The Pile is back, and boy is it confused. What do you do with a Fire side that manages to beat, albeit controversially, the top dogs, and then gets hammered at home by Dallas? What does it mean when a decidedly average Rapids side happens to be among the hottest in the league? How many weeks will see the bottom three members of the Pile grab three points? Well, I suppose we must sort it out some time, so...to the Dogpile!
The Alpha Dog
1.+2 Houston Dynamo (WWDWW)
If anybody is taking notes about how to finish teams off early (you listening, United?), they might want to pay attention to the Dynamo, who are starting to put things together and should emerge as the class of the West in due time. As it stands, they are the hottest team in the league, and their recent offensive output, combined with the traditionally miserly defense, marks them as the lead dogs this week. The price of their recent form? They may lose players to summer national team duty. Next week's big East vs. West showdown with the Fire will be sadly marred by call-ups and suspensions.
Next: Fire (Away)
The Playoff Pack
Hmmm. So which way do I play this one? I said that I'd put Chicago on top if they beat Chivas, but I didn't bother to qualify that with "without Terry Vaughn's asistance." Regardless of what should have been, I suppose we'll have to acknowledge that the Fire beat the Alpha Dogs on their patch...But then, the Fire went and got killed by SuperCoop & the Hoops. Still, I think three games without a win is enough for the Goats to surrender the throne, regardless of their lead in the points table, but not losing 3-0 to Dallas at home keeps them above Chicago.
Next: Seattle (Home)
3. -1 Chicago Fire (DWWWL)
Add another from the "dubious calls" file to Terry Vaughn's already-stuffed cabinet. Chicago earned a draw, but came away with all three points at the HDC, hereafter designating not "Home Depot Center" but "Home of Dubious Calls." Still, even if the victory was unearned, following it up by losing their first of the season, at home against lowly Dallas no less, gives me little alternative but to keep them from the Alpha Dog spot. They will get an immediate opportunity to grab that spot again against the new Alpha Dogs next week.
Next: Houston (Home)
4. +3 Colorado Rapids (DWDDW)
A big win on the road to make up for last week's disappointing home draw sees Casey and the Rapids solidifying their playoff credentials, though much of that solidification has more to do with their mid-to-lower tier opposition in the West being pretty dire. Should any of them start to make a serious push, things would get really interesting. Of course, if Casey gets called up for Gold Cup duty, as I suspect he might, the results might be similar. Speaking of lower-to-mid tier teams that might make a push...hey look, a trip to Rio Tinto is on the cards!
Next: RSL (Away)
5. Seattle Sounders (DDDDD)
Five draws running and the Sounders have been sucked back into the depths of the chasing pack. Will we continue to see their position erode as call-ups, suspensions, and injury play havoc with their expansion-thin roster? Next up is a match they need to win if they want to keep pace with the leaders in the West.
Next: Chivas (Away)
6. +3 Columbus Crew (DWDWD)
Schelotto's poke earned the Crew a midweek victory against the lowly Quakes after the visitors looked the more dangerous in the early stages. And the weekend draw away to Seattle showed off their depth as the likes of Carroll and Hejduk were out injured, while Schelotto started on the bench. After a slow start, the Crew are beginning to work themselves back into the mix, and their depth should continue to tell over the long MLS summer.
Next: KC Wizards (Away)
7. -3 DC United (DDDDL)
It's been a long time since United have lost, and this one will sting particularly given that their first half performance merited more than the 1-0 lead they took into halftime. And, of course, there was that laughable penalty call that cost them the draw. All of those excuses aside, they haven't won in five matches now, so down the Pile they tumble. What better way to spark a recovery, however, than a visit from the Red Bulls.
Next: Red Bulls (Home)
8. Kansas City Wizards (DLWDD)
Another week. Another LA club. Same inconclusive result. After KC endured getting hammered in the main, the Gals' glacial defense got caught out, pretty much presenting the Wiz with their golden ticket. Unfortunately, they couldn't capitalize, and that kind of failure indicates that maybe they don't have the horses or the desire to be a playoff club this year. How will they fare next week against a side that seems intent on making such claims reality?
Next: Crew (Home)
Bum-Sniffing Omega Mutts
9. -3 Toronto FC (DDLWL)
I asked last week..."Will DeRo's return to Houston see them exposed as borderline playoff contenders?" Yep. Houston were all over the Reds from the off, though some of that may have been due to bad tactical choices and looking forward to the big Champions' League qualifier on Tuesday. Can they recover at home to the Los Angeles Drawlaxy?
Next: Galaxy (Home)
Finally back in the win column, even if they were abetted by the refs. I would have had to raise them even if they had finished in a draw with United however, since their second half performance was as strong as I have seen from them this year. A healthy Twellers should see them rise to mid-table mediocrity, but how long will he stay healthy, and is he returning just in time to depart for Gold Cup duty?
Next: Red Bulls (Home)
11. +3 FC Dallas (LLDDW)
What the hell? Three goals? None against? On the road? Against the unbeaten Fire? What manner of wormhole have we slipped through? Somebody get me Stephen Hawking on the phone! And just as I was ready to condemn them to last place too when the Quakes finally grabbed a victory. Huh. Parity Police and all that. I suppose you're entitled to wonder how long it lasts, but Dallas are unbeaten in three. Kinda spoils my joke about next weekend's tussle with the Quakes being a cripple fight.
Next: Quakes (Home)
Last week I wondered if perhaps we might see "another 1-1 draw?" Looks like that was prescient. There comes a point when the dismissal of ancient defenders and late 1-1 draws go from simple penchant to ridiculously routine. I mean, 11 matches and 9 draws? That said, the Gals were absolutely peppering the KC goal before Berhalter walked (again) for a DOGSO (Look, Ma, Whistlemen lingo!). You have to look at five consecutive draws netting five points and wonder if two wins, three losses, and six points would have been better.
Next: Toronto FC (Away)
13. +2 San Jose Earthquakes (LLLLW)
The Quakes had some chances away to the Crew in midweek, but at the end of the day, their finishing just wasn't good enough and the losing streak stretched to five. I asked last week, "Is Cornell Glen the answer?" Apparently he is. He headed the Quakes ahead at home to RSL, and Alvarez' likely Goal of the Week blast confirmed their first win in a dog's age. With draws keeping the middle of the pack from advancing too far from the stragglers, another win will see Yallop's boys right back in the mix. Cue the relegation six pointer with Dallas. Oh...right...MLS. Hmmm. Would-be relegation six pointer then.
Next: FC Dallas (Away)
14. -3 Real Salt Lake (DLLDL)
Ouch. Spanked by the bottom dogs, RSL just can't figure things out. These were the types of games, against the struggling weaklings of the West, that I thought would see them comfortably into the playoffs. Kreis needs a change desperately. So will he look to play the market, or do the tactics need to change? Will some home cooking help matters next weekend?
Next: Rapids (Home)
15. -3 New York Red Bulls (LWDLL)
Anybody taking bets on how long Osorio remains in a job? The Rapids aren't exactly top-tier opposition, but their direct style is the sort that can take advantage of the surface in the Swamp. I do wonder if the Bulls' new park might suit some of their midfield more than the current mess, though I think the bigger question surrounds whether Osorio and his cadre of foreign signings will be around to test that theory. Think they deserve to be kicked while they're down? How about two road games in a week against conference rivals?
Next: DC United (Away), Revolution (Away)