As is often the case eight matches into a season, we are still trying to get a feel for teams. Who is elite, or can anyone be elite at this point in the season? And those who are threatening to be, how will they handle the midseason grind?
It's all questions in MLS.
What is going on with Real Salt Lake?
It wasn't just weeks ago that we were calling RSL the class of MLS -- it was in the 85th minute on Saturday. They weren't leading the Western Conference, but they were undefeated, had played an incredibly tough schedule and, when looked at individually, their results were impressive. Jason Kreis may have left, but Salt Lake looked every bit the same team that was a penalty kick away from winning MLS Cup a year ago.
But the Whitecaps scored in the 86th minute and then again in stoppage time to get a draw in Salt Lake and forced us to reconsider RSL. It's not fair to do that to a team because of one result, or one bad eight-minute stretch, but it isn't bad if it spurs a reconsideration of the big picture.
After eight matches, RSL do have just three wins on the season, and they have blown late leads in two of the last three matches. That is not the solid, responsible, dependable Salt Lake that we had become accustomed to and expected.
Come November, or even July, RSL may very well be the class of MLS. They may be as good or even better than they were a year ago, but they aren't that now. They are still a team that needs work, which is hardly unique in April, it just wasn't what we thought they were.
D.C. are unbeaten in their last five
Don't look now, but D.C. United are undefeated in their last five matches. Their latest success came against FC Dallas, who went down to 10 men when Zach Loyd saw red and D.C. capitalized with four unanswered goals to win 4-1.
With all of D.C.'s goals coming up a man, it would be unwise to make any sweeping declarations. They were lucky to play more than 50 minutes with a man advantage and most teams would be expected to thrive in that situation, but that's just it -- D.C. is now most teams.
A year ago, and even seemingly at the beginning of this season, D.C. were a joke. Especially away from home, they were a disaster and not only did things rarely go their way, but they would find a way to give games away even when they did get a bit of fortune. That isn't the case anymore. The addition of veterans Fabian Espindola, Sean Franklin and Bobby Boswell have helped turn things around in the capital and, not coincidentally, they all scored against Dallas.
D.C. aren't going to compete for MLS Cup, but they're out of the cellar and they're not longer the butt of every joke. Baby steps.
How good are the Sounders?
Seattle won another game and it came on the back of another standout performance by Clint Dempsey. The Sounders star scored two more goals and helped set up another in the 4-1, but it's not as if he's doing it alone. Obafemi Martins is in his best form since joining MLS too, giving the Sounders the best strike partnership in the league right now.
The question now is whether this is sustainable. It's certainly not for Dempsey, who is on pace for 34 goals, but can the Sounders continue to attack the way they have for the last month? That depends on their depth. They have gotten good play from Dempsey and Martins, but the two can't carry the team all season.
Whether it's Lamar Neagle playing better, not just scoring more goals, or Gonzalo Pineda, Seattle will need more. Will Kenny Cooper, Cam Weaver, Marco Pappa or someone else give the Sounders the support necessary to make it through an eight-month season? That's going to be the test, because it's clear Dempsey and Martins are going to bring it.
The Impact better not get too excited
It took eight matches, but the Impact finally got their first win of the season. Still, there is only so much excitement that they can reasonably drum up in Montreal.
The Impact only topped the Union because of a mistake by Zac MacMath and while there was some good defending and goalkeeping to make the 1-0 win stand up, it wasn't as if they were in control of vastly superior on Saturday. At best, Montreal and Philadelphia were fairly even at Stade Saputo, and that's not a good sign for the Impact considering the struggles of the Union this season.
Once again, the Union couldn't concert chances and their possession turned into nothing. Montreal wisely let Philadelphia keep the ball, but they didn't completely stifle the visitors or show flashes of growth on the counterattack. Instead, they looked equally inept, with just one goalkeeper's error separating them.
Montreal fans will be happy to have a win, and they should be, but they are right where Philadelphia is -- flawed and far from average.