Inexorably, the teams begin to pull apart as the table stretches out across the sun-bleached plastic pitches of Major League Soccer. The top two remain unchanged this week, but it's all in flux beneath them. Chivas have built a four point cushion above an 8-team chasing pack that, in turn, has established a three point gap above the six teams, all within one point of each other, that reside at the foot of the table.
So what jumps out this week?
- Points Per Game - The disparity between the playoff pack and the rest is even more starkly defined in the PPG table, where those at or above 1.3 points per game are in the playoff hunt, while those at or below a point per game are not. Actually, the Dynamo spoil the effect somewhat. Without their 1.0 points per game, the gap would be between 1.3 and 0.8.
- It's In The Net! - RSL (2.4 goals per game) leap to the head of the pack courtesy of the 6 goals they put past New England. The Fire are their closest competitors at 2 goals per game. On the other end, Dallas' woeful defensive record is highlighted by their being the only team with the dubious distinction of allowing two goals per game, though the Revs, Quakes, and Crew are in the hunt at 1.8 allowed per game.
- Whither the Goals? - There are only two teams that have allowed less than a goal per game, and, shocker of all shockers, they top the table. Chivas (0.4 allowed per game) and the Sounders (0.5) are way ahead of their closest competition, the Dynamo, in 12th place but only allowing a goal per game. Why are they in 12th? Well, the 0.8 goals scored per game doesn't help, though it isn't the worst in the league. That distinction goes to the Red Bulls at 0.7.
- Making A Difference - Chivas (+7) hold a narrow lead over Seattle (+6) and RSL (+6) on the positive end, while FC Dallas (-6) lead the way in futility. All of them are from the Western Conference. Coincidence? I think not. This is a pattern that is likely to continue, with the big dogs in the West piling up the goals as a result of the relative lack of competition. The more balanced East will likely see goal differential trends with lower peaks and shallower valleys.
- The Definition of Average - Look at the Rapids. Two wins, two losses, two draws. And goal difference is a wash. Even their goals scored/allowed per game are right smack in the middle of the pack at 1.3.
- Big Movers - TFC leap seven places on the back of their two 1-0 wins this week, while the Revs plunge five places after getting spanked by RSL. The movement should start to settle down somewhat from here on out, though it's still early enough in the season that dramatic table movement is still possible given the right results over a couple of weeks. Ah, who am I kidding? This is MLS. The Parity Police dictate that big table movement is always possible given the right results over any 2-3 given weeks.
- Winners and Losers - After Chivas and the Revs dropped matches this week, the Fire are left alone as the only team yet to lose. Now, obviously the Goats and Revs each have one loss apiece. But can you spot which other two teams only have one loss? DC United and the Galaxy. Huh? Of course, the Galaxy join the Crew as the only teams yet to win in this young season, thus explaining their lowly league position.