Noah Davis
Wednesday August 19th, 2009

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

After a studs-up tackle on Seattle's Pete Vagenas last weekend, David Beckham was sent off for the first time in his MLS career. The challenge was a surprisingly aggressive one from the mild-mannered Englishman -- especially since he and former teammate Vagenas are friends -- but it's perhaps an indication that Becks returned to the West Coast with a desire to win. (Of course, Mr. Posh could just be frustrated, but Free Kicks will give him the benefit of the doubt for now.) The Galaxy still can't be considered the MLS Cup favorite, but they look to be a lock to make the playoffs for the first time since Goldenballs arrived on these shores. Once Beckham returns from suspension and captain Landon Donovan recovers from swine flu, Bruce Arena's squad can make a deep run into the postseason.

In last weekend's six matches, defenses posted six clean sheets. In fact, the exciting Houston-Chicago five-goal affair was the only game in which both teams managed to find the net. Out of 18 August matches, one team failed to score in 15 of them. On five such occasions, the home side couldn't break down the visitor's back line. Diehard soccer fans know the beauty of a clean sheet, but the casual American sports fan doesn't -- especially when the local boys fail so obviously to muster any offense. It's overstating the case to say that as goals scored go, so will attendance, but Don Garber and league officials would do well to note the trend if it continues.

Every team except Columbus takes the field this week, with four squads -- Chicago, L.A., New England and Seattle -- playing twice. Action kicks off Wednesday when the Fire and Galaxy battle in the Windy City, while the Revs attempt to get a result against the Sounders a day later at Qwest Field. The highlight of Saturday's action sees Donovan, Beckham and the gang head into the nation's capital for a date with D.C. United. Sunday's featured game is the week's last, a match between Seattle and Houston that has huge potential playoff implications.

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