Summer of Soccer is over...now it's SOCTOBER!

I'm sorry, gang, but I've been knocking back the cold medicine this week something fierce, and every time I sit down to write a blog my brain sails off into the wild blue yonder.

Yes, more than normal, you god-damned wiseasses.

It's a shame, because I'm INTO the MLS stretch run right now. Yeah, we've anointed Columbus and Houston as Wicked Witches of the East and West. But, as you've noticed, every other game has more race implications than a Supreme Court nominee.

Bill has noted the resurgence, entirely too late, of what I still have to remind myself are no longer called the Dallas Burn. Is Schellas Hyndman going to beat me up while screaming "What's our name, fool?"

Well, if he does, he'll have plenty of time during the playoffs. Why are Dallas and Jeff Cunningham in particular playing well? Get out a sheet of paper, and draw a U on it. That, roughly, is the curve representing number of points and quality of play right now. The teams that have effectively clinched, and the teams that have been out of the race since Flag Day, are for some reason playing really well.

That reason is - no pressure. The bad teams from earlier this year have made adjustments, gotten rid of some dead weight, and in a lot of cases are playing for their jobs. It's tempting to say "Wow, look out for San Jose, New York and Dallas next year." Maybe. But look out for them right now, because these guys are in serious spoiler mode. Sometimes, you just get teams at the exact wrong time of year.

I suppose the moral is, don't be in eighth place needing wins in October and facing a team with nothing to lose. Even the Kansas City Wizards, who took two freaking months off, had a great September.

So, assuming that the team with less to play for has a better chance to win, look for the Red Bulls to eliminate San Jose, and for Houston to eliminate Kansas City this weekend. If not officially, then might-as-well-officially.

In theory, the Galaxy-Fire game is a real showdown, but since both teams are in second, it would take a truly epic collapse for either of these teams to miss the playoffs, and they'd still have to have help. (Hm, looks like I'm gonna owe Matrim some beer.) Besides, talk about an easy game to pick:

ARE THE FIRE ON THE ROAD? Y
WINNER = FIRE

Which leaves the two really important, season-changing games of the week.

Colorado is at home, New England played a road game last night and looked awful. The Rapids haven't looked beautiful, exactly, and they sure didn't get the job done against the Earthquakes. But you have to think the Rapids are favorites here, right? Right? By the way, is anyone doing a worse job with their games in hand than New England?

Oh, right, Chivas USA.

The playoff system is the reason that we have to care about DCU-CUSA this weekend at all, let alone having this battery-acid fight be the most important game of the weekend. Now, whether you think anyone should care about this game or not is probably a valid aesthetic call, but the facts are, this game would have been on the schedule anyway, and now we have a reason to watch.

Just to make it all the more agonizing, I think both Raps-Revs and DC-CUSA end in ties. Desperate teams with trouble finishing their chances make for games high on emotion and agony, low on bonito.

Light at the end of the tunnel? Baby, we're not even in the tunnel - it's just dark outside. This here MLS regular season is going to end up utterly punishing...and then the real fun begins.

At first I thought that MLS was just trying to start fights with their Awards Tracker...but I'm not sure. They seem to be making safer picks outside of the MVP race, and you can make a good case that without Joseph and Landon, New England and Los Angeles would be, in the words of Pope Pius VI, screwed, blued and tattooed. Still, listing Schelotto in third seems like an attempt to get Crew fans riled up. I know - usually, they're so laid back.

It'll also be interesting to see Dallas fans reacting to Cunningham being listed at tenth at best. Well, by process of elimination, you see, because the Awards Tracker only has nine people listed, but I assume JC would have been number ten. What is it with Jeff Cunningham getting goalscoring titles and missing the playoffs?