Once again, MLS plodded on with the Gold Cup sucking away players (and, quite probably, dozens of fans as well). And the Alpha Dogs really could have used the likes of Ching and Holden (and, quite probably, some video replay equipment) as they got upended in Seattle. Still, Houston hold a three point lead in the standings, and while both sides may have been shorthanded, I want to see a full-strength Seattle beat a full-strength Dynamo before I give them the nod atop the Pile. So, how exactly do things stand? Well, it's sort of a "change sandwich," with all the movement happening in the middle...
The Alpha Dog
1. Houston Dynamo (WDLWL)
Tough luck in the battle of the gelded Western Conference contenders, as a lineman's flag makes the difference in a tight match. Only two wins in the last five matches would seem to call for a drop from the top for the Dynamo, but I'm really not sure anybody has the chops to claim their crown yet. Now, if they lose in Toronto next weekend..?
Next: Toronto FC (Away)
The Playoff Pack
2. Seattle Sounders (WDDWW)
Five unbeaten and a win over the current league-leaders. Looks like the fat man has sailed his nauseating green vessel past the troubled early-summer waters. So much for Expansion Fever! Barring a spectacular collapse or rash of injuries, Seattle are in with a chance for three pieces of silverware in their first MLS season--the Open Cup, MLS Cup, and Supporters' Shield. Now they take a break to square off with the Premiership bore-mongers of Chelsea.
3. DC United (WWDLD)
So how exactly do I justify keeping DC United this high on the Dogpile? Simple. Nobody who could have dislodged them did anything remotely interesting from a results perspective, and they were idle. Is this position perhaps somewhat flattering? Sure, but the East is a mess, and nobody seems to want to plant their spear and grab the prize. So we're left with head-scratching, unconvincing claims for the high ground, and more questions than answers. Would a revenge win against the Rapids next weekend make the #3 more believable? Absolutely.
Next: Colorado (Home)
4. Columbus Crew (WLWDD)
The Crew looked better and more dangerous than they did last week at home, but in the end the result remained the same as the Crew spurned the chance to grab a slender lead in the rough-and-tumble East. Can they find a three-point haul at home to RSL next week?
Next: RSL (Home)
5. Chicago Fire (LLLWD)
Chicago edge towards the front of the East, but nobody seems to want to make a grab for the crown and the Fire only take one point from the three on offer. Will they fare better against the dregs of the West..?
Next: Quakes (Home)
6. Colorado Rapids (WDLLW)
I suggested that a home date with the Coop-less SuperHoops was just what the doctor ordered for a Rapids side that's gone off the boil of late...and so it proved, though it took a good while for the result to be ensured. So the Rapids are back in the saddle, but the als0-rans of the West have caught up. Can they repeat the 3-0 victory over DC United of a month ago?
Next: DC United (Away)
7. +2 Toronto FC (LWWLW)
With the Revs and KC struggling, I said last week that now was the time for TFC to make a firm grab for one of those top four spots in the East. And, duly, they delivered with a 3-1 road win over the admittedly struggling Quakes. The win pushes TFC into a tie for first in the East with Chicago, but this dogfight is a long way from over. Next week brings a tougher test at home to Houston.
Next: Houston (Home)
It's still a mystery to me how others keep rating Chivas so highly. Yes, they had an explosive start to the season, winning tight matches when others settled for draws. Yes, they might have more about them than I thought they would in pre-season. But I've never been convinced that this is a really good team, and they proved it once again this weekend in a snorefest with the Gals. So can they beat up on the wounded Revs next week? They'd better if they expect to stay in the race for the West.
Next: Revolution (Away)
Bum-Sniffing Omega Mutts
9. +2 Los Angeles Galaxy (LLWWW)
A boring performance, but the right result as Arena's charges continue a charge that can only end in a spectacularly comedic collision with the brick wall that is the return of Becks. Who knows, maybe Arena will prove those man-management chops that are his claim to fame. Do I think he will? Unlikely, but strange things do happen in La-La Land.
Next: Red Bulls (Away)
10. -2 Real Salt Lake (DWDWD)
Tough luck for RSL as their inactivity gets them punished pretty harshly. Sure, their recent form should put them amongst the Playoff Pack, but the fact that they're four points off a playoff spot really puts that run into perspective. Can they prove they deserve to be higher away to the Crew?
Next: Crew (Away)
11. -1 Kansas City Wizards (DLWLD)
Tough luck for the Wiz, who probably did enough to bag a road victory against one of their rivals in the middle of the Eastern Conference knife-fight. It always seems to come back to finishing for the Wiz. And the double whammy comes in the form of a bye week where the Wiz get to watch the rest of the East attempt to pad their playoff nests.
12. FC Dallas (LWDWL)
Ah, there's the Dallas we know and love. And they were so close to actually sniffing around the fringes of the playoff fight. If Dallas can take anything from this match, it's that they only gave up one goal and held out until late in the match, something we wouldn't have been able to claim they could do (with a straight face anyway) early in the season. Too bad they have to endure an extra week of pain as they get a "friendly week" bye with assorted MLS clubs going for the money-grab next weekend.
13. New England Revolution (WWLLD)
I suppose you could lead with, "hell, at least they didn't lose," right? I didn't see much in the stats or highlights to indicate that the Revs deserved anything from this match--being outshot by a fairly sizable margin, and at home to boot, doesn't read as particularly encouraging. The Revs have their precious games in hand with which to differentiate themselves from the playoff fringe-fighters (like the Wiz), but this looks like a spent force to me. Let's see if that statement comes back to bite me a few months, shall we? I suspect it won't.
Next: Chivas (Home)
14. San Jose Earthquakes (DLWDL)
Ouch. Let's all wince along with Pitchkolan, shall we? The Quakes mini-climb off the bottom comes to a shuddering halt. Look for Yallop to continue making roster changes as he searches for another miracle second half of the season run. Will it be too late? Probably. And Chicago's a tough place to try and start such a run.
Next: Chicago (Away)
15. New York Red Bulls (LDLLL)
Well, at least they didn't lose this week. I suppose that's the best you can say for the Bulls. Of course, they didn't play either, but we'll ignore that for a moment. So the question for Thursday night is: which is worse? The morale hit that the return of Becks will bring to the Galaxy or the New York Red Bulls? Tough call.
Next: LA Galaxy (Home)