The leaders in the MLS Eastern Conference continue to struggle, while the gap in the Western Conference continues to widen between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the rest. Also, Real Salt Lake continues to struggle to get results.
New York was lucky to escape Portland with one point this weekend, as an own goal early in the match against the Timbers could have unraveled the team as has been the case for them over the past several weeks this season. In a crazy match that saw the ejection of superstar Thierry Henry, the only way that the visitors escaped without a loss was a handball called in the box during second-half stoppage time.
Dwayne De Rosario, who had been away at the Gold Cup its last six matches and allowing it to stay at the top of the standings in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia, the closest team to New York in the standings for much of the season, travelled cross country to face the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps. The Union gave up an early goal, which has been fairly uncommon thus far this year, and could not find the equalizer as the match wore on.
The loss snapped the Unions' four-game unbeaten streak dating back to the middle of May. Even so, they are only one point behind New York, and they stand to regain the conference lead with two home games this week, while New York plays two on the road.
Sporting KC, which got its second win in a row this past week, is one team that is trying to make up ground in the standings. Currently KC is in last place in the East, but it could make a late season push for the playoffs with 15 of its final 21 games at Livestrong Park where it has let to lose or give up a goal.
The Western Conference is quickly becoming all about the Los Angeles Galaxy and everyone else. The Galaxy have been without veteran goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and American soccer star Landon Donovan for nearly a month while playing for their respective national teams in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. But the Galaxy has had no problem earning points with the rest of their star-filled roster.
Unbeaten in their last nine games (five wins, four draws), the Galaxy should continue to earn points during the next stretch of their schedule.
Local favorite Real Salt Lake appeared to be prepared to earn the full three points at home against D.C. United, but a questionable penalty kick was awarded late in the match on what appeared to be a fantastic tackle by Chris Wingert.
After Charlie Davies converted the penalty with mere minutes remaining, RSL appeared frustrated and almost gave up a late game-winner after committing a silly foul just outside the box. Luckily, the free kick was slightly off target and RSL held on for the draw.
Still tied for fourth place and having played five less games than the Galaxy, RSL can definitely make a move up the standings and should be able to challenge for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Landon Walters is a history and political science major currently studying at Salt Lake Community College and is an avid sports fan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at www.twitter.com/LandawgDew