It's officially go time in MLS. With every team looking at five or fewer games remaining in the regular season, anyone looking to generate momentum or make a late playoff push will need to do so now, or suffer the consequences. This is the time that the championship contenders begin to separate themselves from the pack and the pretenders begin to fall back. In other words, welcome to the most interesting month of the MLS regular season.
1. Toronto FC (Last Week: 1)
The top three all drew this week, so there isn't much movement at the top of these power rankings. Toronto is one of five teams sitting on 48 points, and three of those teams have already clinched playoff berths. Coincidentally, all three of those teams are in the Eastern Conference, benefiting from having perennial bottom-feeder Chicago among others that fill out the bottom of a weaker East.
2. FC Dallas (Last Week: 2)
Dallas and Colorado switched roles this week, with the former earning a 0-0 draw while the other played in a wild 3-3 tie. Dallas is still the best overall team in the league for my money, but certainly haven't been as good as Toronto, as TFC has been 7-1-3 over the last 11 while Dallas is 4-3-4 over that same stretch. You can't convince me losing Fabian Castillo isn't a massive factor in the championship hunt.
3. Colorado Rapids (Last Week: 3)
Colorado had failed to score a goal in three games coming into this one, but managed to uncharacteristically score three while also uncharacteristically letting in three in the Rapids' tie with the very mediocre Vancouver Whitecaps. Pablo Mastroeni still has far and away the best defense in the league, and you've gotta think that's a significant leg up heading into the postseason.
4. New York City FC (Last Week: 5)
NYCFC thumped Chicago at home on Friday night to move into a three-way tie for first in the East. The battle at the red line on the Atlantic side of the country might not be the most enthralling, but the battle for the No. 1 seed figures to be must-watch down the stretch here. T-Dot has a game in hand on both New York teams, but the Bronx Blues have arguably the easiest schedule.
5. New York Red Bulls (Last Week: 6)
Not to beat a dead horse, but has there ever been a team start out as poorly as the Red Bulls to eventually climb back into contention for first place? NYRB started an abysmal 1-6, but have gone 12-3-9 since. Just imagine where they'd be if they had even been mediocre to start the year?
6. LA Galaxy (Last Week: 4)
LA dropped a game that they should've won at home to Seattle, and it's starting to look like this LA team will be sitting at home come MLS Cup time, which would be the first time since 2008 that the Galaxians have not participated in two straight MLS Cups.
7. Real Salt Lake (Last Week: 9)
Despite not taking advantage of a golden opportunity to make a statement a few weeks ago, the seemingly old men of RSL just keep hanging around out west, as they did this week with a tie against Dallas. Can RSL win the MLS Cup? Plausibly, but certainly not likely at this point.
8. Sporting Kansas City (Last Week: 11)
SKC figures to be favored in two of its last three, so conceivably could jump up to the third seed in a crowded Western Conference playoff picture.
9. Seattle Sounders (Last Week: 14)
Two straight wins for the Sounders who now find themselves just three points back of rival Portland for the last playoff spot, but with two games in hand. The weather is ripe for Seattle to make an improbable run to the playoffs.
10. Philadelphia Union (Last Week: 12)
How long before Philly tries to thirstily bring Carson Wentz to the Union facility for the classic MLS-Other Sport jersey swap?
11. D.C. United (Last Week: 14)
D.C. United had its first lower bowl sellout all season, which is something a team that is playoff bound should never be saying this late in the year.
12. Montreal Impact (Last Week: 11)
I should be gleeful at the idea of Didier Drogba missing the playoffs due to the prima donna nature in which he's handled this season, but I'm not. Last year's mini-run from Montreal was memorable, and I'd like to see it duplicated as a neutral.
13. New England Revolution (Last Week: 8)
New England may still be in the fight for the eighth seed, but the Revs certainly blew a golden opportunity to secure what might have been a valuable three points against Columbus this week. The Revs have three more to go against SKC, Chicago, and Montreal, with the first and last of the three coming at home. Not an impossible scenario for the Revs to go on a quick winning streak, but also not unlikely that they may lose all three.
14. Portland Timbers (Last Week: 7)
Jekyl and Hyde Portland dropped one to Houston this week, and the Champs are now in a dead heat for the eighth seed with their biggest rivals. The info says it's go time in MLS, and Caleb Porter might need to recognize that fact as much as anyone.
15. Houston Dynamo (Last Week: 16)
What's going on in Houston? The Dynamo, who had been playing the role of doormat all season long, have now won two in a row over currently playoff-bound competition. Houston is one of the teams with five games to go, and if the Dynamo can keep up the momentum, who knows if they can make a shocking playoff run.
16. Columbus Crew (Last Week: 17)
With five games to go, C-Bus has three against playoff-bound teams and two against Chicago to go, so look for the fellas from Ohio to attempt to play happy spoiler at least once in the coming weeks.
17. Orlando City (Last Week: 15)
As deflating a loss as there has been in the MLS era for Orlando this week. If you look at how the teams were put together, Orlando should see themselves as, and expect themselves to be a better team and organization that D.C., but the result on the field Saturday night was anything but that. A playoff berth is looking bleak, and it's looking like time for the Lions to lick their wounds and reassess what kind of team Jason Kreis will be putting on the field next season.
18. Vancouver Whitecaps (Last Week: 20)
Can we stop including Vancouver in the whole Cascadia thing? I know the Caps are one of the old NASL brands that play in the Pacific Northwest, but when they play one of the other two teams it just doesn't seem to have the pizzazz or cache with fans. Don't you think they would have been able to open the upper bowl at least once by now for a game against Portland or Seattle?
19. San Jose Earthquakes (Last Week: 18)
So is this the end of the Chris Wondolowski prime? Wondo has scored just 10 goals this season, which is coming on the heels of an 11-goal season a year ago, and his team looks to be missing the playoffs. It was a good run Wondo, but you and all the W's in your name are nearing their end in MLS.
20. Chicago Fire (Last Week: 20)
Chicago is the worst team in MLS. That is simple a statement as it is true.