By Ridge Mahoney
Here's how MLS teams rate from top to bottom after 26 weeks of action:
1. LOS ANGELES (15-3-10). Handed a rare start, Paolo Cardozo boosted the Galaxy attack with six shots (four on goal) in 67 minutes of action as L.A. downed defending champ Colorado, 1-0, on Landon Donovan’s 12th goal of the season. Donovan Ricketts, out since June 25 with a broken forearm, returned in goal as the defense posted its 14th shutout and lowered its goals-per-game average to a league-best 0.79. Last week: 1.
2. REAL SALT LAKE (13-7-6) Good teams take maximum advantage of opponent miscues and RSL exploited an own goal and missed penalty kick to beat the Sounders, 2-1, in Seattle. A red card to Tony Beltran was matched by the dismissal of John Kennedy Hurtado, and with the score tied, 1-1, Alvaro Saborio latched onto the rebound of his own blocked shot to smack the winner into the top corner. Nick Rimando’s face save on Tyson Wahl’s blast secured the victory. RSL has won three straight and still has at least two games in hand compared to its Western Conference co-contenders. Last week: 4.
3. FC DALLAS (13-8-7) In a 2-0 loss at New England, FCD didn’t lack for shots – it took 16 – but seven of them came from Jackson Goncalves, who has netted this season yet is far from the team’s major attacking threat. Maicon Santos (six shots, three on frame) forced a good tip-over save but not much else seriously threatened the Revs’ goal as FCD lost for the third time in the last five games. Fatigue dragged on a few players in this game, notably a very lackluster Brek Shea. Last week: 2.
4. SEATTLE (13-6-9) A catastrophic bobble by Kasey Keller put the ball into his own net and Mauro Rosales drilled a penalty kick wide in a disquieting 2-1 home loss to RSL. With his 10th assist of the season, Rosales did set up Fredy Montero to equalize but yet another error proved decisive as RSL turned Tyson Wahl’s whiffed clearance into the winning goal. Last week: 3.
5. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (10-8-10) SKC moved into a tie for first place with Columbus when it followed up a 2-2 tie with Los Angeles on Labor Day by drilling Houston, 3-0, at Livestrong Sporting Park. Teal Bunbury scored twice and rookie C.J. Sapong bagged his fourth goal as SKC won for the third time in the last five games. With two assists, Graham Zusi took over the team lead with six. Last week: 7.
6. COLORADO (10-8-11) A 1-0 loss to the Galaxy at Home Depot Center is no disgrace; more worrying is the fact the Rapids seldom looked like they belonged on the same field. Some stellar work by keeper Matt Pickens (eight saves) prevented an embarrassing scoreline yet still they lost their second straight match. A suspension ended defender Drew Moor’s incredible streak of 6,210 consecutive minutes played. Last week: 5.
7. COLUMBUS (11-9-7). This is not the way to finish the regular season, especially for a supposed title contender. The Crew, at home mind you, fell behind conference doormat Toronto FC, 2-0, early and never caught up. Substitute Tommy Heinemann scored a goal and set up team leader Andres Mendoza for his ninth, which still left Columbus a 4-2 loser and outscored 10-4 in its last two games following last week’s 6-2 pummeling at Seattle. Last week: 6.
8. D.C. UNITED (8-7-10). Charlie Davies and Chris Pontius ran wild at HDC as United overpowered Chivas USA, 3-0. Davies scored a hat trick with three Pontius assists to join the league goalscoring leaders with 11, one from the top. A fractured tibia suffered by Pointius in a reckless challenge could sideline him for the rest of the season, yet with a league-most nine games remaining, United harbors legitimate playoff hopes. Last week 10.
9. PHILADELPHIA (8-7-12). In back-to-back home games against two of the league’s weaker teams, the Union bagged just two points. It needed a furious rally from 4-1 down to tie New England, 4-4, on a Freddy Adu goal and two more by Sebastian Le Toux. It shored up the back line against Portland and pitched a shutout but failed to score itself, with Kyle Nakazawa’s rattling of the crossbar in the 88th minute as close as it came. Winless in its last seven games, the Union is clinging precariously to a playoff spot. Last week: 8.
10. HOUSTON (8-9-11). The dark side of the Dynamo returned, or perhaps it never really went away. Honduran DP Carlo Costly picked up the team’s seventh red card of the season in the 64th minute of a 3-0 loss at Kansas City. Recently signed Luiz Camargo made his debut for the club in the 81st minute. Last week: 9.
11. PORTLAND (9-12-6). The Timbers don’t care if opposing teams and fans don’t care for the heavily fortified approach they sometimes take on the road. Just such an effort extracted a 0-0 tie out of PPL Park to notch just their seventh away point; still they will be unhappy not to score against backup keeper Zac MacMath, who saved well from Jorge Perlaza. On the last best chance of the game, whatever has plagued Kenny Cooper this season recurred when he failed to get a shot on frame while well-placed. Last week: 12.
12. NEW YORK (6-6-15). The Improbable Implosion continues, though for once NYRB battled through some adversity in a 1-1 tie with Vancouver at Red Bull Arena. After being burned as the Caps took a 1-0 lead, right back Jan Gunnar Solli went off with a red card in first-half stoppage time for denying a goalscoring opportunity. NYRB rallied a man down to equalize through Juan Agudelo (sixth of the season) and he nearly won it with 10 minutes left but was thwarted by a good save. Four ties in the last five games; same as it ever was. Last week: 11.
13. CHIVAS USA (7-11-10). Some abysmal defending doomed Chivas USA to an ugly 3-0 home defeat by D.C. United, which it trails by just three points in the wild-card race. Rather than being refreshed by the FIFA break, Chivas USA started sluggishly and lost its third in a row. A young team is showing its inexperience as critical matches pile up. Last week: 13.
14. NEW ENGLAND (5-11-12). The Revs summoned up one of their best efforts to knock off FC Dallas, 2-0, with a Shalrie Joseph header and crisp far-post finish by Rajko Lekic. Six saves by Matt Reis ensured an end to a seven-game winless streak that included an incredible 4-4 tie with Philly last Wednesday that the Revs led, 4-1, after 33 minutes yet failed to win. To make the playoffs they probably need to double their win total in the last six games. Last week: 15.
15. CHICAGO (4-8-15). The Fire flamed out in San Jose, losing, 2-0, to halt a four-game unbeaten streak in league action. Dan Gargan filled in at left back for a suspended Gonzalo Segares and after being burned on the first Quakes’ goal, nearly redeemed himself with a shot that hit the post. Yet it’s not likely this team can redeem a disappointing season with a miraculous run to the playoffs. Last week: 14.
16. TORONTO FC (5-12-12). TFC won in Columbus for the first time, and on the road for the first time in 2011, by jumping on top early and holding a lead all the way to win, 4-2. Goals by Nick Soolsma and Ryan Johnson provided a 2-0 lead, Julian da Guzman added a third, and Danny Koevermans scored in stoppage time. A fearsome collision knocked keeper Stefan Frei out of the game but his hip injury doesn’t appear to be serious. Last week: 17.
17. SAN JOSE (6-10-11). Nearly three months of frustration ended when the Quakes beat Chicago, 2-0, to snap a 13-game winless streak. Chris Wondolowski failed to convert a penalty kick after tucking away his 10th goal of the season on a great feed from Rafael Baca. The Quakes and keeper Jon Busch held off the Fire at 1-0 until Wondo set up Ramiro Corrales in the final minutes for the clincher. Last week: 16.
18. VANCOUVER (4-13-10). A golazo by Davide Chiumiento, set up by a darting left-wing run by Camilo, and some clutch goalkeeping by Joe Cannon earned the Caps a 1-1 tie at Red Bull Arena. Chiumiento’s flick-and-volley on the turn sparked an immediate debate as to whether it topped Eric Hassli’s remarkable strike in June. Last week: 18.