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1: San Jose Earthquakes
Don’t be fooled by the final result. Only Sean Johnson stood between the Quakes and another win. They truly believe in San Jose as proven by another stoppage-time goal and the trade for Mehdi Ballouchy, who will help the Supporters’ Shield leaders more than you can imagine.
Last Week: Tied Chicago Fire, 1-1
Last Five: T-W-W-L-T
This Week: Bye
2: Real Salt Lake
Key conference win against a tricky Vancouver side, which was only five points behind in the standings going in. Also key because of the start of CONCACAF Champions League play, which could take a toll on an aging side.
Last Week: Defeated Vancouver, 2-1
Last Five: T-W-L-W-W
This Week: Saturday at Colorado (9 pm, MLS Live)
3: Houston Dynamo
Can cap a surge to the top spot in the East with a home-and-home vs. first-place New York. It starts at BBVA on Friday night with the Red Bulls making the long trip following a Tuesday night match vs. Tottenham. RBNY also have this going against them: Since Boniek García joined Houston, the Dynamo are mowing opponents down, going 5-0-2, and winning their last four.
Last Week: Defeated Toronto FC, 2-0
Last Five: T-W-W-W-W
This Week: Friday vs. New York (8 pm, NBCSN)
4: New York Red Bulls
Failed to create some separation at the top of the East when they were knocked back down to size by the expansion Montreal Impact. More concerning is the resurfacing of the defensive frailties, which had momentarily disappeared for a good stretch.
Last Week: Lost in Montreal, 3-1
Last Five: L-T-W-W-L
This Week: Friday at Houston (8 pm, NBCSN)
5: Seattle Sounders
With an Eddie Johnson that’s proving to be MVP material, nothing is impossible for this Seattle team. The squad has found a rhythm and it remains to be seen how the incorporation of new DP Christian Tiffert and the start of the CONCACAF Champions League will impact their fortunes in the Supporters’ Shield race.
Last Week: Defeated Colorado, 2-1
Last Five: T-T-W-T-W
This Week: Sunday vs. LA Galaxy (9 pm, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)
6: Sporting Kansas
The same script has been playing out at Livestrong Sporting Park lately: The home team dominates but fails to score against a visiting team that helplessly packs it in. This time it was the Columbus Crew capitalizing on two SKC mistakes. Do Sporting need a finisher to make a serious run in 2012?
7: D.C. United
PSG schooled European champs Chelsea a little more than a week ago, but it was a different story against D.C. in the World Football Challenge. Saturday’s 1-1 draw will remind MLS teams of the skill, heart and soccer on D.C. when they decide to turn on the switch. Confidence should be helped after two league losses.
Last Week: Bye
Last Five: W-L-W-L-L
This Week: Saturday vs. Columbus (7:30 pm, MLS Live)
8: LA Galaxy
The champs keep racking up the Ws and they’re looking better and better with each one, even without big stars Landon Donovan and David Beckham. The truth is that it’s Robbie Keane who has quietly proven to be the difference-maker this year and probably should be the MVP candidate in LA ahead of his two DP companions.
Last Week: Defeated FC Dallas, 1-0
Last Five: W-W-T-W-W
This Week: Sunday at Seattle (9 pm, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)
9: Vancouver Whitecaps
Despite what the Whitecaps say, Jay DeMerit’s 90 minutes at the All-Star Game didn’t make him give up a PK vs. RSL on Friday. Fact is the ‘Caps remain an inconsistent side, missing the opportunities presented of late to string together the big results that would truly catapult them among the league’s best.
Last Week: Lost at Real Salt Lake, 2-1
Last Five: L-L-T-W-L
This Week: Bye
10: Chicago Fire
Hand it to Frank Klopas: The Fire battle, scrap and they’re in most every single match they play. Despite some significant changes in the squad, some of which had the potential to devastate the locker room, the team keeps fighting through and now has two DPs to carry them to the finish line.
Last Week: Tied at San Jose, 1-1
Last Five: T-L-W-L-T
This Week: Saturday vs. Toronto FC (8:30 pm, MLS Live)
11: Columbus Crew
A Player of the Week award in only his third match for the club is not a bad haul for Jairo Arrieta, who showed scoring instincts in KC that have been missing in Columbus this year. Like the Fire, the Crew are another team that can have realistic postseason aspirations if new DP Federico Higuaín can make a meaningful contribution.
Last Week: Defeated Sporting Kansas City, 2-1
Last Five: W-L-L-W-W
This Week: Saturday at D.C. United (7:30 pm, MLS Live)
12: Montreal Impact
The Impact finally got a game in which every mistake didn’t prove costly, referee decisions weren’t much of a factor and the ball found the back of the net. It was the formula for a win over the first-place Red Bulls and the fact that Alessandro Nesta and Nelson Rivas were paired at center back for the first time was likely not a coincidence.
Last Week: Defeated New York, 3-1
Last Five: W-L-W-L-W
This Week: Saturday vs. Philadelphia (7:30 pm, MLS Live)
13: Chivas USA
Just when you thought Chivas had dropped out of the playoff race after the derby loss against LA, the Goats are right back in the thick of it with a gritty road win in Portland. The three games in hand on the Galaxy keep the flicker of hope alive, but they eventually need either Juan Agudelo or José Erik Correa to hit their goalscoring stride in order to mount a serious run.
Last Week: Defeated Portland, 1-0
Last Five: T-T-W-L-W
This Week: Bye
14: Philadelphia Union
The Union win but drop a spot in the rankings? That will happen when everyone else in the Eastern playoff race also does well and your victory features a fair share of fortunate breaks. Philly can win over some doubters during three consecutive matches vs. East opponents starting in Montreal.
Last Week: Defeated New England, 2-1
Last Five: W-W-W-L-W
This Week: Saturday at Montreal (7:30 pm, MLS Live)
15: New England Revolution
The Revolution did enough to come out with all three points vs. Philadelphia, but while Jerry Bengtson is lighting up the Olympics, New England’s lack of clinical finishing once again proves costly. Then pile on the occasional defensive lapse to cancel out what was otherwise an excellent soccer display.
Last Week: Lost to Philadelphia, 2-1
Last Five: W-L-L-T-L
This Week: Saturday vs. Sporting Kansas City (7:30 pm, MLS Live)
16: FC Dallas
FC Dallas haven’t moved up two spots on merit. They can thank other teams losing. Frankly, it’s tough to move out of the bottom tier of teams without two of your top three players. FCD desperately need the energy and talents of Brek Shea and Blas Pérez if they’re going to be a threat. Not even David Ferreira can make up for their loss.
Last Week: Lost vs. LA Galaxy, 1-0
Last Five: T-W-L-W-L
This Week: Sunday at Portland (7 pm, NBCSN)
17: Toronto FC
The ranking may be a little harsh on Toronto after a loss against the hottest team in the league in Houston. Also, Danny Koevermans substitute Eric Hassli has yet to make his debut. But even with a solid core of young players waiting in the wings, it seems too much to ask of this squad to start racking up wins in both the CCL and MLS. They’ll eventually have to pick one competition.
Last Week: Lost to Houston, 2-0
Last Five: L-W-W-W-L
This Week: Saturday at Chicago (8:30 pm, MLS Live)
18: Colorado Rapids
We’re nearing Toronto FC futility levels in Colorado. It’s now six losses in a row for a demoralized team that confesses to being “embarrassed” by the stretch. Oddly enough, they don’t seem too far away from finding a solution. They’ve been in most every match but find a way to come up short at every turn.
Last Week: Lost to Seattle Sounders, 2-1
Last Five: L-L-L-L-L
This Week: Saturday vs. Real Salt Lake (9 pm, MLS Live)
19: Portland Timbers
A unanimous selection by the editorial staff for last place after their fifth straight loss. It goes from bad to worse with no end in sight for the Timbers, who suffered a sweep at the hands of Chivas USA. The worst part of the streak for Timbers fans? JELD-WEN is nowhere near being the intimidating place it once was.
Last Week: Lost vs. Chivas USA, 1-0
Last Five: L-L-L-L-L
This Week: Sunday vs. FC Dallas (7 pm, NBCSN)