Our weekly dose of Major League Soccer quick takes, plotlines to watch and Power Rankings.
With its victory over New England last weekend, Columbus essentially wrapped up its second straight Supporters' Shield and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. But who will come out on top in the Western Conference? Los Angeles, Houston and Chivas USA all have 44 points, although Preki's men boast a game in hand. With the Galaxy and Dynamo meeting on Sunday in Texas, the loser likely will have to settle for the runner-up spot. Likewise, a tie could kill both teams' chances, as Chivas should earn three points against lowly San Jose. Could the season's second-to-last fixture -- Houston taking on the Goats at the Home Depot Center -- determine the West's winner?
Four teams already are into the playoffs, but another four golden tickets remain up for grabs. Three squads -- Chicago (41 points), Seattle (also 41) and Colorado (40) -- need just one win in their final two matches to clinch a spot. On the other hand, New England (38), which looked to be sitting pretty before a 0-2-1 streak, is just two points ahead of D.C. United, Toronto FC and FC Dallas (winner of four of its last five and featuring a red-hot Jeff Cunningham). Can the Revs, who are without Steve Ralston and finish up home against the Fire and away at Columbus, hold on? (The success of Shalrie Joseph's MVP campaign rides in the balance.) The winner of this weekend's Rapids-FCD tilt at Pizza Hut Park will state its case, while D.C. could still slip into the playoffs if it can hold serve at home this weekend against the Crew.
With eight games taking place this week, starting Wednesday when New York attempts to win its fifth match of the season in Salt Lake City (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2), there's something for everyone. The Galaxy-Dynamo match up serves as the highlight -- as well as Sunday's lone fixture -- but Saturday sees must-win tilts for Toronto, which hosts RSL, and Seattle, which travels to Kansas City. Anything less than a victory for TFC will leave the Reds sitting at home come playoff time. The Sounders might seem to have a bit more leeway, but need to earn three points with FCD coming to town next weekend.