Noah Davis
Wednesday July 29th, 2009

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

On Wednesday, the MLS All-Star Game comes to Real Salt Lake's Rio Tinto Stadium as 18 of the league's best take on Everton FC (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, Galavisión). It's the sixth edition of the "MLS Takes on the World" format, with the American league's best undefeated in five previous meetings against clubs from elsewhere. While the gimmick is growing old (couldn't MLS' growing level of talent support two squads?), getting a preview of the English club -- which is led by American starting keeper Tim Howard and is gaining a reputation as a home to players from the U.S. -- should be fun. MLS' Starting XI boasts seven first time all-stars, including Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg, as well as stalwarts Landon Donovan (whose participation is in doubt due to a calf injury) and Cuauhtémoc Blanco (but no David Beckham). Expect a run-and-gun affair with plenty of chances and an eventual victory for the home side.

As MLS celebrates its stars midway through the season, Free Kicks thought it would be fun to see how this week's Power Rankings compared with our Week 1 thoughts. Thanks to an excellent goal in the 93rd minute, Columbus stole a victory against Toronto FC and moved to 7-1-7 in its last 15, good enough to regain the top slot it held at the beginning of the season. Houston, No. 3 in the initial rankings, has recovered from a slow start and now sits in the second spot, three points clear of upstart Seattle (from 15th to fifth) for first place in the Western Conference. Other big gainers include D.C. United (12th to fourth) and Los Angeles (14th to sixth). Real Salt Lake -- in the No. 4 position after showing potential near the end of the 2008 season -- has fallen all the way to 11th, taking the spot vacated by New York on the team's non-stop drop to the very bottom of the rankings.

With roughly a dozen games to go, nine teams (four in the East and five in the West) have somewhere between 26 and 32 points each, while New England boasts 23 points with 14 matches remaining. With only eight making the postseason, it's going to be a battle from here on out. On Saturday, the Revs look to force their way back into the playoff picture with a home victory over Toronto FC that would put the two squads even on points. A win in Colorado will start the Crew's the two-game West Coast swing in the right fashion and keep Robert Warzycha's squad on top of the Eastern Conference for another week. The Dynamo face an early-August test, hosting D.C. United on Saturday before heading to Pizza Hut Park four days later. And then, of course, there's that L.A. Galaxy-FC Barcelona friendly Saturday night in front of 70,000-plus at the Rose Bowl...

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