So if there was any over-riding picture to take home from this weekends' action, it has to be that the East is a ferocious snarling mess, and the West will be thankful for it. Why? Consider that all those Eastern sides that were busy spanking their Western brethren will also be taking big, bloody chunks out of each others' hides as we close on the playoffs. That could have a double benefit for the West. First, a super-tight East opens the door for any middle tier side in the West to grab a fourth, or perhaps even fifth, playoff spot for the conference. This leads to the second benefit for the West in that their top tier teams don't have to face a dangerous "Eastern Import" in the first round of the playoffs. So lets have a gander at that Pile...
The Alpha Dog
1. Houston Dynamo (DLWLD)
The highlights seemed to skew in TFC's direction, but Houston continues to be a hard side to beat, even missing a handful of key players. One win in their last five seems to be for them to be toppled from the Alpha Dog pedestal, but who are you going to give the top spot too? Seattle? Let's see how things look next week after a home date with the Revs, shall we?
Next: Revolution (Home)
The Playoff Pack
2. Seattle Sounders (WDDWW)
Given their recent form and Houston's struggles, I'd be quite tempted to push Seattle to the top spot...if they had been in action this week and grabbed a win. The pause for the money grab may have padded the bank accounts, but it doesn't do much for the Sounders' Pile position.
Next: Fire (Home)
3. DC United (WDLDW)
The veterans show the much-heralded kids how it's done, and Gomez sticks the dagger in his former side and twists with a vengeance as United respond to their 3-0 loss against the Rapids just a few weeks ago. Three-point hauls, particularly at home, are going to be invaluable in the ever-so-tight East, and United's response to going down a goal showed their renewed confidence in the wake of Gallardo-gate.
Next: Quakes (Away)
4. Columbus Crew (LWDDW)
An impressive result for a severely undermanned Crew as they trounce RSL 3-1. That said, there were pretty frightening gaps at the back that RSL just couldn't seem to punish. Still, what's most important for the Crew is that they won without their talisman and did it in some style to hold serve in the Eastern Conference battle royale.
Next: Toronto FC (Home)
5. Chicago Fire (LLWDW)
Blanco makes it happen off the bench for a Fire side rocked by the news of a long layoff for the ever-present McBride. The win helps Chicago keep their noses just in front in the tightly contested East, but will they be able to cope with the loss of McBride and the likelihood of Blanco getting called back to the Mexican national team later this summer?
Next: Sounders (Away)
6. +1 Toronto FC (WWLWD)
Tough luck for TFC as they seemed to create enough chances to bag a home win against a tough opponent, but just couldn't seal the deal. Regardless, they've been more solid of late and seem to need just a little more defensive steel to have the makings of a playoff dark horse.
Next: Crew (Away)
7. +2 Los Angeles Galaxy (LWWWW)
Alright, I suppose four wins on the trot pretty much does away with the "Drawlaxy" moniker. How about the LA Volleymeisters? They sure put away three beauts, though Esky's had Goal of the Week written all over it. So the good ship Beckham has put into port at long last, and the Gals didn't miss a beat. Is all forgiven, or does the bad blood just need time to simmer before boiling over and horribly scaring all involved? Scenes from the Milan friendly seem to indicate the later might be a-cookin'.
Next: KC Wizards (Away)
8. -2 Colorado Rapids (DLLWL)
United raised the stakes in the Veteran Wars and Mastro, Gibbs, Casey, and friends couldn't find a proper response. Still, the reunited duo of Casey and Cummings did look threatening on the break (where Colorado seem to spend the entirety of their attack), which they'll need to be as the playoff run-in heats up. Lucky for them, an at-altitude home date with the most dysfunctional team in MLS promises a rapid (pun intended) recovery.
Next: Red Bulls (Home)
Bum-Sniffing Omega Mutts
9. -1 Chivas USA (WLLLL)
Perhaps now, at long last, the rest of the MLS punditry will be awakened to the fact that Chivas' early blitz of results wasn't indicative of the true quality of the product? Even at the height of their early-season dominance I kept sounding notes of disbelief and caution, and it seems I had some justification for doing so. Of course, we shouldn't ignore that Chivas had the field tilted in their favor in the early going, but that control slowly ebbed away, as is their high league will continue to do unless Preki can find a quick fix.
10. +1 Kansas City Wizards (DLWLD)
Not a good week for the Wiz, who had to sit idle while most of their competition for playoff spots in the East grabbed three points. Also, the images of a bloody and woozy Conrad, busy with the national team will have been a worry. Still, RSL's suffering is to their gain.
Next: LA Galaxy (Home)
11. +2 New England Revolution (WLLDW)
So am I now properly chastised and willing to retract my statement that the Revs are a spent force? Nope. The victory was a good one for the Revs at home, but highlighted that they really need Joseph on the field to make things happen. In the early going, they were fortunate not to go down to a Chivas side that consistently tested them. The fact that they pulled out the result in the end after increasing pressure speaks well of their chances to grab a post-season spot with all those games in hand, but the fight will be long and hard in the East, and their depth is suspect.
Next: Dynamo (Away)
12. -2 Real Salt Lake (WDWDL)
Just when you thought RSL had finally picked themselves off the mat, dusted themselves off, and waded back into the fray, they get pummeled on the road. Still, the chances were there to be taken for a side missing major midfield bite to Gold Cup duty. Sadly, they just didn't seem to be able to take said chances against a weakened Crew side.
Next: FC Dallas (Home)
13. -1 FC Dallas (LWDWL)
With the middle tier of the West generally suffering this week, Dallas can consider themselves either (1) fortunate to still be within striking distance of a playoff spot or (2) unlucky to be idle, and thus unable to take advantage of their rivals' slip-ups.
Next: RSL (Away)
14. San Jose Earthquakes (LWDLL)
They held out for a long while with a patched together defense, but in the end there was no answer when Blanco started asking questions. I suppose the only thing the Quakes have to be thankful for is the Red Bulls, who keep their miserable points tally and league position from looking quite so bad.
Next: DC United (Home)
15. New York Red Bulls (DLLLL)
Ooof! Still think keeping Osorio et al on board was the right plan of action? What more is there to say except this house is in decay, and it's just a matter of figuring out if there are any bricks worth saving when they blow the sorry thing to kingdom come.
Next: Rapids (Away)