MLS Week 21 - Better never than late

Well, technically this is still a preview.

Full slate of games for the first time in a while. Wait, there are thirteen OTHER teams in the league besides the Galaxy? Boy, you'd never know it from the news. I wonder how far behind LA they are in the standings.

Probably worth paying close attention to this game - fortunately, it's on FSC, so those of you who are Direct Kick non-compliant can join the fun. The big question is whether Dallas really has been reborn under Schellas Hyndman. Those three points in Toronto say so, so does the leap up to third place from sixth place and dead in the water. I have no idea why I don't believe in Dallas, I really don't. Well, I sort of still think their defense has "Kick Me' on it. Not by the standards of the West, but by, you know, standards. And the Crew had a bunch of huge favors done for them regarding New England remaining within striking distance - they're not going to just blow it, are they? Crew, 3-1.

The big rivalry game of the week - well, nearly every East Coast game is a rivalry these days. New England took pity on both these teams over the past week. Huge, HUGE win for Chicago in Massachusetts changed the shape of the East, and the course of life as we know it. The Uniteds had a hideous, shameful, idiotic display against the Wing-Givers*, and it would have been one of DC's worst weeks ever if New England hadn't said, "Aw, we won the Open Cup last year, you guys haven't even been to the final in a while. You go. No, really. It's on us." United can conceivably wait for Gallardo to come back 100%, but would adore a tie. Chicago, on the other hand, probably still remembers the last-second loss to DC the last time these guys met in the Toyota. I think the Fire get revenge, 2-1.

The Royals' chances of making the playoffs actually went down by half a percentage point over the past couple of weeks of not playing. I honestly thought, what with everyone apart from Dallas seriously hurting themselves, if not the sport (looking at you, Galaxy), they could have kept on not playing and clinched by September. Sadly, MLS rules demand that not only must Salt Lake take the field, but play road games. This one isn't a good bet for the Royals - Houston is rested, too, is at home, and kinda sorta has better players. Jamison Olave has pretty much started a serious campaign for Rookie of the Year...but he's out for this game. Dynamo, 3-0.

These are still exciting teams to watch, but for the wrong reasons. Kansas City nearly gagged on a three-goal lead, and the Rapids have all but taken out ads saying "Stop paying attention the Galaxy! We suck, too!" The Rapids are in an excellent position to get zero points in a three-game homestand, which is shocking even by Western Conference measures. The other two games were against Eastern Conference teams, as is this one. Fernando Clavijo seems to be going through some personal matters, so I'll hold off on the predictions of his firing for the moment. No, but seriously, he's gone. Wizards, 2-1.

San Jose is at home, rested, and on a high after smacking around their arch-rival and getting the scalp of Alexi Lalas as a bonus. The Revolution have hit the season's first serious bad patch in both league and Open Cup play. If you go by form, you seriously consider the potential for the biggest upset in MLS so far this year - one that would also add a good deal of excitement to both divisional races. Can San Jose contend? Can New England withstand the pressure? No, and yes. Revolution, 3-1.

Toronto has a season-high one game road winning streak, but New York apparently thinks Jorge Rojas, Juan Pietavallo and Gabriel Cichero are going to turn them back into contenders. They're absolutely right. Here's the thing - whoever finishes fifth in the East is going to win MLS Cup this year. Kansas City was seriously onto something last year. Whoever finishes fourth in the East has to play the Supporters Shield winner, then go on the road to face a really, really good team. Whoever finishes fifth in the East gets a home-and-home against a team that will end up one, maybe two games above .500, then go on the road to a team almost certainly below .500...and the Eastern team probably already won at those parks this year already. The problem is, there's a serious-ass race for fifth in the East this year among Kansas City, DC, and these combatants, and there's no margin for error. You can't lose so much that you miss the playoffs, but you can't be an idiot and finish fourth, either. I'm seeing a 3-1 Red Bulls victory...but will that victory propel them into fourth place, and DISASTER?

*There's no way that stupid nickname will catch on, I should just go back and erase it before I humiliate myself