Looking at the standings after the Fire's 1-0 loss to D.C. United late Saturday night, I came to the conclusion that any hopes the Fire had of taking the 2009 Supporter's Shield (the honor given to the league leaders at the end of the regular season) had burned out. The Fire had dropped another 3 points at home and the two squads in front of them - Columbus and Houston - were facing a pair of winnable games on Sunday. It should've been over for the Fire.
Then Sunday happened.
The day started off with the Crew losing a 1-0 shocker to the suddenly streaking (2 wins in a row baby!) New York Red Bulls and the good news didn't stop there as word broke that Houston fell 1-0 at Colorado. Now I'm not saying that the Fire - who isn't any further behind than they were before the weekend - will end up winning the Supporter's Shield, only that they've been given new life.
So, with the Houston and Columbus losses serving as my inspiration, I decided to give you guys the lay of the land in the race for the Supporter's Shield. I took a look at five of my favorites to win the 2009 shield. The clubs are ranked in the order I think they'll finish...
**1. L.A. Galaxy - 38 points, 6 games remaining**
- Ok, you're wondering why the hell I'm predicting the L.A. David Beckham's to win the Supporter's Shield. I mean weren't they out of the playoff picture like a month ago? Well, yes. But ever since Goldenballs returned to California on July 16th (actually, since slightly before that...) the Galaxy has been MLS's hottest team, losing just once in their last 11 matches. Their remaining schedule is pretty favorable too, as they will only go on the road twice in the final two months. My prediction? The Galaxy gets 15 more points, good enough for a MLS best total of 54.
**2. Chicago Fire - 38 points, 6 games remaining**
- The Fire may be down right now, but given their light schedule in the final two months and the likely return of several key players from injury (Wilman Conde, Gonzalo Segares, Tim Ward, Brian McBride, etc.) I'm thinking the Fire turn it around. I'll say they get 11 points in their last 6, giving them 49 total.
**2. Columbus Crew - 39 points, 7 games remaining**
- At first glance, the Crew appears to be sitting pretty in the chase for the Supporter's Shield. But when you go deeper into it, what you find ain't so hot. The Crew's remaining schedule is very tough (no games left against teams with winning records) and they will be very busy as CONCACAF Champions League gets into full swing starting in September. I'm guessing they get 10 more points on the year, putting them in a second place tie with the Fire on 49 points.
**4. New England Revolution - 33 points, 9 games remaining**
- You might not be thinking of New England as a serious contender for the Supporter's Shield. And it's understandable, I mean they aren't very high up on the table (3rd place in the East) and they've been battling injuries all year long. But the Revs have been playing better (and getting healthier) as the season has gone on and with 9 games left on the schedule, they'll have plenty of opportunities to earn some points. My prediction? The Revs will finish strong and end the season with 48 points, only one behind the Fire and Crew for the most in the East.
**5. Houston Dynamo - 40 points, 5 games remaining**
- Call me crazy, but Houston - the current league leaders - will have several teams in between them and the league champs by the end of the year. Why will they drop? Well, let's just say their schedule is... unfavorable. They only have five matches left in MLS (fewest of any team on this list) but they won't be getting a rest as they'll play four games in the CONCACAF Champions League before the MLS regular season is out. And their schedule isn't the easiest either, as they have to face a ticked-off Columbus side (see losing to RBNY... I mean, come on...) on the road this week before playing host to the Galaxy in October. What do I see in my crystal ball? Only 7 more points for the Dynamo, giving them 47 total.
It should be interesting to see how the race for the Supporter's Shield pans out over the final two months of the MLS season, and how these predictions end up. I could definitely have egg all over my face at the end of the year - I mean these predictions are a tad early... -- but for now, I'm pretty confident. I'm interested to hear what you guys think will happen with the rest of the MLS season though, so let's hear your predictions.