PBP: Depth Means Separation in Conferences

Not too many things separate one MLS team from another, but you will notice that the stronger teams are also the deeper teams.

Cases in point, both Columbus and Los Angeles roll along their unbeaten ways by winning games with reduced rosters.

Minus Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Robbie Rogers and Chad Marshall, the Crew came into Red Bull Arena on Thursday and left with a 3-1 victory, giving them first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time this season.

On Sunday, Schelotto returned from a one game suspension, and assisted on the game winning goal by Emilo Renteria, giving the Crew their second straight road victory, and a 5 point lead in the east. Renteria had only played in one game this season, prior to the New York game, coming in as a sub early in the season vs Dallas for 17 minutes. Given a bigger role in the two road games, the Venezuelan responds with a big goal in each game, earning MLS Player of the Week honors.

Out west, no Edson Buddle or Landon Donovan for LA, but the rest of the group still managed a full 3 points on the road, thanks to last Thursday’s win vs FC Dallas. While LA lacks an offensive punch minus those two star attackers, one goal was all they needed since they have the best defense seen in the 2010 MLS season.

Donovan Ricketts in goal has been even better than he was a season ago, and the team in front of him makes sure he doesn’t have an inordinate amount of work on most nights. In the previous game, a 0-0 draw vs Toronto, Ricketts couldn’t go because of an injury, and in stepped backup Josh Saunders to record a shutout. The Galaxy (26 points) are ten points ahead of Real Salt Lake, San Jose, and Houston, who are all next with 16 points.

So the top two teams in MLS are also the only teams without a loss so far this season. That streak could end on Saturday when the two meet up in Columbus in the marquee matchup of the week.

Other questions for the weekend:

Losers of 3 straight, can the Red Bulls get back to winning? They’ll need to jump start their offense which has produced one goal in their last 3 games played.

Seattle can’t seem to score goals either, be it home or away. Can they score at altitude vs Colorado?

San Jose has four consecutive shutouts going, looking like the league’s most improved team from a season ago. They host Toronto on Saturday. Can their shutout and/or winning ways continue?

Finally, how does Philadelphia do at Houston, coming off of a bye week? The Union played perhaps their best 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw vs Dallas at the Linc.

I’ll be back later in the week with more on that game, which will be carried on the Fox Soccer Channel.