It's the second-to-last week in the MLS regular season, which means people with smallish vocabularies will have to look up the work "penultimate." There's still drama aplenty when it comes to positions for the MLS Cup Playoffs, not to mention the Power Rankings throne, which we all know is the title the players covet most.
1. FC Dallas (Last Week: 1)
The Supporters' Shield winners have added Guatemalan veteran forward Carlos Ruiz to bolster their forward depth for the playoff run, and the 37-year-old scored this week. This is the second time around in Dallas for Ruiz, who joined the artists formerly known as The Burn over 10 years ago. The over/under on the number of times you'll see him referred to as "El Pescadito" is officially 2.5 times a game per the Milby Sports Book*.
* Not an actual sports book
2. New York Red Bulls (Last Week: 4)
The Red Bulls are finishing the year on a tear, having not lost in 15 games dating back to the first week of July. The Bulls are the second MLS team to reach such a streak in 2016 -- the other being Colorado back in April-July -- which ties them for fifth all time in MLS history, four off the record-setting Crew of 2004-05.
3. Colorado Rapids (Last Week: 2)
The Rapids rarely play in high-scoring affairs and rarely lose low-scoring ones, but lost this weekend to Portland, 1-0 at home. The Rapids have played 11 games that ended with a 1-0 score, and have won eight while losing just three. If you plan to beat this team, you'd better be able to score early, or else suffer the whole way to the final whistle toiling against that defense.
4. D.C. United (Last Week: 7)
It pains me to put D.C. this high, but it's warranted at this point. Ben Olsen has steered the ship to four straight wins in a six-game unbeaten streak overall. D.C. needs to keep winning though if it intends on maintaining its fourth-seed position with Montreal just a point behind, which will be vital considering D.C. is tied with the Red Bulls for the fewest wins away from home in the regular season among playoff-bound teams.
5. New York City FC (Last Week: 3)
The Bronx Blues remain in second heading into Decision Day, with a game at reeling Philly left on the platter. Resting players is an option for Patrick Vieira, I suppose -- especially considering the collective age of his core -- but if the Soccer Yankees want to seal up that second seed, they'll need to be playing for three points on Sunday.
6. LA Galaxy (Last Week: 8)
Landon Donovan started this week for the first time since his return from retirement, which was about the only interesting thing about LA's 1-0 win at Houston. Somehow we've not yet seen the best version of the 2016 LA squad, and I'm not sure we ever will.
7. Montreal Impact (Last Week: 9)
Where is Didier Drogba? That's the story up in Quebec this week as the Impact prepare to hit the postseason. There are lots of words you could use to describe Drogba -- some good and some bad -- but "professional" would not be one of them at this point.
8. Portland Timbers (Last Week: 14)
Despite having the definition of an "up-and-down" season, the champs control their own destiny with regards to the postseason heading into their final game at Vancouver. To put "up and down" into clear terms, the Timbers haven't drawn a game since July 13 and haven't had a winning or losing streak longer than two in that 13-game span.
9. Toronto FC (Last Week: 5)
The good news for TFC: Giovinco is back and healthy in the lineup. The bad news for TFC: the Reds haven't won since Sept. 10.
10. Seattle Sounders (Last Week: 6)
The Sounders played a scoreless draw with Houston and lost to Dallas to end their four-game winning streak that put them in the playoff picture. Seattle is still holding on to the fifth seed in the West, and I'm sure that despite their struggles all year, no one in the West wants to see them in the playoffs.
11. New England Revolution (Last Week: 10)
The Revs are three points out of the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a game against Montreal on Decision Day. Despite making a late push for the postseason, the playoffs would be better suited if New England weren't taking part.
12. Sporting Kansas City (Last Week: 11)
Should Sporting Kansas City make the playoffs, they won't be a favorite or a dark horse. They're like a week-old piece of cake: It still looks good and is tempting, but probably won't deliver on all the expectation you have of it.
13. Real Salt Lake (Last Week: 12)
If RSL were in a larger city and not seen as the little market that could, Jeff Cassar might well be out of a job at the end of this season. It could still happen, but I'm not expecting it because I get the feeling RSL ownership expects the ebb and flow of small-market professional sports.
14. Columbus Crew (Last Week: 15)
On the note of markets, if Columbus were a bigger town (or perhaps if MLS were a more important league) the Kei Kamara-Federico Higuain feud from earlier this season would have been one of the biggest soap operas of the year. Remember Kobe-Shaq? Terrell Owens and Drew Rosenhaus vs. the Eagles? If blowing up your team (and your chance of winning anything) by trading away one of the more talented strikers in the league just so you could end up starting Adam Jahn late in the season was the smart move, this feud must have been colossal.
15. Philadelphia Union (Last Week: 13)
Philly looked like they might be headed in the right direction after adding Alejandro Bedoya, but have since fallen all the way apart. The Union have lost four games in a six-game winless streak, and currently are clinging to the final Eastern Conference playoff spot by three points heading into their final game at home against the currently unbeatable Red Bulls.
16. Orlando City (Last Week: 18)
The Lions beat the free-falling Union 2-0 this week, showing the potential that might have gone wasted over the last few weeks. Orlando City under Jason Kreis might be fine in the long run, but these last two years of Lions soccer have failed to meet the expectations that the roster warranted.
17. San Jose Earthquakes (Last Week: 16)
Wondo scored again this week on a penalty, increasing his goal total from somewhat mediocre to plain mediocre (relative to expectations, of course).
18. Chicago Fire (Last Week: 20)
Positive things that happened to the Chicago Fire in 2016: they hired an exciting young coach with a decent reputation. Yep, that's right, the 2016 Chicago Fire hit their peak before they even played their first game.
19. Houston Dynamo (Last Week: 17)
Considering the Astros play just across the street from the Dynamo, does a good Houston baseball team hurt or help interest in the Dynamo?
20. Vancouver Whitecaps (Last Week: 19)
The Caps have won just once since July 13, which is the fewest in that span of any team in the league.