We're nine weeks into the 2009 MLS season, almost a third of the way through. That gives us a large enough sample size to make a fairly accurate judgment as to the relative strength of each club in the league.
Things are looking pretty grim for some of the league's traditional blue-bloods.
Columbus can't buy a victory, even when they take a lead into the 90th minute. New England is rapidly aging right before our eyes, and even Houston has gotten off to a slower start than normal.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. All great accomplishments in 2008 aside, New York is continuing their tradition of underachieving. San Jose has continued to struggle as well, like newer franchises tend to do. Unless, of course, you happen to be Seattle.
Last week's rankings in parentheses
1. Chivas USA (1)
Another week, another match without defeat. Chivas are currently enjoying an eight-point lead over everybody else in the league, regardless of conference. They've got the league's best defense and also have arguably the strongest midfield. They look more like champions each week...
2. Chicago Fire (2)
Chicago remained undefeated with a convincing 2-0 victory over Toronto on the road. Brian McBride continued his impressive season, scoring his sixth goal of 2009. But, Chicago still has only three wins in their nine matches.
They need to continue getting great defensive efforts like they did this past weekend if they want to close the gap on Chivas.
3. DC United (3)
Santino Quaranta delivered a great game for DC as they battled back to earn a tie against MLS' best team. DC was down 2-0, but showed a lot of toughness to battle back, with two goals in the last 15 minutes. This grit will serve them well as the season gets into the summer grind.
4. Seattle Sounders FC (4)
Seattle is slowing down a little bit after their fast start, with only one victory in their last six matches. But the defense is still playing relatively well and Seattle soon begins a nice stretch through June and July, where they'll play five out of seven matches in front of their raucous home crowd.
5. Houston Dynamo (6)
Houston took a 1-0 lead and a man advantage against New York into the 88th minute. Despite having to settle for only a single point, there are some positives for the Dynamo. New York's goal ended a 491 minute scoreless streak for the Houston defense, and the backline has shown that it's capable of carrying the dynamo for long streaks.
6. Kansas City Wizards (9)
Josh Wolff is the man out in Kansas City and affirmed his dominance with a two goal performance against Real Salt Lake. Thanks to Wolff, Davy Arnaud and Claudio Lopez, Kansas City finds themselves sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference. Continued contributions from those three should propel KC into the postseason.
7. Toronto FC (5)
Toronto is now officially the most wildly inconsistent club in the whole league. After a four match unbeaten streak that saw the offense clicking, they sputter and lose 2-0 at home to Chicago. Consistent play will be the key for this club.
8. Colorado Rapids (7)
Conor Casey continues to make a case for an international call-up, scoring his fifth goal on the season against New England. It's a bit of a surprise to see Colorado playing so well, but they seem to be making serious strides toward erasing last season's final day heartbreak.
9. New England Revolution (8)
That sound you hear is New England's window for winning a title slamming shut. They're currently two points out of a playoff spot, and fifth in their own conference. The Revs are winless in their last five.
10. New York Red Bulls (10)
I was impressed by how New York fought back to earn a draw with Houston despite being a man down. They still have a long way to go, but they've got two straight matches at home and the Eastern Conference is packed pretty tight.
11. Los Angeles Galaxy (12)
Eddie Lewis salvaged a point for LA with his submission for the Goal of the Year contest. Los Angeles quickly took advantage of being a man up, scoring a last-gasp goal. Still only only loss for the Galaxy, but seven draws means that they're toward the bottom of the table.
12. Columbus Crew (11)
Columbus took a 1-0 lead into the 89th minute, but suffered a red card and immediately allowed an equalizer. Granted, it was an amazing strike, but that sequence is a microcosm of how Columbus' season has gone so far.
13. Real Salt Lake (13)
In my preseason rankings, I had RSL pretty low in the pecking order. Apparently it wasn't low enough, as the trendy dark horse title pick dropped yet another match. Five losses already, that's terrible for a team with Robbie Findley, Kyle Beckerman and Yura Movsisyan on the books.
14. San Jose Earthquakes (14)
They'll be fighting with Dallas for the first pick in the draft all season.
15. FC Dallas (15)
Poor, just poor. I know they drew with Seattle, but it doesn't matter. They're still the worst team in MLS and should miss the playoffs by a wide margin.