As is now customary, longtime BigSoccer éminence grise Knave has posted his MLS Table of Destiny, this year entitled MAGIC NUMBERS, TRAGIC NUMBERS & OTHER NUMERICAL ARCANA OF DUBIOUS VALUE.
It's a must-read. So go there now. We'll wait here. Honest.
Dumm-de-dumm-de-dumm-de...what? Gulati's on the phone again? Tell that little twerp that I'm sorry but I have all the magazine subscriptions I need right now. Thanks...dumm-de-dumm-de-dumm....who? Loney? Doesn't he ever get tired of gloating? Yeah, the Galaxy sack stomped the Crew on Saturday. Just wait til he has to put up with the sight of Posh's husband trotting out there every week from now on; the heartburn alone will send him to the ER.....dumm-de-doodle-de-dumm....
OK, that was all the time you get. Just remember, they sent men to the moon with engineering done via slide rule and by comparison to that entering some numbers into a computer and then pushing a button is the functional equivalent of building a house out of Play Doh.
And then eating it.
So of course the rankings themselves don't tell you a lot that you don't know.
At it's most basic, the top five teams look pretty solid, the three that finish out the "if the playoffs started today" field of eight are sitting pretty comfortably and the 9 and 10 (KC, Chicago) are going to need to get serious real damned quick or it's going to be all over but the weeping, coach lynching and, of course, heavy drinking.
As for Chivas, New England, Philadelphia, Houston, Toronto and DC, look on the bright side: there are a number of fine NCAA Div I players coming out this year.
And of course, as always, those among you who are serious numbers geeks can have a ball over there talking about things like mean deviation and how the AD number functions as an "upper minimum", all of which just makes my head hurt.
For the rest of us Liberal Arts majors - or guys who played soccer at, say, Lindsay Wilson* - we'll just have to assume that Knave knows what he's about here when he opines that, contrary to the last couple of years when the playoff race has been something of a nail biter down to literally the last day of the season, this years' is going to be as dull as dishwater.
And if it's true that, as it appears today, about the only question remaining is whether KC can nip Seattle out of the final spot then indeed we're in for a snoozer.
Which is probably good news for some players who may be able to sit down for a match or two before the dance begins in earnest, and this time of year everybody is playing hurt.
However all of that may be, there's a larger point that I'd like to make but before I do, three quick comments on the above:
1) Admit it; you're as shocked as anyone to see that Dallas is in like Flynn. All season long you kept waiting for them to sundenly fold up like a cheap shirt and plummet down the table back to where they belong.
Like, sadly, Chivas did.
2) Seattle is discovering what a miracle last season was. They seemed to think that they had vaulted from nothingness to the permanent pinnacle of American soccer and while, as an expansion team, it wasn't entirely realistic to expect to instantly become the dominant force in the league, surely that part was on it's way beginning in 2010.
Don't get me wrong; I love the whole Seattle thing as much as anyone. I just think they thought this was going to be a lot easier than it is.
Of course they do seem to be trying to corner the market on the US Open Cup.
3) It's gotten to the point where even I am beginning to feel sorry for Toronto. God knows it's not like they're not trying. They've spent the money. They went out and signed the best guys they could find. They hired a coach who knows his way around MLS as well as anyone (unlike the certifiable paranoid lunatic from overseas they had running the place a year or two ago. We have plenty of crazy people over here; why go looking?).
And it's just not working for them. Hard to blame the fans for being plenty pissed off. Hard to see how Mo Johnston survives to screw up another season.
And word now is that, as he did at Chivas, Preki is imploding. When they start showing film of you swatting at reporters, it may be time for you to go.
Anyway, where I'm headed is here:
Los Angeles 11m
Salt Lake 2.6m
New York 15.7m
San Jose 2.5m
Kansas City 2.9m
Chivas USA 2.5m
New England 2.9m
This, as you've undoubtedly noticed, is the current table with the reported total team salary numbers.
Now obviously New York/New Jersey fans would be quick to point out that they haven't had all their guys together for very long, and of course they're correct.
Conversely, you can lop off Mr. Spices' $6mm from LA's total since he has, as of today, played a total of one minute or thereabouts. Which puts them behind Chicago on the list if you only count guys who actually appeared on the pitch.
I would be the first to say that it's still pretty early in the game to know for sure whether the whole DP thing has fundamentally changed the MLS equation.
But the early returns are the same as they always were: depth and the ability to field talented American players (Donovan and Buddle in LA make the point, and so does the absence of the pile of strong American players who have left New England and Houston) still appears to be more important than the ability to sign long-in-the-tooth foreign guys.
Maybe it's just me.
* True story: a couple of years ago during the NAIA Final Four, where all the teams were staying at the same hotel, the night before the final the one team had gotten together in an area of the lobby to cram for exams, which were starting the next day.
The Lindsay Wilson players came though the lobby on their way out and they stopped, looked around for a minute at all these guys with their noses jammed in books and finally one of them said "So you guys have to, like, take tests and shit?"