Wow. Just wait till you see the state of the single table when MLS Table Talk goes live later this week. Suffice it to say, it's congested. But what else can you expect when many of the sides chasing playoff spots grabbed wins while most of those in the top half of the table drew or lost? Having suffered the roster vampirism of the Gold Cup and having been through our latest round of key long-term injuries, it's now time for the playoff fight to begin in earnest. New signings are aboard, adjustments are being made to compensate for lost starters, and the top nine sides in the league are within 6 points (2 wins) of each other. So let's take a scenic visit to the top of the Pile...
The Alpha Dog
1. +3 Columbus Crew (WDDWW)
Let's all welcome the new top dogs. Sure it took them till the last gasp, but they managed to win without the heart of their defense (Marshall) and missing huge chunks of their attack (Rogers, Schelotto, Moreno). You see, here's the difference between a team with a killer instinct and the rest of the chasing pack that all failed to move closer to Houston by virtue of their assorted draws.
Next: Rapids (Away)
The Playoff Pack
2. Seattle Sounders (DDWWD)
Still not losing matches, but the Sounders miss a golden chance to catch the floundering Dynamo before Ching and Holden get back in the saddle. The draw with Chicago was further marred by Ljungberg's red card. And what about those rumors of Montero heading for London? Worrying times for Sigi, but the picture is much rosier than other expansion sides have had of late.
Next: Quakes (Away)
3. -2 Houston Dynamo (LWLDL)
Well, there went the last straw, Houston. A 1-0 home loss to a non-playoff (at the moment) side gets you finally toppled from the top of the Pile despite most of last weeks' top challengers getting draws this week. Of course, Houston will now get Ching and Holden back from Gold Cup duty, but you have to wonder if they might return just in time to wave bye-bye to Rico Clark. Trouble's brewing in Orange-land. Fortunately, DC United is coming to town, and they've looked pretty lame on the road recently.
Next: DC United (Home)
4. +1 Chicago Fire (LLWDW)
A credible point on the road sees the Fire continuing to hang out near the top of the standings. But how long until they start missing McBride's presence? And will they be able to hold onto Soumare through the transfer window?
Next: RSL (Home)
5. -2 DC United (DLDWD)
Ouch. After going up 2-0, United only finish with a point against the worst team in the West. Sure, United were in control for half an hour, but that next hour saw them look decidedly second best. Not the best way to start a long road tour. Next stop? Houston.
Next: Dynamo (Away)
6. +1 Los Angeles Galaxy (WWWWD)
Back to reality with a tough road draw, though Donovan looks like a man possessed. Does anybody else get the feeling that he knows he's gone after this season and has made a commitment to stamp his mark all over the league before he goes? Another question. How did they manage to fit Becks' ego in that little ballpark? No matter, a little friendly with some side called Barcelona next week will give him a chance to preen.
7. +1 Colorado Rapids (LLWLW)
Nothin' like a little home cooking at altitude with the Red Bulls coming into town to boost the old goal difference, eh? Despite having fallen to fifth in the conference, the Rapids have grabbed ahold of the final playoff spot for the time being. Can they hold onto it with the cardiac Crew coming to town?
Next: Crew (Home)
8. -2 Toronto FC (WLWDL)
So, so close. TFC were well on track to beat Columbus on the road, but in the end, the defensive frailties that have haunted them all season got the better of them. Gerba marked his debut with a goal in a promising development for TFC, but all the offense in the world isn't going to help if they continue to ship goals at a rate that challenges the bottom three in the league.
Next: Revolution (Away)
Bum-Sniffing Omega Mutts
9. +2 New England Revolution (LLDWW)
The Revs thrust one decaying claw out of the grave with a big road win against the top team in the league. Could there be life in Nicol's battered beast yet? Next weekends' scrap with TFC could go a long way toward determining who the #4 side in the East will be, an all important distinction as it looks like the East will probably have four playoff sides at the most.
Next: TFC (Home)
10. -1 Chivas USA (WLLLL)
Poor Chivas. Idle this week. Idle the next. By the time they get back into league action, they'll probably have completed their precipitous fall from the top and be on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
11. +1 Real Salt Lake (DWDLW)
Talk about last gasp! Despite going into the break down 0-2, RSL claw their way back and add some insurance as well to grab a 4-2 victory that keeps them hovering right at the fringes of the playoff battle. Having gotten Johnson back from Gold Cup duty, an even more key midfield cog will be returning in the form of Beckerman next week. And RSL will need all the help they can get against the Fire.
Next: Fire (Away)
12. -2 Kansas City Wizards (LWLDD)
Claudio Lopez dials in a certain goal of the week with a half-field blast that Becks, famed for such a feat himself, might have appreciated from a few yards away. Still, the Wiz couldn't manage to grab all three points at home and are threatening to lose touch with the playoff contenders. A victory against Dallas next week is a necessity if they want to keep pace.
Next: FC Dallas (Away)
13. FC Dallas (WDWLL)
Can we upgrade the status on the Hyndman death watch yet? Dallas were just a half away from confirming that they might still have a shot at the post season. But 45 minutes and 4 goals later, they're left making vacation plans. 10 points out with 12 games to go? Do you believe in miracles? Well, maybe...but not in Dallas.
Next: KC Wizards (Home)
14. San Jose Earthquakes (WDLLD)
A spirited fight-back nets the Quakes a point. Sadly, that only takes them to 14 from 18 games and leaves them well shy of playoff qualification, 13 points adrift with 12 games to go. Who wants a roster spot next year? Better keep fighting.
Next: Sounders (Home)
15. New York Red Bulls (LLLLL)
Just when things just can't seem to get any worse for the Red Bulls, they do, to the tune of 4-0. An astonishing 15 losses in 21 games and a woeful -21 goal difference really begs the question: how does Osorio still have a job? Anybody think they qualify for the Champions' League proper over the next couple of weeks? They'd better, cause they have precious little else to play for this season.