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Power trio breaks away from pack


For the fourth week in a row, Columbus, Houston and Chicago find themselves first, second and third, respectively, in the Free Kicks Power Rankings. Despite the Crew's off-week and the Fire's loss to Los Angeles, the two Eastern Conference teams are running away from their nearest competition. Meanwhile, out West, the Dynamo sit five points clear of Landon Donovan's hard-charging Galaxy. The trio clearly has been, and will remain, the class of the league. Houston should only get stronger, as Brian Ching landed a new strike partner in Mexican Luis Ángel Landín. The Dynamo used their Designated Player slot on the former Cruz Azul forward, so expect him to produce for MLS' points leader.

While the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the East look about wrapped up, and Houston appears to have one of the two Western Conference automatic bids solidly within its grasp, five playoff slots remain entirely up for grabs. Seven teams -- Chivas USA, Colorado, D.C. United, Los Angeles, New England, Seattle and Toronto FC -- own 29 to 35 points. Despite a brutally bad July, Preki's Chivas side looks to be in the best position as it has earned 33 points in a mere 20 matches and features a rejuvenated Sacha Kljestan. The Revs, coming off a six-point week, also have 10 matches remaining and should slip into the postseason. The suddenly struggling Sounders (33 points from 23 matches) might miss out, a sad fate for their diehard fans.

Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake will double up and Colorado will sit out as part of an eight-match week. In the game of the week, a desperate D.C. United team visits the Fire, who have been shaky at home all season. The Sounders return home to greet TFC in a match the expansion team can't afford to lose. On Sunday, New York attempts to keep interim manager Richie Williams perfect when the Crew come to Giants Stadium.

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