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Seattle leads crowded wild-card race
by Ridge Mahoney, September 15th, 2009 7AM
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[MLS] Kansas City and FC Dallas crept into playoff contention, barely, by posting vital victories last week. Since they meet this weekend, only by winning can either team realistically stay in the hunt. Counting those two outsiders, there are nine teams vying for the four wild-card spots, allotted by overall points, with the top two finishers in each conference earning guaranteed places. (The top two currently being Columbus and Chicago in the East, and Houston and Los Angeles in the West.) Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney explains which teams are poised to reach the playoffs.


There was no change at the top of the conference standings last weekend, though by beating Houston, 2-1, at home Columbus extended its lead in the Supporters' Shield (regular-season title) race.

Columbus and Chicago remain one-two in the East, and second-place Los Angeles squandered a chance to leap frog the Dynamo into first by suffering a 6-3 hammering by FC Dallas at Home Depot Center.

Seattle dealt D.C. United's playoff hopes a serious setback by beating D.C., 2-1, in a repeat - right down to the scoreline -- of their RFK meeting two weeks ago in the U.S. Open Cup final. Chivas USA dinged New England's chances with a vital 2-0 win, and visits Qwest Field this weekend.

Here's a rundown on the nine hopefuls, ranked not by points, but by their chances of reaching the postseason.

5. SEATTLE (9-6-10, 37 points)
Last week:
Spanked D.C. United, 2-1, at RFK for the second straight week.
Outlook: Team will be tested by three straight tough road games, so a home victory against Chivas USA this week is essential.
Schedule: Chivas USA, @ New England, @ Columbus, @ Kansas City, FC Dallas.

6. COLORADO (10-8-6, 36 pts.)
Last week:
Lost the second leg of their home-and-away duet against Toronto FC, 3-2.
Outlook: Despite the defeat, Colorado is still two points ahead of that rival, and plays another home-and-away set against the last-place Quakes.
Schedule: @ San Jose, San Jose, @ Kansas City, New England, @ FC Dallas, @ Real Salt Lake.

7. CHIVAS USA (11-9-3, 36 pts.)
Last week:
Scored early and late to beat New England, 2-0, at home, and leads MLS in shutouts with 10. Maicon Santos, a midseason loan acquisition, scored his first MLS goal in the 10th minute.
Outlook: Juggled its roster by trading defender Bobby Burling to San Jose and picking up keeper Jon Conway from New York to back up Zach Thornton, who has been battling a quadriceps strain but didn't need to make a save against the Revs. Still ravaged by injuries.
Schedule: @ Seattle, New York, @ D.C. United, Kansas City, San Jose, @ Chicago, Houston.

8. NEW ENGLAND (9-8-6), 33 pts.)
Last week:
Dropped a 2-0 decision at HDC to Chivas USA, and now trails that rival - which outshot it, 18-2! -- by three points.
Outlook: Revs have burned up two of their games in hand by getting zero points, and need to win at least one of their next three road games to keep pace, since their last three games are all tough assignments. The return of Shalrie Joseph from suspension will help, but he and Steve Ralston have been carrying too much of the load the past two months.
Schedule: @New York, Seattle, @FC Dallas, @Colorado, Columbus, Chicago, @Columbus.


9. TORONTO FC (9-9-7, 34 points)
Last week:
Knocked off the Rapids, 3-2, by scoring twice within three minutes to break a 1-1 tie.
Outlook: Signing of Canadian international Julian De Guzman and fitness of rookie forward O'Brian White, who scored his second goal against Colorado, gives TFC a big boost at the most critical point of the season. Playoff hopes may hinge on next two road tests.
Schedule: @Los Angeles, @Chicago, San Jose, Real Salt Lake, @New York.

10. D.C. UNITED (8-6-12, 36 pts.)
Last week:
Followed up narrow 1-0 midweek victory over Kansas City by losing at home again to Seattle, 2-1, while conceding a late Fredy Montero goal.
Outlook: The attack looks inept at times as Fred and Christian Gomez struggle, and against Seattle, keeper Josh Wicks looked suspect on both goals. A week off from league play could be used to correct problems but other MLS teams will pick up points as United plays on the road (Trinidad & Tobago) in the Concacaf Champions League.
Schedule: San Jose, Chivas USA, Columbus, @Kansas City.

11. REAL SALT LAKE (9-9-7, 34 pts.)
Last week:
Another good defensive effort limited the Fire to just one goal, an excellent strike by Chris Rolfe, but RSL could manage only a 1-1 tie at home.
Outlook: Woeful road form (2-8-2) must improve to keep alive flickering playoff hopes.
Schedule: @Houston, @FC Dallas, New York, @Toronto FC, Colorado.

12. KANSAS CITY (7-11-6, 27 pts.)
Last week:
Rebounded from 1-0 midweek loss at D.C. by winning at New York by the same score when Josh Wolff netted a rebound for his ninth goal.
Outlook: Consistent attacking play from Claudio Lopez and Wolff and a revived defense can keep the Wizards in the hunt, but only if it can sweep its remaining home games.
Schedule: FC Dallas, Colorado, @Houston, @Chivas USA, Seattle, D.C United.

13. FC DALLAS (7-11-6, 27 pts.)
Last week: Hit six goals for the second time this season while destroying the Galaxy, 6-3, on the road.
Outlook: Incredible team speed will torment opponents in the final weeks of a long, grueling season but FCD really can't afford any more losses and only one or two ties.
Schedule: @Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, New England, @San Jose, Colorado, @Seattle.


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