Apologies for missing last week's Western Conference update - it was a bit of a busy week. This week has been busy as well, with lots of personnel changes happening all around the league.
Since the last time I posted an update 25 MLS games have taken place, including three involving the Portland Timbers. Though they got through it with a win against the league leaders, a minus-five goal differential in those three games, followed by a leadership change, wasn't what Timbers fans hoped for.
But ignoring the goal differential, the three points the Timbers took from those three matches weren't actually all that bad in terms of their standing in the table. The Western Conference, in all its generosity, still refuses to punish the Timbers for their incompetence on the road. Oh, Western Conference, you're such a tease.
The Timbers lost no ground to Colorado, who finally broke the Timbers Bump we described in the Week 14 edition by losing two in a row after beating the Timbers. Portland likewise kept their pace with the Galaxy, who have also lost two of their last three -- the Timbers remain four points behind them, with two games in hand.
Keeping pace is one thing. Gaining ground is quite another. With another three-game week coming up (with an inexplicable 1pm start under the Carson, California sun), the path isn't getting any easier. Catch up on the Western Conference after the jump.
San Jose Earthquakes
Recent results: 4-3 win vs Los Angeles; 2-1 loss at Portland; 0-0 draw at Dallas
As much as Portland fans despair about their season outlook, it's hard to take notice of the fact that the league leaders had a pretty lousy week of their own, scoring only as many goals as they conceded and going home with just a point taken from the bottom two teams in the conference.
In the meantime, they have made a couple of moves this week, letting midfielders Tressor Moreno and Anthony Ampaipitakwong leave for Chile and Thailand respectively. One would expect them to be adding some pieces during the transfer window.
Week 17 projection: 2-2 draw vs Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake
Recent results: 2-0 loss at Columbus; 0-0 draw vs Seattle; 3-0 win vs Portland
Another team to manage just four points in a week was RSL, who finally broke out of a slump with the help of the Portland Timbers. But that win was preceded by two fairly hapless showings against Columbus and Seattle. They face another tough test against San Jose on Saturday.
The big news in Sandy today is the transfer of SLC native Justin Braun from Montreal. Braun wasn't getting a ton of minutes with the Impact, with just five starts as compared to the 24 starts he earned at Chivas in 2010 and 22 starts in 2011. Not the sort of career trajectory a 25-year-old wants. He'll fall in line behind Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola on the depth chart, but with his 6'3" frame, he will tower over his competitors for that first backup spot.
Week 17 projection: 2-2 draw at San Jose.
Recent results: 1-0 win at Colorado; 0-0 draw at Chivas
Vancouver continues to plug along, doing just enough to continue to get points and move up the table. Their defense continues to be one of the strongest in the league, while they rely on a different combination of strikers every week to produce goals. It's worked so far.
It will have to keep working now without Davide Chiumiento, who is leaving for FC Zürich. Chiumiento has had moments of greatness during his tenure with Vancouver, but his inconsistency has frustrated many fans up there. It will be interesting to see what they do to replace him.
Week 17 projection: 2-1 win at Toronto; 1-1 draw at Chicago
Recent results: 2-2 draw at New England; 0-0 draw at Salt Lake; 2-1 win vs Colorado
Seattle finally broke out of their nine-match winless streak and have turned it into a three-game unbeaten streak, grabbing five points from the tough week. They'll try to keep the run going this weekend in New York, but first they have to take on Chivas tonight in the US Open Cup semifinal.
The Sounders haven't made any transfer headlines of late, but the news coming from up north is just as game-changing. Steve Zakuani made his long-awaited return on Saturday against the team that broke his leg last year. It's anybody's guess what he'll be able to contribute, but it's a good boon to their spirits I'm sure.
The other big news is that injured keeper Michael Gspurning, during whose absence the team has endured one of its worst runs since joining MLS, has begun participating in full training sessions. This is bad news for anyone who was particularly enjoying watching them over the past couple of months.
Week 17 projection: 2-1 loss at New York
Recent results: 3-0 win vs Portland; 1-0 loss vs Vancouver; 2-1 loss at Seattle
Despite the 3-0 drubbing they handed to the Timbers a week and a half ago, they did no better themselves with their three game week, settling for just the three points in three matches, two of them at home. Still, as their restored lineup gets used to playing together their rise in the table will likely continue.
The only transfer the team has made (so far) is sending Kosuke Kimura to Portland, for allocation money and an international slot. I'm interested to see who will fill that international slot.
Week 17 projection: 1-0 win vs Dallas
Recent results: 4-3 loss at San Jose; 2-1 loss vs Philadelphia; 2-0 win at Chicago
The Galaxy's run of luck finally came to an end with a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to San Jose last week. They lost in similarly heartbreaking fashion to Philadelphia, despite doubling Philly's shot total and putting six of them on target.
The Galaxy's biggest news is also a return from injury: Omar Gonzalez made his triumphant return to the pitch in the first half of the Philly game. He did not make an appearance against Chicago, though, suggesting that it may still be a couple of weeks before he's consistently in the lineup.
Still, the Timbers did all right against him last year.
Week 17 projection: 1-1 draw at Portland
Recent results: 0-0 draw vs Vancouver
In his latest SB Nation MLS Power Rankings post, Jeremiah Oshan reports, "It's easy to forget this team exists some times [sic]," referring to the number of 0-0 draws Chivas has had lately. Fortunately for Chivas, 0-0 draws can work in a team's favor in US Open Cup competition.
Still, he's right; there's not a lot to say about them right now.
Week 17 projection: 0-0 draw vs Portland
Recent results: 1-1 draw vs Toronto; 0-0 draw vs San Jose
No question about it -- Dallas is slowly improving their game after some meltdowns in May. A draw at home against Toronto isn't necessarily going to delight the fans, but certainly a draw against the league's best team will. The key has been the defense finally playing to the ability we all assumed they had at the start of the season.
Also, home heat advantage might be playing a role.
Week 17 projection: 1-0 loss at Colorado