Apologies for the slight delay on the Dogpile this week--family matters intervened. But never fear, your friendly neighborhood Fullback has his nose to the grindstone and will be giving it his all to produce the Dogpile and Table Talk columns in the gaps and margins of my working time today (assuming I can get out from beneath this pile of backlogged RSS feeds!). So, without further ado and excuse-making...To the Dogpile!
The Alpha Dog
1. Houston Dynamo (WDWWW)
No Ching. No Clark. No problem. With the focus of their attack and the heart of their midfield missing, the Dynamo keep rolling on the road against the East-leading Fire. Sure, the Fire were missing a few key components as well, but the victory was still impressive for a Houston side that seems to be sweeping all of MLS before them. The question that might be raised is: is this run coming too soon? Next week is a tester, with a top-of-the-West clash at home to Chivas followed by a renewal of the Lone Star Derby away to Dallas.
Next: Chivas (Home), FC Dallas (Away)
The Playoff Pack
Back in the win column after a bit of a barren spell, but I'm not going to put them atop the Pile unless they beat Houston next week. Being outshot by expansion opposition in your home park is no way to boost your Alpha Dog cred. Two wins on a road-trip week that takes them to their closest challengers (Houston) and the defending champs (Columbus), might do the trick though.
Next: Houston (Away), Columbus (Away)
3. Chicago Fire (WWWLL)
It took them a while to lose, but it looks like they're getting the hang of it now. That said, Houston are a tough side, and the Fire were in a bit of a bind when it came to defensive selection. Still, this was a test of what many (myself included) thought would make the difference in the Fire's favor this year--team depth. Now they face a top-of-the-East clash away to DC United.
Next: DC United (Away)
4. Colorado Rapids (WDDWD)
The field was tilted, and they were without leading goal-scorer Conor Casey, but the Rapids managed to keep their unbeaten streak alive on the road. They don't hold much of a points advantage over the big scrum surrounding the final playoff spots, but they are looking a fair value to make the post season. With Casey away at the Confederations Cup, can they keep their current run going? Fortunately, they get a week off while their star is away in South Africa.
5. +1 Columbus Crew (WDWDW)
The Wiz had their chances, but just couldn't find a route to goal, allowing the Crew to extend their unbeaten streak and push into the playoff positions. Is this just the start of a long run that propels the Crew to where many thought they would be this season, or is this just a false dawn for the defending champs? A visit from league-leading Chivas next weekend should clear things up somewhat.
Next: Chivas (Home)
6. +1 DC United (DDDLW)
Back in the saddle despite leaving the insurance goal until very late. United's play wasn't quite as slick as we have seen from them, but the weather may have been to blame. Next week brings a key encounter, with a chance to retake the Eastern Conference throne from visiting Chicago. Will United miss Emilio most when it comes to a crunch match?
Next: Chicago (Home)
7. +3 New England Revolution (DDLWW)
The Revs prove that last week's second half performance against United was no fluke, thumping the Red Bulls 4-0. Twellers is back and scoring goals. Hell, Jay Heaps, the Hackmaster General, even found net and grabbed an assist to boot! Has Nicol righted his troubled ship? We'll find out more in KC next weekend.
Next: KC Wizards (Away)
8. -3 Seattle Sounders (DDDDL)
It's been a while since the upstart Sounders have won a game. Is Expansion Fever starting to set in? Is the lack of depth finally starting to show itself? Despite the loss to Chivas, the Sounders never looked overmatched on the road, and that should give them confidence going forward, particularly with the lowly Quakes paying a visit next weekend.
Next: Quakes (Home)
Bum-Sniffing Omega Mutts
9. +3 Los Angeles Galaxy (DDDDW)
Well, how about that? The Donovan-less Gals finally snap the draw streak with an away win, in Toronto of all places, and vault right up into the fight for the playoff spots. Could Becks be returning to a side that has a chance of qualifying for the post-season this year? Do the Galaxy want the Becks circus back in town just when they seem to be coming around? Maybe not having Donovan or Becks around to turn to in a crisis made the lesser lights shine brighter? Home to desperate RSL should prove an interesting test of that theory.
Next: RSL (Home)
10. -2 Kansas City Wizards (LWDDL)
KC continue to struggle along, dipping in and out around the fringes of the playoffs. This week saw a home loss to the Crew despite the Wiz creating plenty of chances. Will they be able to find some finishing firepower when the resurgent Revs visit next weekend?
Next: Revolution (Home)
Ouch. Virtually bounced from Champions' League qualification and beaten by the LA Drawlaxy...at home? Not a good week for our friends from up north. Despite the loss, TFC had much the better of the play, though their goal came courtesy of a linesman's error. I continue to be baffled as to how Chad Barrett maintains a starting spot on this team. Fortunately, recovery is in sight as the struggling Red Bulls pay a visit.
Next: Red Bulls (Home)
12. -1 FC Dallas (LDDWD)
You just knew that the 3-0 away to the Fire was too good to be true, right? Back in the echoing emptiness of Pizza Hut Park, they managed a draw with the Quakes in a bottom of the table clash that sees neither gaining ground on the playoff dogfight. The tools for a useful team seem to be there, with a couple of youngsters starting to make their marks, but where will they find a defense? They're going to need it next weekend against the Dynamo.
Next: Dynamo (Home)
13. San Jose Earthquakes (LLLWD)
The would-be relegation six-pointer ends knotted at two, with Alvarez continuing to display some moments of true quality. With Huckerby returning, Yallop may just be a couple of solid defensive displays away from making things interesting. Of course, given their defensive record this year, adequate displays might be more realistic to hope for. The road trip continues next week in Seattle.
Next: Sounders (Away)
14. Real Salt Lake (LLDLD)
So, so close in the Rocky Mountain Derby, only have a precious three points snatched away by a moment of class from Omar Cummings in the closing stages. Word is that Kreis may be close to getting the boot, so can the players rally at the HDC against the Donovan-less Gals to save him?
Next: LA Galaxy (Away)
15. New York Red Bulls (DLLLL)
Why aren't there more rumblings about Osorio getting the ax? 2-0 and 4-0 to conference rivals leaves the Bulls tied with the Quakes on the bottom of the table and boasting a -10 goal difference to boot. Pretty much the entirety of their attack against the Revs seemed to come from rookie Nick Zimmerman. Worrying stuff for the Bulls as their road trip continues in Toronto.
Next: Toronto (Away)