Race for the Supporter's Shield: Week 23

There's just eight weeks to go in an MLS season that feels like it started a few weeks ago and the race for the Supporter's Shield has tightened up considerably since we last took a look at the standings a couple of weeks ago. At the last look, I said there was four teams with a reasonable shot, but New York has forced themselves into the discussion with two wins out of two and a struggling Galaxy team.

Let's take a look at the standings

The obvious thing at first glance is that what was a 10 point lead over the fourth place team has dwindled to just a 6 point lead from first to fifth. Two Galaxy losses in a row coupled with a good couple of weeks for Columbus, Dallas and New York have thrown the race into haywire.

A team by team look at things after the jump including my ridiculous odds for each team to win the Shield.

Last 5 Games: 4 points

L vs Kansas City, L @ San Jose, W @ New York , L vs Fire, T vs San Jose

Next 5 Games:

@ Chicago, vs Columbus, vs DC United, vs New York, @ Chivas USA

Why LA will win the Supporter's Shield:

They're still the top dog and have a 2 point lead on the rest of the contenders. Quite ridiculously, 6 of the Galaxy's last 8 games are at the Home Depot Center with 4 games left against teams that would miss the playoffs right now so there's plenty of time to right the ship. The two losses have reduced the Galaxy's margin for error to zero, but they're still the favorite with a bunch of home games and no Champions League to worry about.

Why LA won't win the Supporter's Shield:

Just 4 points in their last 5 games is miss the playoffs form, not Supporter's Shield. What was a comfortable lead a couple of weeks ago is down to almost nothing, and there seem to now be holes in the team that looked so untouchable a couple months ago. If Edson Buddle and Landon Donovan can't find form, they won't win the Supporter's Shield. Could Beckham's return be the late season jolt they need?

Odds of winning the trophy: 8/5

Last 5 games: 7 Points

T vs FC Dallas, W vs Rapids, L @ RSL, W @ Philly, L at Chivas

Next 5 games:

@ DC United, @ LA Galaxy, vs Seattle, @ New England, vs San Jose

Why Columbus will win the trophy:

Columbus has a relatively easy MLS schedule left with just one game against the top 4 other teams and a squad that knows how to grind out results.

Why Columbus won't win the trophy: Columbus has 13 games in the last eight weeks of the season and it could be 14 if they defeat DC United in the Open Cup Semifinal on Wednesday. With that kind of schedule, it's tough to see how Columbus stays ahead of FC Dallas and Los Angeles. They will likely finish above one of them, but finishing above both is unlikely. If they figure out how to balance their schedule with a banged up lineup that looked tired against Dallas on Saturday, they're a strong contender. Odds of winning the trophy have improved in the last couple of weeks, but I don't rate them to win the trophy.

Odds of winning the trophy: 5/1

Last 5 Games: 9 points

T @ Toronto, W vs Crew, T @ Philly, T @ Wizards, W vs DC United

Next 5 games:

vs Red Bulls, @ Seattle, vs Fire, vs Rapids, @ New England

Why Real Salt Lake will win the Supporter's Shield:

With a game in hand on Los Angeles and a superior goal difference, RSL controls their own destiny in the Supporters Shield race. A strong bet to win every home game, RSL has 4 home games left including key matchups with Dallas and Colorado. If they can manage to grind out a win or two on the road, they'll be right there at the end as they travel to arch rival Colorado to close the season.

Why Real Salt Lake won't win the Supporter's Shield:

Much like Columbus, their schedule is just packed for the next month and a half. The road is where they will win or lose the Supporter's Shield and with four remaining road games @ Seattle, New England, New York and Colorado, it's going to be tough to pull it off. RSL will probably have to decide whether they want to advance in CCL or make a run at the Supporter's Shield. Given their game in hand, I rate their chances a bit higher than Columbus.

Odds of winning the trophy: 4/1

Last 5 games: 11 points

T @ Columbus, W vs Chivas W @ DC United, W vs Philly, T @ Rapids,

Next 5 games:

vs Toronto, @ San Jose, vs New York, vs New England, @ Wizards

Why FC Dallas will win the Supporter's Shield:

At 12 games unbeaten and a league record 10 unbeaten on the road, FC Dallas is the best team in MLS at the moment. They've got 15 out of a possible 15 points in their last five home games and with 5 of their next 7 games at home, FCD should be at the top of the table heading into end of season showdowns at RSL and Los Angeles. With a defense that has allowed 6 goals in their last 10 games, Dallas just doesn't have to battle from behind and they have proven to be uncharacteristically good front runners this year.

Why FC Dallas won't win the Supporter's Shield:

That remarkably good defense is masking an offense that is beginning to show some cracks. FC Dallas has proven to struggle on offense against good teams and they may not have to goals in them to take the team to win key end of season games at LA and RSL.

Odds of winning the trophy: 3/1

Last 5 games: 10 points

W vs San Jose, W @ Toronto, L vs Galaxy, W vs Toronto, T @ Chicago

Next 5 games:

@ Salt Lake, vs Rapids, @ FC Dallas, @ Los Angeles, vs Kansas City

Why New York will win the Supporter's Shield:

They're a close second to FC Dallas as the hottest team in the league. 10 points from their last 5 games, coupled with LA's ineptitude since beating New York, has seen NYRB jump back into the Supporter's Shield race. With the most formidable attack in the league and Rafa Marquez holding down the midfield, New York has looked great in their last two games and is a dark horse to sneak up on people. We'll know exactly what New York has in the next few weeks with games at RSL, FC Dallas and Los Angeles. Good results in those games will see NY shoot up the table.

Why New York won't win the Supporter's Shield: They have road games against three of the four teams ahead of them and losses at RSL and FC Dallas would remove them from the Supporters Shield race once and for all. If New York can manage to grab 6 points in September, they'll have a shot with an easy end to the season, but I don't see New York getting it done at the tough road venues.

Odds of winning the trophy: 6/1


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