Noah Davis
Wednesday April 22nd, 2009

Our weekly dose of Major League Soccer quick takes, plotlines to watch and Power Rankings.

Real Salt Lake's trip to New York was just what the doctor ordered for the reeling Red Bulls. With the 2-0 victory in Giants Stadium, the team named for Austria's finest energy drink improved its all-time record against RSL to 4-0-6, including a 1-0 victory in last year's Western Conference final. It took only two minutes for Juan Carlos Osorio's side to break through, and the defense -- shored up by the return of goalkeeper Jon Conway and the presence of newly signed Alfredo Pacheco -- held tight. Juan Pablo Ángel opened his 2009 account with a well-taken goal in the 57th minute and the Red Bulls held on, despite Jeremy Hall's red card in the 66th. The season begins anew in East Rutherford, N.J.

After the season's opening kick, we noted how teams enjoyed success on the road, posting a 2-3-2 record. Since then, however, home sides have steadily improved (with the exception of Week Four's tie-filled debacle) and finished the past weekend undefeated, including the first wins for FC Dallas, Houston and New. Check out the splits:

Week Two: 3-1-3 Week Three: 6-2-0 Week Four: 1-1-5 Week Five: 4-0-3

As the proliferation of soccer-specific stadiums slowly spreads across the country, MLS' home-field advantage will only increase. (Imagine the noise in Seattle if the Sounders played in a 35,000-seat dedicated venue.) It's another way the league draws ever closer to mimicking Europe.

The busiest week of the season so far -- nine games take place between Wednesday and Sunday -- should start to separate the quality from the also-rans. With victories in two imminently winnable matches (at Toronto, against Dallas), Chivas USA could put a stranglehold on the Western Conference. Given the Goats' injury problems, however, it remains to be seen if their legs can hold up through three matches in seven days. Elsewhere, Seattle's return home for a date against San Jose will help the Sounders get back on track, and the RSL-Revs match at Rio Tinto Stadium will say a great deal about both squads.

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