A lot has happened since the last time I wrote one of these (vacations and such), but let's just focus on two key things.
Firstly, FC Dallas has gone on a winning streak that is starting to look like a serious run at the playoffs. I know -- who would have thought? But suddenly the breaks are starting to go their way, and the quality many of us thought they had at the beginning of the season is finally starting to materialize.
Secondly, the Cascadia Cup is back. This past weekend Seattle and Vancouver played their second matchup of the season, this contest ending in a commanding 2-0 victory for the Sounders, bringing them to a tie in the CC table with the Portland Timbers.
Seattle and Vancouver are two teams going in opposite directions at this point in the season. With Seattle enjoying relative health in their lineup, and with Michael Gspurning minding the net, Seattle is surging with confidence.
On the converse, Vancouver has spent the last few weeks profoundly changing the look of their starting lineup, sending away Sebastien Le Toux and Eric Hassli, while bringing in Dane Richards, Barry Robson, and Andy O'Brien. While the moves certainly make sense on some levels, they have yet to bear much fruit, at least as it pertains to wins.
The rest of the Western Conference weekly follows the jump.
Recent results: 2-1 win vs Seattle, 3-1 loss at Montreal
Against Montreal it seemed everything that had previously gone right for San Jose this season suddenly went wrong -- Lenhart's well deserved red card paramount among them. But there's no reason to expect this to be a harbinger of things to come.
As unexpected as San Jose's run has been, they've been remarkably even-keeled and haven't had the highs and lows that other teams -- Seattle and Los Angeles, for example -- have had. The Quakes haven't had a winning streak or a losing streak this season of longer than three games, instead marching their steady slog to the league's best record.
Week 23 projection: 3-1 win vs Colorado
Recent results: 4-0 win vs Los Angeles, 2-1 loss at San Jose, 2-0 win vs Vancouver
Seattle is marching right back up to the top of the Western Conference, after stumbling for much of the middle of the season. And it's not hard to see why they're suddenly back at the top: Michael Gspurning. I think over the first three years of the Seattle franchise people took Kasey Keller for granted, but it's become clear that the fate of the Seattle defense is tied tightly to the quality of their netminder. Thankfully for Seattle fans their savior has returned.
Week 23 projection: 1-0 win at Chivas
Recent results: 1-0 loss at Colorado, 2-1 loss at Vancouver, 2-1 loss vs Dallas
Real Salt Lake has gone on a three-game losing streak since I last updated this series, painful, heartbreaking losses all. The last one, against Dallas, was particularly unfortunate, coming against a suddenly surging team with no help whatsoever from the officials. Missing out on Jamison Olave and Chris Schuler hasn't helped either, but a road trip to Philadelphia might.
Week 23 projection: 1-1 draw at Philadelphia
4. LA Galaxy
Recent Results: 4-0 loss at Seattle, 4-0 win at Chivas, 1-1 draw vs Columbus
The bad news for the Galaxy is that their defense hasn't really improved a whole lot with the return of Omar Gonzales. Seattle's offense, with as little consistency as it has had this year, was able to slice through it with no problem three weeks ago. The good news for them is that it probably isn't going to matter very much, given how dangerous they are on counter attacks.
Week 23 projection: 2-2 draw vs Dallas
5. FC Dallas
Recent results: 1-1 draw at Portland, 3-2 win vs Colorado, 2-0 win at Vancouver, 2-1 win at Salt Lake
Wow. Quite the run from FC Dallas -- ten points in four matches and a three-game win streak. My end-of-season projection spreadsheet loves winning streaks and suddenly has Dallas, which had spent much of the early part of the season at the bottom of the conference, making the playoffs ahead of Vancouver. We'll see if that actually happens, but with Blas Perez, David Ferreira, George John, and an apparently less petulant Brek Shea all on the field at the same time, perhaps Dallas is finally doing as well as I thought they would at the beginning of the season.
Week 23 projection: 2-2 draw at Los Angeles
Recent results: 2-1 win at Salt Lake, 2-0 loss vs Dallas, 2-0 loss at Seattle
We'll talk more about our next opponent in our preview material over the next couple of days, but with all the changes they have made to their starting lineup, one must wonder what exactly was broken?
Week 23 projection: a match against the Timbers
Recent results: 1-0 win vs Salt Lake, 3-2 loss at Dallas, 1-1 draw vs Chivas
The Rapids finally cracked their 6-game losing streak but immediately returned to their losing ways a game later. Their 1-1 performance against Chivas was a far cry from their 4-0 walloping earlier in the season, so the questions continue for Colorado fans.
Week 23 projection: 3-1 loss at San Jose
8. Chivas USA
Recent results: 4-0 loss vs Los Angeles, 1-1 draw at Colorado
Shalrie Joseph's first two matches with Chivas have not been great. This is another case where I'm not sure what problem Chivas had that the addition of Joseph could solve, since Chivas had had one of the league's best defenses this year. And indeed adding him so far seems to be an impediment to their success. Perhaps he just needs more time to gel with his new team, but it's hard to figure how his presence on the team will solve Chivas' biggest problem -- namely, that they are by far the worst goal scoring team in MLS.
Week 23 projection: 1-0 loss vs Seattle, 1-1 draw at New England