Oops. Who’s got two thums and is a slacker and didn’t do rankings last week? This guy! Anyway, I’m back and the playoff picture is only marginally clearer, given that there are only two games remaining for most teams. Who’s in? Columbus, Chicago, New England, Houston, and Chivas. Who’s out? Are those crickets I hear? Right — no one is out yet. However, that should finally change this weekend.
Only 4 (or 5 if you’re an Earthquake or a Dynamo) games remaining, and the major shake-up in the playoff race is that for the first time in recorded history, if play ended today, both conferences would have four teams in the playoffs! How is this possible? Well, probably obviously, this is the result of Western Conference teams (Chivas USA, Colorado, Real Salt Lake a little) stepping up and Eastern Conference teams (DC United and Kansas City mainly) falling off. Columbus remains the only team to have clinched a playoff spot, and they can clinch the Supporter’s Shield this weekend, believe it or not. It’s an exciting time to root for a yellow soccer team.
Two examples of lameness:
1) Me. I haven’t posted in a while. Mojo is lacking, which is odd because the Crew are kicking butt. My lack of mojo, however, has nothing to do with a lack of excitement about the Crew. They are doing great and are awfully fun to watch right now. Let’s hope they don’t let off the throttle too much before the end of the season.
2) This column by Ridge Mahoney. I’ve tried to puzzle out exactly what he’s saying, and it seems to boil down to this: Who flippin’ cares who Bob Bradley calls in for the next World Cup qualifiers? It doesn’t matter. People complaining about Eddie Johnson being called in don’t get it. People complaining about Adu and Altidore not getting called in don’t get it. It just doesn’t matter. The experience of playing for the national team just isn’t worthwhile. Wins in WC qualifying don’t matter. Nothing means anything. Someone get Mahoneyhis Prozac! Also, someone have a talk with his editor. The title of the column is, “Weighing Bradley’s choices for World Cup qualifiers.” Well, Mahoney weighs zero against zero and decides, have you noticed a theme, that it doesn’t matter! Oh, and you fans don’t know anything anyway, so you’re just wasting your time talking about it. Seriously, I’m worried for Mahoney’s mental health.
Another nearly-full slate of games sees the playoff mix get even more mixed up. Only the Crew appears clear from the playoff drama (there’s some dispute about that, but regardless, the chances of the Crew not making the playoffs are negligable). Even teams that appeared out just a couple of weeks ago (LA, KC, and Dallas, I’m looking at you) have new life, and really only Toronto looks to be dead in the water.
Another week, another seven dollars, and not much more clarity in either of the playoff races. The East showed its dominance once again over the West (going 3-1-1) for the week. The two Eastern Conference teams currently out of the playoffs (KC and Toronto) got points, while Chicago continued its problems by dropping three on the road. Otherwise, none of the top teams in the East showed major chinks in their armor (though Columbus did make it clear that they might have problems without Schelotto in the lineup). In the West, LA regained sole possession of last place, but is still only four points out of a playoff spot. Houston stayed on track to win the conference. San Jose kept not-losing. And most importantly, my predictions were pretty much wrong. Well, on to the rankings.
See, I was serious — I’m going to post more. We have another full slate of MLS matches this week. I love this time of year. The games all feel like they matter. Okay, except for the one between Kansas City and LA. That one doesn’t, but oddly, that one probably will be one of the more fun to watch.
Thursday, September 11
New England (2.54) v. Chivas USA (2.77)
This one almost looks like a Chivas win, if my math is correct. However, New England will get enough of a boost from the expected return of Steve Ralston to manage a point and get their playoff train back on the tracks. Revs 1 – 1 Goats
Saturday, September 13
Toronto (2.17) v. Columbus (4.25)
Toronto’s home invincibility has been shattered over the last few weeks, and Columbus looks to pile on. The game will be tight, but a late Columbus goal will put them over the top. Toronto 1 – 2 Crew
Kansas City (2.30) v. Los Angeles (1.61)
Kansas City can’t score, but plays good defense. LA plays bad defense, but scores. Will this be a cagey, low-scoring battle, or a wide-open, high-scoring affair? I predict the latter. Wizards 4 – 3 Galaxy
DC United (3.23) v. FC Dallas (1.41)
Even a reeling DC is scary at home, and Dallas seems to have lost it’s teeth. DC should keep its playoff cushion with three points here. Eagles 2 – 0 Hoops
New York (3.78) v. Real Salt Lake (1.80)
Another case of East domination over the West should be in full effect when the Red Bulls welcome road-terrible RSL. Red Bulls 3 – 1 RSL
San Jose (4.24) v. Houston (3.40)
Maybe the match of the week. Red-hot ‘Quakes v. West-leading Dynamo. The first of two, as the ‘Quakes head southeast next week. Very exciting. If San Jose can put a couple past the Dynamo, they should get the win. Earthquakes 2 – 1 Dynamo
Sunday, September 14
Colorado (3.08) v. Chivas USA (2.77)
Can Chivas get three valuable points on the road? Heck, can they get one valuable point on the road? This one is right on the cusp, and I think that Chivas will be able to pull out a point. (I know, this seems to break the quarter-point divide between wins and ties, but I think there should be some leeway between a quarter-point and a half-point.)
EDIT: What on earth was I talking about re: this last game?
Another week with a full slate of games finds all teams a mere seven matches from the end of the regular season. As it stands now, no one has officially clinched a playoff spot, but as Columbus sits eleven points clear of the two teams occupying the last playoff spots in the East (DC and the NYRB), it would take a catastrophic collapse for them not to make it. And really (knock on wood), with Guillermo Barros Schelotto creating assists like a magician pulling rabbits from a hat, it’s hard to imagine that happening. In the West, Houston is not in quite as good of shape, but they still are eight points up on third place Chivas, and look nearly a lock for the playoffs, too, especially given their recent form. Thus, it’s no surprise that these two teams head the Power Rankings. The other big story is out in California, where the ‘Quakes continue to make a late playoff push. They’re still a couple of points back from Chivas, but with six of their last seven against the West and four at home, they’re fate is probably in their hands. They face a tough two-game stretch against Houston coming up, but if they can find four (or even two) points from that, they’ll be in good shape.
Anyway, on to the rankings!
No, I’m not talking about the U.S. attackers in World Cup qualifying; I’m talking about myself and the lack of posting recently. There have been games that I watched and meant to write match reports for — Columbus’s impressive win over the Revs and the U.S.’s less than impressive win over Cuba — and weekly predictions that I’d meant to make. Nonetheless, motivation has been flagging recently as worked has picked up. Of course, that’s no excuse, but all I can do is promise to do better in the future. I’ll do my best.
Phew. Long weekend and busy beginning to the work-week have led me to be tardy with my power rankings. But before that, I would like to trumpet the relative success of my predictions from the past week. I ended the week a solid 4-3 in my predictions and none of the ones I got wrong were complete turnarounds (i.e., where i predicted a win by one team and the other won). Rather, they were simply wrongly-predicted ties or wins that turned out to be ties. Not that that really matters, I guess, but I’ll take what I can get.
Anyway, weekly thoughts — what’s up with the Revs — tying at home against the Galaxy and then flaming out of the Champions League don’t look good. That being said, not having to play Champions League games probably isn’t the worst thing in the world for any team trying to make a playoff push. Blanco to McBride — GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL — and a loss. San Jose keeps rising, and they’re now only 2 points out of the last playoff spot. And Columbus is in sole possession of first. Yea! On to the rankings: