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Rapids lead the wild-card race
by Ridge Mahoney, September 30th, 2009 7AM



[MLS PLAYOFF RACE] After the top two in each conference -- which right now are Columbus and Chicago in the East, Houston and Los Angeles in the West -- here's how the MLS wild-card race stacks up, with teams ranked not by points, but rather their chances of joining the final eight.

5. COLORADO (10-8-9, 39 pts.)
Last week: Tied for the third straight game, this time a 0-0 result in Kansas City, after back-to-back, home-and-away 1-1 ties with San Jose. Omar Cummings hasn't scored since hitting two against Chicago Aug. 23.
Outlook: After playing in Dallas Wednesday, the Revs will arrive for the Rapids' home finale. Rather than rely on the road, why not just win at home?
Games (3): New England, @ Dallas, @ Real Salt Lake.

6. NEW ENGLAND (10-8-7, 37 pts.)
Last week:
Battled past Seattle, 2-1, with a pair of Shalrie Joseph goals despite losing Steve Ralston to an ACL injury.
Outlook: One win and a few ties will probably be enough but unless the Crew pulls away from the Fire to clinch the East and the Supporters' Shield, every game is a tough assignment. The best chance for a 'W' may be Wednesday, yet FCD's speed and attacking firepower are troublesome.
Games to play (5): @ FC Dallas, @ Colorado, Columbus, Chicago, @ Columbus.

7. CHIVAS USA (11-9-5, 36 pts.)
Last week:
Squandered two precious points when Sacha Kljestan pushed a penalty kick wide in stoppage time, after he looped a spectacular goal earlier in the match, to end up tied with the Red Bulls, 1-1.
Outlook: Final two remaining home games are prime opportunities; a struggling D.C. team, which plays in midweek, might also offer a chance. But Chivas USA has been shut out in four of the last eight games.
Games (5): @ D.C. United, Kansas City, San Jose, @ Chicago, Houston.

8. SEATTLE (9-7-11, 38 pts.)
Last week:
Scored in the sixth minute on the road, yet conspired - or was conspired against by an offside goal - to lose, 2-1, at New England.
Outlook: The Sounders must win at least one of their last two road games; if they do, a win over Dallas in the season finale will get the job done. Just. But they have lost the swagger and confidence of early summer and badly need to get it back.
Games (3): @ Columbus, @ Kansas City, FC Dallas.



9. D.C. UNITED (8-7-12, 36 pts.)
Last week:
Blew a 1-0 lead and numerous late chances while losing, 2-1, to San Jose. Also lost keeper Josh Wicks, who will be out at least a month, ergo, the rest of the regular season, with a dislocated shoulder and MCL sprain.
Outlook: Shaky, as per this quote from Coach Tom Soehn, "I've got to go back and evaluate whether I had the right blend of guys on the field." (Thanks to the Washington Post Soccer Insider.) United needs spirit and consistency, starting Wednesday against San Juan Jabloteh in the Concacaf Champions' League.
Games (3): Chivas USA, Columbus, @ Kansas City.

10. TORONTO FC (9-10-8, 35 pts.)
Last week:
Nearly grabbed three points in Chicago, but after taking a 2-1 lead with a Chad Barrett goal, TFC lost the mark on Brian McBride and keeper Stefan Frei failed to collect a playable cross that produced a tying (2-2) goal.
Outlook: Despite rapid support at BMO Field, TFC has lost three games at home this year. Nothing less than wins in its last two will suffice and it might need a result at Giants Stadium on the final day as well.
Games (3): San Jose, Real Salt Lake, @ New York,

11. REAL SALT LAKE (9-11-7, 34 pts.)
Last week:
RSL conceded two goals in the first 10 minutes and lost (3-0) for the seventh time in seven visits to Dallas. The week before it fell behind, 2-0, to Houston, but got two goals before losing, 3-2.
Outlook: "I think they tend to feel sorry for themselves and weren't willing to show some fight." So spoke Coach Jason Kreis, whose team has no more margin for error.
Games (3): New York, @ Toronto, Colorado.

12. FC DALLAS (8-12-6, 30 pts.)
Last week:
Jumped on top of RSL with two goals in the first 10 minutes and won going away, 3-0.
Outlook: This madness has to end sometime but don't tell the Stripes, who have scored 22 goals in their last eight games after netting the same number in the previous 18 matches, and lead the league with 44. Jeff Cunningham has tied Colorado's Conor Casey atop the goalscoring chart with 15.
Games (4): New England, @ San Jose, Colorado, @ Seattle.

13. KANSAS CITY (8-11-7, 31 pts.)
Last week:
One point and no goals at home against Colorado has the Wizards experiencing a Talking Heads moment, as in, "How did we get here?" just one point better than Dallas.
Outlook: The good news is two home games to finish the season, the bad news is after road games at Houston and Home Depot Center, the Wizards may already be out of it unless they win both away tussles.
Games (4): @ Houston, @ Chivas USA, Seattle, D.C. United.

14. SAN JOSE (6-12-7, 25 pts.)
Last week:
Trailed 1-0 at RFK, equalized with a great Ramon Sanchez free kick, and stole a 2-1 win when Ryan Johnson headed home the rebound of a deflected shot that hit the crossbar.
Outlook: A strong finish can build momentum for next year, but team still needs two wins just to match last year's total of eight, and that wasn't a great season by any means.
Games (5): New York, FC Dallas, @ Toronto, @ Chivas USA, @ Los Angeles.

15. New York (4-17-6) is eliminated.


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