MEXICO CITY (AP) – The little things mattered in the final weekend of the MLS regular season.
From final results (Seattle dropped to the third seed in the Western Conference with a 1-0 loss to Los Angeles in the last match of the season) to total goals (New York avoided the Knockout Round because of the newly instituted primary tiebreaker), the playoff teams found themselves assigned and plotted by narrow margins.
Similar themes should hold true as the postseason commences. Many of the matches will likely turn on one moment of brilliance or one slip at an inopportune time. The parity should lead to an engaging and entertaining postseason as the 10 remaining teams vie for a place in the final on December 1.
The final regular-season edition of the FOX Soccer MLS Power Rankings eschewed the tendency to bunch teams together and sorted through the modest divides to order the teams for one last time:
19. TORONTO FC: There are few more fitting ways to end this terrible TFC season than a dour and soggy defeat in Columbus.
18. CHIVAS USA: Hector Cuadros and Hans Westerhof aren't convinced the return to Mexican roots will help this disheveled club find the stability it needs to succeed.
17. PORTLAND TIMBERS: Step on forward, Caleb Porter. There is plenty of work to do at JELD-WEN Field once you finish up with Akron in December.
16. COLORADO RAPIDS: A solid victory over Houston on Saturday night showed flashes of what the Rapids might be able to produce next season.
15. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION: The first task ahead this offseason: figure out what to do with Benny Feilhaber.
14. PHILADELPHIA UNION: It is one thing to decide Freddy Adu isn't a part of the plans for next season, if that is indeed the case. It is quite another to try to find him a new club.
13. MONTREAL IMPACT: Perhaps a postseason trip to Italy isn't the best place to find the wingers this Impact side desperately requires.
12. FC DALLAS: Coughing up a two-goal lead to impotent Chivas USA on the final day of the season pretty much sums up the frustration of this star-crossed campaign.
11. COLUMBUS CREW: The framework of a decent side is now in place with Jairo Arrieta, Eddie Gaven, Federico Higuaín and Chad Marshall. Now the Crew must fill out the squad a bit to lay the groundwork for a playoff return next year.
10. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS: The shutout in Sandy could provide a helpful confidence boost ahead of Thursday's Knockout Round match at Los Angeles.
9. HOUSTON DYNAMO: A guaranteed home match at BBVA Compass Stadium might have made all of the difference for the Dynamo.
8. CHICAGO FIRE: The past two weeks have really put a dent in the Fire's postseason ambitions. Can this group respond with a professional performance against Houston to set up an intriguing battle with Sporting Kansas City?
7. NEW YORK RED BULLS: If Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry continue to score goals as freely as they did against Philadelphia on Saturday, then the Red Bulls may just make some noise in the postseason after all.
6. D.C. UNITED: How will Ben Olsen set out his stall against a potent Red Bulls side capable of dictating terms in possession? And will that group involve Branko Boškovic?
5. LOS ANGELES GALAXY: Most of the big guns are fit for the postseason. Will the questions surrounding the health of A.J. DeLaGarza prove more critical to the Galaxy's chances than all of those players in tow?
4. SEATTLE SOUNDERS: Sunday night's defeat in Carson could prove particularly costly for the Sounders if Eddie Johnson isn't completely healthy for the postseason.
3. REAL SALT LAKE: Jason Kreis joked that his players were saving up their goals for the playoffs after RSL ended the season with three straight 0-0 draws in all competitions. If the defense continues to play as well as it has recently, they won't need muster up too many goals to advance through the Western Conference playoffs.
2. SPORTING KANSAS CITY: Not sure an Eastern Conference semifinal date with either Chicago or Houston represents the ideal scenario for a side that has struggled with both teams.
1. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES: Most of the focus in San Jose has centered on Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski. In order to meet expectations, the Earthquakes will need the likes of Rafael Baca and Sam Cronin to achieve similar notoriety.