Okay, apparently I did week 21 twice, but that's okay because I didn't do week 18. This really is week 22.
CREW v. ROYALS
No one's giving Salt Lake the time of day anymore, and re-Clinting themselves reeks of desperation on an AEG-level scale. The Crew, meanwhile, decided to add an actual real live useful player or two for the stretch run. I think it goes down to the wire between the Crew and the Revolution, thanks mostly to Columbus picking up points in slop games like this. Yes, I know it's a sucker bet, and yes, I realize that Salt Lake is a resilient and determined team by MLS standards, let alone by franchise standards. And yes, they get Olave back. The Borchers yellow card and subsequent team-wide collapse told me all about the strategy and tactics of RSL this year - just hit people until the ref cards you, if he ever does. Which is a good enough strategy to get to the Western Conference final this year, come to think of it. Crew, 3-1. MLSnet is calling Crew Stadium "Black and Gold Boulevard" on the website, which is all sorts of cute. Are actual fans doing that?
UNITED v. RAPIDS
Christian Gomez v. Marcelo Gallardo makes this fixture very intriguing. Except Gallardo is still hurt, and Smith benched Gomez last game. How funny would it be after all these years if it turned out that Clavijo wasn't the problem? The Washington DC United are excellently placed to gain that all-important #5 spot in the East, but they will have to take this game very carefully. With Toronto and Kansas City sputtering, they can probably afford to lose this game outright, but is Colorado good enough to oblige them? I want to credit the Raps for continually trying to improve - every couple of weeks, they add someone who looks pretty good on paper. This game should be about as exciting as imaginable, considering Soehn should be fired if DC loses. United, 3-0.
REDCOATS v. MINUTEMEN
It looks as if New England unsuckulated themselves on Wednesday, which is good, because Chicago and Columbus won't go away. Hm, wonder if Shalrie Joseph is important at all for the Revolution. Toronto acquired Carlos Ruiz to fill the void left by cutting Laurent Robert, a move roughly equivalent to being rescued from the Titanic by the Hindenburg. There have been some dazzlingly ill-starred acquisitions throughout the league over the past couple of years, but I'd sooner sign Denilson than Ruiz at this point, and it's astounding that anyone connected with MLS would disagree. If there is a worse example of nearly unlimited talent being wasted by sheer blinkered laziness and stupidity than the career arc of Carlos Ruiz, then I'd like to have Clint Mathis show it to me. Any club-toed jagoff can kick a goalkeeper, it's the waste of potential that's truly despicable about Ruiz. Revolution, 5-0.
WIZARDS v. HOOPS
No one outside Tornado Alley cares, but this is a very interesting match. Both have designs on the playoffs of varying degrees of realism, both have some dazzling players, both have served up heaping bowls of crap. Both have identical records, and the teams tied the last time they played. Both added MLS celebrity forwards whose best days may be behind them, but what if they aren't, huh? Both breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, and both will get one point tomorrow night. Let's give the fans a show, though, and call it 3-3.
CHIVAS II v. EARTHQUAKES III
Not even the most defiantly blinkered Quake fan thought they would have the best team in California this year, but here we are. The Quakes are unbeaten and untied in August with a +5 goal differential, and Chivas USA has one draw and three losses this month. If the results go this weekend as it looks like they will - everyone else in the division losing or tying, in other words - San Jose jumps up to a tie for fourth, and one game out of a tie for second. Playoffs, in other words. If Chivas, on the other hand, wins this game, then they're the ones right back in the playoff race, but exactly who are they going to suit up for this game anyway, Abel Xavier? Quakes, 2-1.
RED BULLS v. DYNAMO
Ooh, interesting. Houston seems to have finally decided to become a decent team...but then, so did New York. Houston doesn't have to have this game by any means - they're more than a game in front of a bunch of teams that can't string passes together, let alone wins, so they can pretty much feast on slop on their way to the #1 spot in the West. If they DO want to compete for the Supporters Shield, I suppose they can if they want. The Bullies looked awfully good, controlling the game a man down against Toronto, but I think Toronto stinks now. Picking Western road teams to win has been a fairly reliable way of losing money (figuratively speaking, I'm not deluded enough to actually bet on this nonsense), but if it was going to happen, Houston would be the team to do it. Provided Kinnear can figure out a way to work Onstad, De Rosario and Ching into a winning lineup without upsetting team chemistry. Houston, 2-1.