Noah Davis
Wednesday July 22nd, 2009

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

With a week to go before the All-Star Game, MLS' top teams are asserting themselves. While Houston has crashed back to earth a bit in July, the squad remains the class of the league and will get Stuart Holden and Brian Ching back at the conclusion of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Likewise, Columbus and Chicago -- second and third, respectively, in the Free Kicks Power Rankings for the third straight week -- only get stronger once the international competition wraps up. At the other end of the scale, San Jose and New York should start planning for 2010 -- this year's essentially over and done.

The Revs -- owners of five wins, five ties and five losses -- have 20 points, tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with Kansas City and six points out of the playoffs. With only 15 matches played, however, Steve Nicol's squad has two games in hand on first-place Chicago (28 points) and three on Columbus (27), D.C. United (27) and Toronto FC (26). Although New England lost to the Fire in the SuperLiga semis, it posted a solid league win against Chivas USA last weekend. Given the veteran leadership of Matt Reis, Steve Ralston and Shalrie Joseph, the Revs still could help paint the postseason picture.

Fans get treated to some excellent matchups before MLS takes a break. The Sounders and Fire clash Saturday in Seattle with both clubs needing three points to keep pace in their respective playoff races. TFC visits Columbus with hopes of leapfrogging the Crew, while Houston plays host to the Revs as Dominic Kinnear's team looks to return to its winning ways. The Galaxy, fresh off a solid 2-2 draw against AC Milan, seek to continue their recent run of fine form in Kansas City. Colorado gets a break when the Red Bulls come to the Mile High City, and three points could help the Western Conference side reconnect with the four teams north of it in the standings.

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