We're just about a quarter of the way into the season and already the Chivagoats are making a push to pull clear with a six-point lead atop the standings. The usual scrum is snarled behind them, but if we assume teams more than three points clear of the "love 'em or leave 'em" playoff line, that puts Seattle, DC, and TFC in the chasing pack. Snuggled in just behind this group would be those within one result (3 points) of being in or out of the playoffs, a group that ranges from Chicago (5th on 11 points) down to the Cirque du LA (11th on 7 points). And bringing up the rear are the Crew, Quakes, Red Bulls, and Dallas.
But let's mine a little deeper, shall we?
- The points per game table tells pretty much the same story, though it reveals some misleading positions (TFC on 1.5 ppg is actually level with RSL despite being 4th to RSL's 8th on the points table).
- The big movers this week are DC United, who climb four spots to the giddy heights of third place (first in the East) after seeing off last-place Dallas. Special mention goes out to the Dynamo's climb (up 3 spots) to within shouting distance of a playoff spot and to the plummeting Quakes and Bulls (both down 3), who can only look down on lowly Dallas.
- On the attack it's hard to hang with RSL (2 goals per game) or the Fire (1.9), though DC United (1.6) are making a bid to join those two as offensive juggernauts. Who's in need of a little blue pill? Back to back shutouts have the Revs (0.8) sinking below the goal per game mark, though the Red Bulls continue to set the low bar for stagnation (0.6).
- When it comes to keeping them out, it's unsurprising to find the top two leading the way, with Chivas (0.4 allowed per game) edging Seattle (0.6). They're jointed below the goal per game mark by Western Conference mates Houston (0.8), which begs the question: is the West defending better, attacking worse, or is there less parity? I nominate the later as the likely cause, with FC Dallas' league-worst two goals surrendered per game as prime evidence.
- Goal difference throws up few surprises as well with Chivas (+8) and Seattle (+6) once again leading the way, and Dallas (-7) holding steady at the wrong end. The only real anomaly is caused by RSL's 6-0 thumping of the Revs. Witness: RSL (+4) sit 8th with the third best differential, while the Revs (-6) are just two removed from them in 10th, despite almost matching Dallas' sorry mark.
- Lone Wolves. What links Chicago, RSL, and Columbus? Each can boast something no other side in MLS can. Chicago has yet to lose, RSL has yet to draw, and Columbus are the only team without a win.
- Biggest Losers. It's not a shock to find the Red Bulls and FC Dallas hanging out at the bottom of the table given that they each boast a league-worst 5 losses. Extra credit to the Starcows though, because they managed the dubious feat in 7 games rather than the Bulls' 8.
- Drawing Board? The Crew and Fire have both managed to draw 5 of their first 7 games. The difference between 5th and 12th? The Crew managed to lose the other two of their seven, while the Fire won.
- No Fat Ladies in Sight. The winless Crew are only four points out of a playoff spot. Hell, cellar dwellers Dallas are only five points out. That's just two results to get back into the playoff race. The Parity Police can virtually guarantee that you won't be officially eliminated until the kids head back to school in the fall.
- Deuces Wild. The Dynamo and Revs both sit on 2 wins, 2 losses, and two draws after their meeting this week, but these are two clubs heading in radically different directions. I wouldn't be shocked to find Houston hanging in the playoff spots next week while the Revs continue to sink.