? Whatever the case, they've now leapt directly into the playoff places courtesy of having a win on a weekend when so many of the playoff contenders had draws. Next weekend, they're home again, with Yallop's desperate Quakes looking for any points they can scrounge.
8. (-1) FC Dallas (DWWDD)
So does Hyndman have compromising pictures of somebody upstairs in the MLS Referee's Tower? Two games in a row when they get handed late penalties to level the match. I smell a conspiracy! Dallas are on the outside looking in at the moment, but are only a point off the pace. Will the refs help them over the line? Next weekend's visit to RSL's new yard is make-or-break time for SuperCoop and the Hoops.
Bum-sniffing Omega Mutts9. (-1) Colorado Rapids (WDWLL)
A second loss running makes another big dent in the post-season charge, particularly with LA missing so much star-power. I wonder if Casey may have made a difference given all of the chances that the Rapids managed to squander. Is the post-Clavijo surge over? It doesn't get any easier next week as they'll remain in LA to face the hottest side in the league, Chivas USA.
10. (+2) Toronto FC (DLDWD)
A late charge has TFC entertaining fleeting hopes of a post-season that seemed to be well beyond them just a few weeks ago. Sadly, they would have really been making a case if they hadn't suffered a stoppage time penalty. But the big story is that for the third week running, Marvell Wynne turned in another bit of quality for the Reds. His first time finish on the break was a worthy addition to the highlight reel that he's been building of late. I wonder if the salivating Euro-scouts from the Olympics will be held off by the economic doldrums we find ourselves in? Next up, it's back home to the friendly confines of Fortress BMO to face their neighbors to the south, Chicago.
11. (+2) Los Angeles Galaxy (LWLLW)
Wow, what a game of two lame defenses! Similar to the last time they played. So many chances, but LA took more of the ones that fell their way. Despite missing their big weaponry, Arena's charges still manage to keep their faint playoff pulse going. A weekend visit to Houston doesn't promise much in the way of points in the week ahead, but they will have Donovan and Becks back in the fold.
12. (-1) New York Red Bulls (WLLLD)
MLSNet may have the Bulls on top of KC in their standings, but MLS rules place precedence on head-to-head, which means that KC holds the tiebreaker, putting Osorio's charges in that dangerous #5 position in the East. Just one point from the last four matches has seen them slide from comfortable to hovering just above the fire. Next weekend brings the Crew to the Swamp. Will the foot be off the gas for the men in yellow, or will the Bulls continue to slide into oblivion?
13. (-4) San Jose Earthquakes (WDLDL)
The Quakes had so much momentum just a few short weeks ago, but now it's fading fast. They're still a good team that creates plenty of chances and keeps things tight at the back, but the predictable slow start to the season due to Expansion Fever is leaving them hamstrung as we come down the stretch. They might deserve to be a playoff side based on their second half to the season, and Yallop has to be commended for the job he's done, but I'm afraid that it's going to be too much for them to overcome the woeful start to the season. If they're going to upset the long odds, they'll have to do it on the road, as this week brings back-to-back matches in the Midwest, midweek to Houston and on the weekend to KC.
14. DC United (DLLLD)
What an ugly game! Still no wins in site for Soehn's sorry ship, but a couple of hard-fought road draws this week just might give them the impetus to get things turned around. But is it too little, too late? Are United just missing too many pieces of their expensive puzzle to mount a reasonable charge? Thursday night against the Revs will be a huge test, with Moreno and Emilio probably ready to give it one last shot at respectability.