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MLS Western Conference Week 6 - The End of the Beginning

Yes, Aurelien. When you hear that noise of the Timbers Army boys, we'll be coming down the road.
Yes, Aurelien. When you hear that noise of the Timbers Army boys, we'll be coming down the road.

The beginning of the 2012 season is over. A full month has officially passed, and with it nearly all of the odd-ball mini-statistics about this or that team going so and so minutes, with or without doing such and such since the start of the year. The one outlier is our next opponent.

The only team left with any early season weirdness is Kansas City, which rolls into Portland this weekend to try to extend their winning streak. They'll make the attempt after using the same starting lineup in every game this season with one exception: they started Teal Bunbury in place of CJ Sapong in their season opener. That's eleven starters used in 10 outfield positions in their first seven games.

If they use the same starting lineup on Saturday, they will have used the same ten players for at least 50 minutes for the third time in eight days. By contrast, Real Salt Lake used 16 starters during their three-game week. What's wrong, Sporkcs? Got no depth?

If ever there was a game that would knock this team off their early season perch, it's this one, in Portland, Jimmy Nielsen standing mere yards from the Timbers Army. How's that for some optimism?

Stumptown Footy's Western Conference Weekly follows the jump.

Real Salt Lake

Last week: 0:1 loss at Kansas City

Real Salt Lake finally lost a game that they did not dominate. Sporting Kansas City demonstrated once again that they are the team to beat, repeatedly breaking past the staunch RSL back line, while holding RSL to one weak shot on target in the 91st minute -- the first for SKC in 335 minutes of play. Give credit to RSL for finally breaking through, but remember that the shot came after 90 minutes of getting beaten in every part of the pitch.

They'll look to recover from that defeat this weekend in San Jose, which should be a really good matchup.

Week 7 projection: 3:2 victory at San Jose

San Jose Earthquakes

Last week: 2:2 draw at New York

San Jose continue to surprise everyone with their form opening the season, this time taking a road point against a New York Red Bulls squad that currently leads the league in scoring by quite a bit. The previously unshakable Earthquakes defense (see what I did there?) finally allowed more than one goal in a game for the first time this season, albeit while holding the NYRBs to just four shots.

San Jose probably should have been able to win the game, considering how easily they were able to rip through the NYRB's awful defense on the goals they scored, but they were never able to make much of their other chances. And now they'll play host to Real Salt Lake without midfielder Shea Salinas, who will be out for the next few weeks with a broken collarbone.

Week 7 projection: 2:3 loss vs RSL

Seattle Sounders

Last week: 1:0 victory vs Colorado

The Seattle Sounders continued their defensive dominance last weekend, holding Colorado scoreless on just four shots overall. The Seattle is now one of only two teams that have conceded as few as two goals this season, tied of course with Kansas City.

But offensive ineptitude still plagues the Sounders, as they continue to find difficulty creating chances from the run of play. Since David Estrada's hat trick against Toronto, all of Seattle's goals have directly resulted from set pieces, and that trend continued last weekend. Still the Sounders fans wait for the return of Mauro Rosales.

Week 7 projection: bye

FC Dallas

Last week: 2:1 victory vs Montreal

Earlier in the season I complained about having to watch Vancouver week after week. Well, now it's Dallas that's pissing me off. An increasing number of Dallas players are spending an increasing amount of time sprawled out on the pitch. One of these days the referees are going to put a stop to it, but in the meantime they're a pain in the ass to watch.

Well, except for Brek Shea, who put on a show with an 88th minute game winner, thanks in large part to some impressive teamwork from Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo. Other than that and Perez's poachy finish off a set piece, Dallas didn't create a lot of chances against Montreal. The defense, meanwhile, held the opposition scoreless, save for a PK taken after a soft foul in the box. You reap what you sow.

Week 7 projection: 1:2 loss at Vancouver

Chivas USA

Last week: 1:0 victory at Toronto

Chivas are suddenly in 5th place in the Western Conference. Imagine that. After that anomaly in Portland two weeks ago, Chivas once again played a game to a 1-0 finish, this time beating the only MLS team without a win this year. Toronto FC did put up a good fight this time around, Danny Koevermans narrowly missing several equalizers late in the second half, but Dan Kennedy once again came up huge.

Chivas has still only scored 4 goals in 6 games, and even if Kennedy and his defense are able to keep the ball out of the net, they're still going to need to figure out a way to score goals to maintain their position.

Week 7 projection: 1:0 victory vs Philadelphia

Colorado Rapids

Last week: 0:1 loss at Seattle

Neither Brian Mullan nor Tony Cascio are suitable replacements for Conor Casey. Nobody is more aware of that fact right now than Omar Cummings, who has been dying all season for someone to take some of the pressure of the opposing defense off of him.

As they have for a few weeks now, Jeff Larentowicz and Martin Rivero are having no trouble getting the ball upfield, but the attack runs into a wall once the ball gets to Cummings. He needs help. The Colorado defense, on the other hand, doesn't need help, as long as Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne are healthy and playing CB.

Week 7 projection: 1:1 draw vs Los Angeles

Vancouver Whitecaps

Last week: 1:3 loss vs Kansas City

It's hard to fault them for losing to a team that has not lost a game yet this season, and kudos to them for scoring only the second goal that the Sporkcs have allowed, but none of that refutes the fact that the honeymoon is over for Vancouver. In one game they doubled their goals allowed total for the year, leaving them in seventh place after spending the first few weeks in the top five.

It was the worst defensive performance of the year for the Whitecaps, and for Martin Bonjour in particular. He left Aurelien Collin wide open to rebound in KC's first goal and followed that up in the 51st minute with an own goal. Caps fans will hope it was just a blip against the league's strongest team.

Week 7 projection: 2:1 victory vs Dallas

LA Galaxy

Last week: 3:1 victory vs Portland

No need to go into too much detail about Galaxy's week. They created scoring opportunities that had been rare prior to their 3-1 victory over the Portland Timbers, while the addition of David Junior Lopes clearly improved their defensive performance.

Week 7 projection: 1:1 draw at Colorado