MLS: The Bad Kind of Tripping + Updated Remaining Schedules

Did Week 25 seem wholly educational or what? Well, educational in the sense that we have new data to weigh, but one hesitates to call it clarifying or entirely enlightening.

Can’t pretend I caught all 90 of all the games (for the record, I watched RSL v. Colorado and Chivas v. KC), but, on the principle of all W’s counting as W’s and all L’s counting as L’s, it’s possible we’ll squeeze in a couple trends before the regular season ends…and, here, I’m talking about teams like FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids; and, unlucky as they were, KC toyed with soccer suicide by surrendering a late, late goal to keep even 7th place in play. In general, some late-season games that looked easy a couple weeks back don’t look so easy any more, not with the way some highly relevant teams are playing.

But I’ll get into all that later. First, here are the standings…those help to make sense of all this. and the key I’ll use to shorten team names for the schedule bit follows:

Chicago Fire: CF
Chivas USA: CUSA
Colorado Rapids: CR
Columbus Crew: Crew
DC United: DCU
FC Dallas: FCD
Houston Dynamo: HD
Kansas City Wizards: KC
Los Angeles Galaxy: LA
New England Revolution: NE
Red Bull New York: RBNY
Real Salt Lake: RSL
Toronto FC: TFC

Right…now, here goes:

Chicago Fire (4 games)
@ CUSA (9/29); NE (10/6); @ DCU (10/13); LA (10/21)
A Couple Pennies: Picking up two points when you could use four – never mind only three points out of the past nine – just ain’t playoff pace. Then again, that may not apply if the teams around them keep tripping and Chicago keeps fighting all comers to a standstill. Banking on that, however, seems a stupid tack to take – especially with that LA game looking less like a gimme. Still, real nice goal from Chad Barrett, who, once every two months or so, seems able to remind observers what the Chicago coaching staff sees in him.

Chivas USA (5 games)
CF (9/29); @ RSL (10/6); @ FCD (10/11); CR (10/14); HD (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: Chivas both won and clinched a spot in the post-season in spite of a performance so complacent it bordered on lazy; they also remain DC’s main competition for the Supporters’ Shield. The $100 million question(s): was that late-season exhaustion out there or one game off the bubble? Has the Chivas rope-a-dope played itself out?

Colorado Rapids (4 games)
@ NE (9/29); TFC (10/7); @CUSA (10/14); RSL (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: This one’s pretty straightforward: The Rapids left the hideously lined pitch of Rice-Eccles Stadium deserved losers. They just didn’t have it against one of the league’s worst; more to the point, they looked like wayward shit out there. Making the post-season is nothing like a given for this bunch.

Columbus Crew (4 games)
LA (9/30); FCD (10/6); @ NE (10/13); @ DC (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: Take heart lil’ troopers: that was a necessary, if desperate, win all y’all picked up north of the border. And, look, Chicago threw you a lifeline! Pick up the next two games – both at home, one against a crappy road team (LA), the other against a team in mid-choke (FCD) – and you might be able to hang the Fire with that lifeline.

DC United (4 games + what the? exhibitions)
TFC (9/29); @ KC (10/5); CF (10/13); Crew (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: Based on what came before, the draw against Chicago looks like a hiccup. Then again, I read some stuff about the win over Real Salt Lake from the previous week that suggests a (very) slight nodding off at the wheel.

FC Dallas (4 games + US Open Cup final on 10/3)
HD (9/30); @ Crew (10/6); CUSA (10/11); KC (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: 1-3-1 (w-l-t) in league play since the start of September, 2-3-1 if you take the U.S. Open Cup; with that, we hear the familiar sounds of choking echoing over Pizza Hut Park. At this point, I wouldn’t bet on these guys to win against my old indoor team. Take away Dario Sala’s in-goal acrobatics and FCD could have been blown out by the standing joke of MLS. And, seriously, what the hell was Chris Gbandi thinking?

Houston Dynamo (4 games)
@ FCD (9/30); LA (10/7); @ RSL (10/15); @ CUSA (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: When they actually play (how many weeks off has it been?), these guys are playing for pride right now. A comfort zone of that sort can be double-edged, but I suspect Houston will use it right. The rest of the league should watch these cats because not nearly enough people are talking about them.

Kansas City Wizards (4 games)
LA (9/27); DC (10/5); @ RBNY (10/13); @ FCD (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: Count me pleasantly surprised by what I saw out of the Wizards and Eddie Johnson this weekend; EJ worked that charge the goal/cut back/shoot move pretty well on Saturday – well enough to, essentially, score KC’s goal. Sure, they lost, but that was on an “out-of-the-butt” bomb of a goal. And, sure, the threat of slipping out of the picture still lurks near the back door, but three points should see KC through to the post-season (in other words, I screwed up in placing them outside in last week’s rankings). And their good for three points out of their remaining schedule…right?

Los Angeles (6 games)
@ KC (9/27); @ Crew (9/30); @ HD (10/7); TFC (10/13); RBNY (10/18); @ CF (10/21)
A Couple Pennies: Signs of life in the bottom dwellers contain the seeds of death for the teams above them. Chris Klein’s goal of the week shot (partial as I am to Barrett’s “goal-scorer’s goal,” I’ll vote for his winner assuming it’s there) provided the pulse…at least it covered up Donovan’s penalty-kick circus. With LA guarding the door to the post-season for a lot of desperate teams (KC, Crew, Chicago) they still figure in the 2007 season.

New England Revolution (4 games + US Open Cup final of 10/3)
CR (9/29); @ CF (10/6); Crew (10/13); @ TFC (10/22)
A Couple Pennies: The Revs are showing an unnerving susceptibility to the odd blowout down the stretch – and, significantly, DC United has tendered two of those ass-thrashings. While it’s not quite right to call their schedule soft, New England ought to be good enough to use their final four games to build confidence…which they’re going to need against DC in the post-season.

Red Bull New York (5 games)

RSL (9/29); @ TFC (10/4); KC (10/13); @ LA (10/18)
A Couple Pennies: These guys are kind of like Chicago in that they’re treading water in the standings; fortunately for them, their heads are a little higher up. That said, they do seem to have worked out a thing or two, which could mean we’ll hear something besides a whimper out of them in the playoffs.

Real Salt Lake (4 games)
@ RBNY (9/29); CUSA (10/6); HD (10/15); @ CR (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: Just because you come across something dead on the side of the road, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to paw all over the thing or, god forbid, to stick it in your mouth. RSL could cause at least one team (yep, Colorado) some major, playoff-dodging headaches.

Toronto FC (5 games)
@ DC (9/29); RBNY (10/4); @ CR (10/7); @ LA (10/13); NE (10/20)
A Couple Pennies:
Even when they score, they lose. The only thing left to look forward to with these guys is that late-season, Great White North game against New England. All right: I wouldn’t put it past them to beat Red Bull either.

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