Last weekend saw Seattle re-enter the race for the western conference crown with a superb victory over current league-leaders Houston.
The Galaxy won the battle of Los Angeles as they continued their recent revival at the expense of Chivas while Colorado’s victory over Dallas kept them in touch with the rest of the west.
The east became even tighter as Toronto joined the logjam at the top with a big win at San Jose while both KC and the Revs remain on the periphery of the playoff race after a disappointing draw at Gillette Stadium.
At least New York fans finally got to enjoy a weekend in which their side avoided defeat. Not having to play a game might have had something to do with that.
Even the President gets a mention in this week’s rankings …
Fredy Montero may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but nobody can doubt that on his day he is a real match-winner. The slight Colombian managed to get up the nose of two of the top coaches in MLS, but I don’t see any Seattle fans complaining as their top scorer blasted them back into the race for top spot in the west. My only question is how does Freddie Ljungberg make the starting 11 in the all star game and Montero doesn’t? Shame on you voters …
Houston fell to their second defeat in three games against Western Conference rivals Seattle, although it should be pointed out that the Dynamo were playing without five regular starters. Dominic Kinnear refused to use that as an excuse, but he did have some choice words for the assistant referee who allowed Fredy Montero’s disputed goal to count. According to Kinnear, it was the same official that blew a call in a Houston game against RSL two years ago, proving that all coaches never forget a bad call against them. Funny how none of them ever see the bad calls that go for them …
Key Man: Corey Ashe has so much potential but he really has flattered to deceive so far this season.
Forget about the draw with Chicago on Saturday, because the highlight of the last seven days for the Crew has to have been their visit to the White House. Even Sigi Schmid returned to his former team as Columbus staff presented Barack Obama with a jersey, although my guess is that salary cap restrictions will scupper any chances the Crew have of signing the President to a long-term deal. I wouldn’t bet against this Crew team making a return visit to the White House again next year.
Key Man: Columbus are a better side when Frankie Hejduk is in the team and his experience will be key as the Crew battle to retain their eastern crown.
When you are in a close race for the conference crown it is important to win your home games against your biggest rivals. So the draw with the Crew last week has to be considered two points dropped for Chicago. The Fire didn’t really do enough to pick up the win, but the one pleasing aspect for Denis Hamlett will have been the strong defensive play of his back four. If they can continue to play at this level, then Chicago will be a very tough team to beat down the stretch.
Key Man: Bakary Soumare is starting to return to the form that made him one of the best defenders in the league last season.
The Galaxy continued their fine recent form with an impressive victory over city rivals Chivas USA and now find themselves right back in the playoff hunt. The Galaxy not only picked up the win but they thoroughly outplayed the Goats, showing a hunger and a desire that has been lacking in this organization for far too long. The key now is to make sure that the return of David Beckham doesn’t cause a distraction for a team that is heading in the right direction. I wonder if Becks will pay for dinner when the team goes out in New York this week?
Key Man: AJ De La Garza was very impressive against Chivas USA and is turning into a very consistent performer for the Galaxy.
Chivas USA continued their recent woeful form with a loss against Western Conference rivals L.A. in the SuperClasico last Saturday. Chivas struggled to create anything going forward with Sacha Kljestan continuing his horrid run of form. I know he had his head turned with rumors of a move to Europe, but if he continues to play like he is now, then he will struggle to keep his place in the Goat’s starting lineup, and that would end any hopes of a move to Europe.
Key Man: Paulo Nagamura started off the season playing some very good football but has struggled since, and that is one of the main reasons why Chivas have played poorly over the last few weeks.
The Rapids kept in touch with the playoff positions in the west with a hard-fought victory over Dallas last weekend. The performance wasn’t exactly filled with exciting football, but as Gary Smith pointed out, “At this stage of the season points are the most important thing.” Conor Casey has looked a little bit jaded since his return from international duty, but if Colorado is to mount a playoff push, then they will need their leading marksman to return to his early season form.
Key Man: Terry Cooke has been in and out of the Rapids side this year but I do believe that Colorado are a much more balanced side when he is in the team.
D.C. will return from their bye week to an even bigger logjam at the top of the Eastern Conference. Toronto’s victory at San Jose means that there are now four teams separated by just one point at the top of the conference, so there will be little room for error as United returns to MLS action. United has so much quality in their squad, but the likes of Christian Gomez and Luciano Emilio still need to raise their level of play or this team risks missing out on a playoff spot.
Key Man: Ben Olsen has the ability to raise his teammates’ level of performance when he is in the side. That is why it is important he remains fit for the rest of the season.
Toronto catapulted themselves back into the race for the eastern crown with an emphatic victory in San Jose last weekend. Dwayne DeRosario was the architect of the victory with a super display, but it is a real shame that the Canadian international’s injury will force him to miss the All-Star game, because he is one of the biggest stars this league has to offer. It was also nice to see Chad Barrett answer my criticism of him by scoring two goals and producing one of his best displays in a Toronto shirt. Now for some consistency please, Chad …
Key Man: Marvell Wynne has improved immensely as a player in his time at Toronto and will be a key player for Toronto in their playoff push.
Real Salt Lake probably didn’t enjoy their week off as both Colorado and L.A. picked up victories to open up a four-point gap over RSL, who now sits just two spots off the basement in the west. It is hard to see Real getting anything from their game in Columbus this week, although they did trounce the defending champs at Rio Tinto earlier in the season. The only problem is that RSL’s away form is way too erratic to suggest they can bully their way back into playoff contention.
Key Man: Javier Morales was sensational last season but his game has been rather scattered over the first half of this year. He needs to return to top form if RSL is to return to the postseason.
While Dallas has improved over the last few weeks of MLS action, they really needed to beat Colorado last weekend to keep their season alive. That was always going to be a difficult task without Kenny Cooper, and the defeat to the Rapids surely means that Schellas Hyndman and his squad have nothing else to play for this year. The one positive for Hyndman has been the constant improvement in his side, although they are still streets behind the best teams in MLS.
The Wizards were unlucky not to come away from New England with a victory after a very good performance against the Revs last weekend. Normally a point on the road would be considered a positive result, but Curt Onalfo knows his team missed a golden opportunity to pick up all three points against a patched-up New England team. It is results like this that the Wizards will particularly regret when they are on the outside looking in come playoff time.
The underhanded Revs had Matt Reis to thank as they held on for a point against fellow Eastern Conference strugglers K.C. last weekend. A point at home against a fellow basement buddy may not seem like a good result on paper, but with the patched-up side that Steve Nicol had to use, a draw is probably the best this team could expect. Nicol has tried players in different positions to make up for the loss of some key starters, but all it has shown is that this squad is not as good as we believed.
Key Man: Kheli Dube needs to be more prolific in front of goal for this team to turn their poor MLS season around. If prior form were anything to go by, then I wouldn’t bet on it.
“I think that we crumbled.” That was Frank Yallop’s honest assessment of the Earthquakes defeat at the hands of Toronto last weekend as any lingering hopes his side had of making the playoffs disappeared. The early season injury to Darren Huckerby made it difficult for this team to start the season well, but it’s not as if the return of the former Norwich man has made things that much better. This is a struggling team that badly needs some new blood to freshen to things up.
Key Man: The form of Arturo Alvarez has been the one bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the San Jose Earthquakes.
The Red Bulls may be having an awful season, but that doesn’t mean the players aren’t looking forward to taking on the L.A. Galaxy in David Beckham’s return to MLS action. With the Galaxy in good form and the nation expecting a big performance from Becks, the pressure will really be off this New York team. Having said that, the Red Bulls recent run of form has shown nothing to suggest they can put together a solid 90 minutes and pick up a win. Stranger things have happened though …
Key Man: Juan Pablo Angel will be relishing the opportunity to outshine Landon Donovan and David Beckham as the Red Bulls take on the Galaxy on FSC this Thursday.
Fox Soccer Channel’s Keith Costiganwrites about American soccer for FOXSoccer.com, and contributes his blogto interact with his fans.