Dallas and San Jose looked dead and buried a week ago, but courtesy of a couple of lopsided home shutouts, the also-rans of the West are looking to make late season bids for respectability and maybe even a shot at the post-season. And while the majority of the other games were the usual 1-1 and 1-0 MLS affairs, DC United and the Dynamo played out a seven-goal rollercoaster in the stifling heat of Houston. So how's the Pile faring this week..?
The Alpha Dog
1. Columbus Crew (DDWWW)
And the Crew roll on. Still missing Schelotto, they nevertheless manage to get it done on set pieces with Chad Marshall, of all people, popping up to nail a laser from deep. This is starting to look suspiciously like last year when the Crew weren't exactly dominating games, but were managing results nonetheless. The question becomes: are they peaking too early or is this just the start of the kind of push that saw them pull clear in the Supporters' Shield race last year?
Next: Quakes (Away)
The Playoff Pack
2. +1 Houston Dynamo (WLDLW)
So which Houston do we believe in? The one that piled in three goals in a first half flurry to seemingly put the game beyond doubt, or the defensive juggernaut that somehow managed to stumble and ship three second half goals at home to bring a sure-fire result into question? I thought we'd have more questions answered with Ching and Holden back in the fold, but they still linger. At least Clark seems to be staying for 2009, which clears up one potential pitfall. But now they face two games in four days...
Next: FC Dallas (Away), Fire (Home)
3. +1 Chicago Fire (LWDWW)
Tim Ward has been looking a completely different player this year, and not only because of the newly shaven noggin. Considering his absolute meltdown in the last U-20 World Cup, his play this year has been nothing short of shockingly good--confident and strong going forward, a trend highlighted by his pinpoint cross to Nyarko for the winner. Anybody else think he's a favorite for the January USMNT camp? Fullbacks are at a premium...
Next: Dynamo (Away)
4. +2 Los Angeles Galaxy (WWWWD)
A respectable outing against Barcelona that saw Becks demonstrate his dead ball prowess does little for their league standing, but should be a confidence builder. Could it be possible that Bruce Almighty might steer this thing between Scylla and Charybdis and pilot the Galaxy to the promised land of the post-season for the first time in the Beckham era? If he does so, would it be a more impressive accomplishment than 2002?
Next: Revs (Away)
5. -3 Seattle Sounders (DWWDL)
So much for the unbeaten run. 4-0? To the Quakes? Ouch. Guess that All-Star game took a lot out of the Sounders, who now find themselves slipping back towards the not-so-comfortable region where playoff spots are not guaranteed. Might a late-arriving case of Expansion Fever be in the offing? Rio Tinto next weekend after a mid-week (and bound to be emotional) date with Barcelona would seem to be a well rotted banana peel in Sigi's path.
Next: RSL (Away)
6. -1 DC United (LDWDL)
Hmmm. So the first leg of the MLS road trip saw DC score two first half goals in Colorado, only to be pegged back to a draw. This second leg saw them collapse in the first half to ship three, but recover to score three of their own against the strongest defensive side in the league. Anybody else think the Jekyll-Hyde stuff can be laid at the feet of the coaching staff? No answers next week as it's time for the mandatory MLS money-grab match against Real Madrid.
7. +1 Toronto FC (LWDLD)
Dominated the early going to such an extent that it didn't even look like they needed a defense against the Revs, just Frei racing out to sweep up the messes. But chances came after Barrett's sending off, and TFC missed a golden chance to solidify themselves as the prime candidate for #4 in the East. Question: just how many goals will Real Madrid's new constellation of galacticos manage to bag against that ever-so-fragile TFC defense on Friday?
8. -1 Colorado Rapids (LWLWL)
The chances were there, but the Rapids just weren't as lethal with them as the Crew were, leaving them looking nervously over their shoulder at RSL and (gasp!) maybe even Dallas. Colorado is a strange beast. They look like they have all the tools to be a solid playoff team, but, even if their play is consistently dangerous, they can't seem to find consistent results. And that's why they find themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff sides this week.
Next: Crew (Home)
Bum-Sniffing Omega Mutts
9. New England Revolution (LDWWD)
So much for the recovery of form that was going to see them use their games in hand to leapfrog their way into a playoff position. The Revs were impotent at home for most of the match and had to watch TFC attack in waves. Still, Nicol's men managed to grab the equalizer with a man advantage to keep their mini-unbeaten streak alive.
Next: LA Galaxy (Home)
10. Chivas USA (WLLLL)
Down, down, down they go as four losses on the trot and a couple of weeks of no league action puts once-mighty Chivas on the cusp of falling out of the playoff spots altogether. Can Preki right the rocking boat in Colorado?
Next: Rapids (Away)
11. Real Salt Lake (WDLWL)
Return of the roller-coaster--up and down they go. Beckerman's return is important, but not enough for RSL to grab a result on the road against Chicago. Still, they are looking a more potent team than the one that seemed to have fallen completely away from playoff contention. Do they have enough time to fight their way back into the mix and fulfill some of that pre-season promise?
Next: Sounders (Home)
12. +1 FC Dallas (DWLLW)
Too little, too late. So the Hoops don't miss Coop one iota as they paste KC 6-0, but it's a long road back into the playoff picture, and I'm just not seeing it. Still, there are a lot of interesting young prospects making their way into the team, so this stretch run should provide seasoning for the young core of a pretty decent team in 2010. It'll be interesting to see what they leave on the table for the expansion draft. I'm thinking they might look to clear some age and cap space.
Next: Dynamo (Home)
13. +1 San Jose Earthquakes (DLLDW)
Last week I pronounced the Quakes dead for this season and officially in "fighting for 201o roster spots" mode. Looks like a lot of current Quakes want to figure in Yallop's future plans, eh? The pasting of the high-flying Sounders may not prompt another fantastic run like the one that almost netted a playoff spot last year, but it was encouraging.
Next: Crew (Home)
14. -2 Kansas City Wizards (WLDDL)
What was it that I wrote last week about KC? "A victory against Dallas next week is a necessity if they want to keep pace." Yeah, about that...stick a fork in KC, they're well and truly done. It's going to take some major mojo for KC to pick themselves off the mat and get back into the playoff fray even if they're just six points out of a spot, but frankly, I don't see that they have the horses to do so. And this is a really tough result to have to brood on for an extra week.
15. New York Red Bulls (LLLLL)
Looks like the MLS scheduling homunculi are providing the Bulls every opportunity to take advantage of their one remaining prize to play for as they get another week off to focus on their Champions' League qualifier.