I know, I know. It's far too early to be breaking out the Dogpile. After all, we only have one week's worth of results to go on, right? Well, such are the pleasures (and perils) of being a swashbuckling blogger. We'll give the results a few weeks to ferment before we let the good old Table Talk out of the cage, but this particular menagerie of mongrels is ready to rumble, so without further ado . . .
The Alpha Dog
1. Chicago Fire (W)
3-1 is flattering for Chicago, who were under heavy pressure for large portions of the match. Still, they were missing chunks of their usual starting lineup, including the heart of their offense, Blanco, who came off the bench late, and still managed to do enough to grab the victory against an energetic Dallas side. That's a sign of the quality depth that makes the Fire a real contender over the course of a 30-game season.
Next: DC (Away)
The Playoff Pack
2. Columbus Crew (D)
The defending champs probably shaded the chances away to Houston, but were unable to make them count. Still, Schelotto's late equalizer grabbed a valuable point away to one of the stronger teams in the league. I was also impressed by the contribution of Carroll in midfield. Query: Is it possible for the invisible to stand out?
Next: TFC (Home)
3. Houston Dynamo (D)
Missing a couple of key cogs, the Dynamo still managed to grab a draw against a strong Crew side. Times may change, but the Orange song remains the same: stay compact, work hard, and exploit the counter. Lacking DeRo, they may lack a flair for the dramatic, but they should still get results.
Next: Quakes (Away)
4. Real Salt Lake (-)
It's hard to make a case for RSL being in the top three until we see them in action. Also, I don't think they'll immediately stake a claim as a top side. Rather, I suspect they'll build momentum over the season. To be continued . . .
Next: Sounders (Away)
5. Seattle Sounders (W)
Yes, they were at home. Yes, it's early and their depth hasn't been tested. Yes, the Red Bulls back line looked pretty terrible. But Montero looks impressive, they were organized and allowed a talented Red Bulls attack few chances, and the home crowd was inspiring. Now the questions begin. Will the energy wane at home? Can they travel? Will I get any less nauseated looking at those awful "official color of Web 2.0" lime green jerseys?
Next: RSL (Home)
6. Toronto FC (W)
Debuts for two draftees and a win for Torontopool FC as DeRo predictably causes headaches and Guevara nets as pair. Anybody else think that Brennan's goal for TFC was a mirror image of Beckham's first for Milan? Does that mean that Italian clubs are going to come knocking for the Canadian? Doubtful, but TFC has fired an early shot across the bow of the East, proclaiming their playoff intentions. They may just be a center back away . . .
Next: Crew (Away)
7. New England Revolution (W)
I said in my season previews that Nicol would somehow find a way to get results, and here's the evidence. Despite being outshot 16 to 7 and having only one shot on frame, the Revs made the most of their opportunity to claim a valuable road win against a San Jose side that looks pretty promising. And they managed to do it without three shelved starters. Smoke and mirrors?
Next: Red Bulls (Away)
8. San Jose Earthquakes (L)
Despite having most of the possession and a couple of golden opportunities, the Quakes highlighted their lack of a proven scoring thrust. If they can find such a weapon hidden in their roster somewhere, they should be fine. Without it? Well, they'll have to employ "platoon scoring" from midfield.
Next: Dynamo (Home)
Bum-Sniffing Omega Mutts
9. Chivas USA (W)
A win is a win, but when you get outshot nearly 3 to 1 at home, things aren't going quite as swimmingly as you'd like. I expect 2009 to be an almighty struggle for the Goats, and while they've started with a win, I think the signs of weakness were there for all to see.
Next: Dallas (Away)
10. Colorado Rapids (L)
A tough loss for the Rapids, as they created the majority of chances but couldn't make them count. If Colorado are to mount a serious playoff challenge this year, these are the types of matches they are going to need to win. Was this just an unfortunate result, or a sign of things to come?
Next: Wizards (Home)
11. DC United (D)
The draw will be a bitter pill for United, who were in cruising to three points in LA until it all went horribly wrong in the last 10-15 minutes. Despite missing some key players (to be fair, LA were missing key players as well), United showed glimpses of potential, perhaps even enough to put them in the Playoff Pack. Unfortunately, their potential for defensive disorganization and collapse was also exposed. How will they look with Crayton back in net, their wide midfielders restored, and Moreno on the field? We shall see.
Next: Chicago (Home)
12. FC Dallas (L)
A lesson in efficiency. Chicago had 11 shots, 6 on frame, with 3 ending up on the scoresheet. Dallas had 20 shots, nearly double the Fire's total, but the only one on frame was Cooper's drive from beyond the midfield stripe that ended up in the back of the net. With the chances they fashioned, FCD should have done more to test Busch. Likewise, their defense showed some worrying gaps that will need to be addressed if they hope to separate themselves from the dross puddled at the bottom of the West.
Next: Chivas (Away)
13. Kansas City Wizards (L)
For a team that is supposed to boast a strong defense, KC was sure exposed by TFC. If Barrett had a finishing bone in his body, the damage may have been worse. As it is, we saw what the problem will be for KC: finding a scoring edge. They can't consistently rely on Arnaud hitting lasers from distance if they expect to challenge for a playoff spot. For my money, KC would have been the biggest disappointment of First Kick if it weren't for the Red Bulls lame display.
Next: Rapids (Away)
14. Los Angeles Galaxy (D)
What? A draw and I dump them this far down the list? Yep. Were it not for the fateful confluence of United losing two defenders to head trauma, a phantom handball, and Kovalenko's non-red carded last man drag-down, LA was headed for a comfortable defeat at home to a side many are predicting will miss the playoffs. Still, where there is a Donovan, there is a way for LA. Will they continue to be so fortunate?
15. New York Red Bulls (L)
Ouch! It was always going to be a tough ask taking on the emotion of a home team making their first ever appearance, but the Bulls certainly made a hash of it with slow, poor defending and a lackluster attack. Osorio still has defensive reinforcements to bring on line, but will any of them strengthen what looks to be a shambolic back line? All the attacking pace and power in the world won't do much go otherwise.
Next: Revs (Home)