There's some shuffling going on at the top of the pack, as the descent of the Fire and Chivas makes way for some new dogs to get a sniff at the front of the Playoff Pack. And down around the fringes, there's a mighty scramble going on as sides yo-yo in and out of Omega Mutt status. So where does form, league standing, and a certain je ne sais quoi put your club this week? To the Dogpile, my friends!
The Alpha Dog
1. Houston Dynamo (WWWWW)
I put them atop the Dogpile a while back, and they've not looked like surrendering the position at any time since. Five wins in a row, including two this week, one against a Chivas side they've slowly reeled in at the top of the West and top of the league. And they've done it without Ching and Clark. Kinnear just seems to take cast-offs and plug them into holes in his lineup with quality depth resulting, Weaver being but the latest addition.
Next: RSL (Home)
The Playoff Pack
2. +3 Columbus Crew (DWDWW)
The recovery is almost complete for the defending champs. After stumbling out of the blocks, they've now hit something resembling a stride and are climbing towards the top of the Eastern Conference. The worry will be that their offense seems completely dependent upon Schelotto, leaving them just one injury away from a crisis. Nevertheless, a victory over the former league-leaders boosts them further up the Pile and makes them probably the league's second hottest team behind the Dynamo.
Next: FC Dallas (Away)
No Emilio, no problem. Despite receiving a generous assist from the Whistlemen on the early PK, United had enough chances to justify the victory that put them top of the Eastern Conference. After a recent wobble, United seem to be pulling things together with a surprisingly deep roster. They'll need that depth with two matches and a cross-country road jaunt in four days this week. The Parity Police rest for no one.
Next: Sounders (Away), Rapids (Away)
4. -2 Chivas USA (DLWLL)
3 shots, one on goal against your big rivals for the Western crown? Two losses in a week for the Goats as the Parity Police exact their rough vengeance for being ignored for so long. Too pile on the misery, Chivas will have a week to sit idle and watch the rest of the pack close on them. Still, their tremendous early season form gives them a bit of a cushion over everyone save Houston, and that guarantees that just one win from the last five matches keeps them in the Playoff Pack.
5. -2 Chicago Fire (WWLLL)
Three losses running after starting the season unbeaten for a long stretch has the Fire plummeting back to earth after it seemed their promise would be fulfilled. Is this just the machinations of the Parity Police, or is there something else at work here? The Fire would seem to have the makings of a potential champion, but their defense, so solid last year, is suffering this time around, and the weapons they've assembled in attack aren't firing with the consistency you would expect. Now, like Chivas, they take a week off to take stock and hope their lead remains.
6. -2 Colorado Rapids (WDDWD)
With the week off, the Rapids saw their league standing slip from the playoff places and pay for their inactivity by having sides below them perform well against top opposition. But they also have 2-3 games in hand on those directly above them and are riding an unbeaten streak, so a rapid (no pun intended) Pile recovery may be in order.
Next: DC United (Home)
7. +1 Seattle Sounders (DDDLW)
It's been a while, but the big names shined to put another tick in the win column. While many of us doubted the DP signing (and the continued health) of Ljungberg, he's been doing the business for the expansion club that could. Now, if only they could do something about those colors. What was the point of Keller's day-glo orange keeper outfit, to distract us from the nauseating green the rest of the team was wearing? One of the big tests for expansion clubs is depth, particularly the sort required to play two matches in four days on opposite ends of the continent.
Next: DC United (Home), Red Bulls (Away)
8. +2 Kansas City Wizards (WDDLW)
I called for finishing firepower last week, and they provided against the Revs, bouncing up into the Playoff Pack once again. Will the Wiz ever find the consistency to make them more than just a fringe playoff side? And what's with all of the byes next week?
Bum-Sniffing Omega Mutts
9. +2 Toronto FC (LWLLW)
I said last week that recovery was in sight with the Bulls coming to town, and so it proved, despite TFC having some worrying moments. You have to wonder how many more points this team would have if they had used Vitti in place of Barrett sooner. The former looked (and has looked in most of the minutes I've seen) quite dangerous, and has the added benefit of actually putting shots on target.
10. -3 New England Revolution (DLWWL)
I asked last week if Nicol had righted the troubled ship, but it looks like "no Twellers = no go" for the Revs. So how much was shipping three goals dependent upon having a man sent off, and how much is down to the Revs' inability to generate danger on the other end without Twellman? Ferchristsakes, it looked like two of their big chances in the first half fell to Jay Heaps! On the back of a goal + assist performance last week, is Heaps turning into the Revs' danger man? If so, it's going to be a long, long season for them.
11. +3 Real Salt Lake (LDLDW)
Finally, some light appears at the end of the dark tunnel that the much-hyped RSL have been traveling down to start this season. Kreis gets a stay of execution as the "real" Salt Lake show up to punish the Galaxy. Can they build on this win or will the form yo-yo return to haunt them? What's next? A visit to the Dynamo? Ruh-roh!
Next: Dynamo (Away)
12. -3 Los Angeles Galaxy (DDDWL)
The Gals come crashing back to reality at home after last week's shocking road win. Perhaps they needed to redress the balance of having more wins than losses? Perhaps they're years past their sell-by date? Perhaps they're just not that good? Will a visit to the Quakes bring any relief?
Next: Quakes (Away)
13. -1 FC Dallas (DDWDL)
Four games unbeaten comes to a shuddering halt against the steamroller that is the Dynamo. Just how long can Hyndman's tenure continue? If he's to save his job, he'll need to find something resembling a defense rather quickly. And don't look now, but the second hottest team in the league is just around the corner.
Next: Crew (Home)
14. -1 San Jose Earthquakes (LLWDL)
Tough one for the Quakes, who weren't entirely overmatched, but you've got to wonder about the relative fortunes of a second-year expansion club (the Quakes) versus that of the newest arrival (the Sounders). The Quakes seem to have an array of useful attacking tools, particularly on the flanks, they just don't have enough of a back line to keep the goals out. Maybe a visit from the starless Galaxy will cure what ails them?
Next: LA Galaxy (Home)
15. New York Red Bulls (LLLLL)
Five loses running, and, if not for the heroics of Cepero in the Bulls' net, this one could have been terribly ugly. The Osorio death watch continues. Think they'll be able to exact any revenge for the opening day loss to he Sounders?
Next: Sounders (Home)