It's nearly playoff time, which is also known as that time that a full 40% of the league is eliminated from title contention. If you thought the baseball playoffs were getting blown out of proportion, just wait for the MLS playoffs.
MLS: The league that hands out playoff spots like The Price is Right gives away brand new cars.
1. FC Dallas (Last Week: 4)
Young, athletic and frightening. That's been the story for Dallas all year and it just keeps rolling along into the postseason. While the Hoops have a tougher Supporters' Shield-deciding match-up (at home vs. San Jose) than their competition in New York (Red Bulls are on the road against Chicago), Dallas would be my pick if the two met in the MLS Cup final.
2. New York Red Bulls (Last Week: 2)
Mike Grella is one of the newcomers of the year in MLS. While certainly not the star of NYRB -- that status is reserved for the dueling stars of Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips -- Grella has been consistently one of the team's best players all season.
3. LA Galaxy (Last Week: 1)
This weekend's loss was frightening from an LA perspective. Perhaps this Portland team is getting hot at the right time, or perhaps LA has some issues cropping up at the wrong time. Doesn't it seem like a long while since LA was on its unstoppable tear? Regardless, Robbie Keane continues to be the class of the league, and you'd have to think that one of these Gerrard free kicks will finally find pay dirt. (And when it does, woah buddy, will the reaction from the league be strong. I bet that Don Garber requires all MLS employees bring a change of pants to work on LA game days in preparation for the historic moment.)
4. Columbus Crew SC (Last Week: 6)
Columbus continues to put out good performances in between its bad ones. I don't wanna be the team that gets them in the playoffs.
5. Portland Timbers (Last Week: 10)
A remarkable week for Portland with two wins over perennial Western Conference powers in RSL and LA. Fanendo Adi, Diego Valeri and Co. are positioning themselves nicely for a postseason run.
6. Vancouver Whitecaps (Last Week: 3)
As I said last week, I think Vancouver has maxed out its potential in the regular season, which isn't good when entering the playoffs. The postseason requires you to hit another gear. While Vancouver isn't at D.C. status yet, I'm not expecting them to make a deep run.
7. Seattle Sounders (Last Week: 6)
I really don't care about Seattle's performances. The only interesting thing to me about this team is how they do in the playoffs, assuming they make it.
8. Toronto FC (Last Week: 9)
Toronto is the biggest wild card in the playoff picture. They could ride Sebastian Giovinco all the way to the final, or they could get drubbed in their opener. The deciding factor will be the supporting cast. Unless Giovinco can replicate Wednesday's goal against New York in every playoff game, the supporting cast (I'm looking at you, Jozy and Michael) will have to provide something to relieve some of the focus that will be cast on the little Italian.
9. D.C. United (Last Week: 14)
D.C. has come roaring back at the right time. After a six-game winless streak in which United was outscored 15-3, Ben Olsen has directed his squad to back-to-back wins, albeit against bottom feeders in NYCFC and Chicago. This weekend's four-goal outburst against the Fire was a good sign, but the potential playoff opponents are worlds better. I remain skeptical of D.C.'s title chances.
10. Montreal Impact (Last Week: 15)
Ignacio Piatti continues to be the star of the "All-Underrated MLS Team". His goal against New England this week would have been a worthy Goal of the Week winner had it not been a less-smooth impression of Sebastian Giovinco's dazzler from midweek.
11. Sporting Kansas City (Last Week: 7)
I'm souring pretty quickly on SKC's chances this season. The U.S. Open Cup champs have been anything but consistent down the home stretch, and you've got to question the team's confidence.
12. New England Revolution (Last Week: 8)
Speaking of confidence, it's the doldrums for New England. The Revs have not won in four games but, luckily for them, they have a trip to Yankee Stadium on the agenda for the last match of the year, which might well allow them to right the ship before the second season begins.
13. Orlando City (Last Week: 12)
You've certainly got to like Orlando's mentality in do-or-die situations. In what was essentially a playoff game, the Lions staved off elimination with their win on Friday. Now they face a nearly vertical uphill climb in their final regular season game against Philly. In order to make the playoffs, Orlando must win, New England must lose to NYCFC and the Lions have to make up an eight-goal differential. So basically, if Orlando wins and New England loses by the same 4-0 scoreline, the two teams would be tied in points and goal differential and Orlando would advance on total goals scored. Look for Adrian Heath to trot out a 3-2-5 lineup, which hasn't been seen since about 1935 (kidding).
14. San Jose Earthquakes (Last Week: 11)
Does anyone even want San Jose in the playoffs? The only reason anyone goes to their games is to see the World's Largest Outdoor Bar.
15. Real Salt Lake (Last Week: 13)
It seems the championship window has been slammed shut on this RSL group. Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales, long the core of the midfield, are on the wrong side of the hill and Salt Lake is missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2007. This team will either ride along with those two into the twilight of their careers, or the front office will have to make some difficult decisions regarding the team's sentimental heroes of years gone by.
16. Houston Dynamo (Last Week: 17)
You'd think the Dynamics would wear white at home more often, as they did this week, to use the heat of Houston to their advantage.
17. New York City FC (Last Week: 16)
I can't decide what's more depressing for NYCFC: their point total for their much balley-hoo'd first year (37) or their complete lack of branding identity.
18. Chicago Fire (Last Week: 18)
Go watch the Cubs, Chicago.
19. Philadelphia Union (Last Week: 19)
Philly sports fans must hate life right now. The Phillies suck. The Sixers have been in perpetual rebuilding mode for like 10 years. The Eagles have been a dumpster fire since Jeff Garcia was the quarterback. The Flyers missed the playoffs last year. Temple and Penn are irrelevant in everything. The Union have missed the playoffs for four years running and have been the bridesmaid in the other competition nobody cares about (I'll let you remember what I'm talking about ... Yes I'm referring to the U.S. Open Cup). If it weren't for Villanova basketball, Philadelphia sports-related depression rate would be astronomical.
20. Colorado Rapids (Last Week: 20)
Colorado may not finish last in the regular season standings, but they're definitely playing like a team circling the drain. The Rapids are winless since August.