Despite it's recent run of stronger form (unbeaten in 6 MLS games), Sporting Kansas City are still dwelling in the cellar -- last in the Eastern Conference, tied with Vancouver (this weekend's opponent) for worst overall.
But things are looking up. KC has a game in hand on every team in its conference except D.C. United and 9 games (7 at home) remaining against conference foes.
It's time to start picking off points -- let's start by looking at the teams within striking distance (five points) of Sporting Kansas City.
Here is where Kansas City stands:Kansas City: 14 points | 14 games | 3-6-5 | -3 GD
Next Three: vs. Vancouver (Sat.), @ Portland (7/2), vs. Colorado Rapids (7/6)
And now for the teams in "Striking Distance":Houston: 18 points | 16 games | 4-6-6 | -1 GD
• Head-to-Head with KC: N/A
• Next Three Opponents: @ DC United (Sat.), @ Colorado (7/3), vs. Toronto (7/9)
• Thoughts: Houston has yet to win a game on the road -- which could obviously change this Saturday. It's amazing to me that the Dynamo are four points off the bottom of the table. Of course, they are also five off the top of the table. The MLS, it's parity-tastic.
• How Sporting can climb the table: Sporting still hasn't played Houston yet so, there are 6 points to be earned still.DC United: 17 points | 14 games | 4-5-5 | -6 GD
• Head-to-Head with KC: N/A
• Next Three Opponents: vs. Houston (Sat), vs. Philadelphia (7/2), @ New York (7/9)
• Thoughts: With three games against Top Four teams in the East, this could be a great chance for Sporting to pick up points on United. It's also, of course, three opportunities for a reckless and embarrassing Charlie Davies Dive (™) to earn D.C. points-saving penalty chances.
• How Sporting can climb the table: Sporting still hasn't played United yet so, there are 6 points to be earned still.Chicago: 16 points | 16 games | 2-4-10 | -3 GD
• Head-to-Head with KC: L (3-2 on 3/26), D (0-0 on 6/9)
• Next Three: vs. New York (Sun.), @ Chivas USA (7/2), @ Los Angeles (7/9)
• Thoughts: The Fire have miraculously drawn 10 times this season. 10! A tough West Coast trip awaits, though, it's probably preferable to spend a week in LA than in Chicago at this time of year.
• How Sporting can climb the table: KC can't directly earn points against its fiercest rival.New England: 15 points | 16 games | 3-7-6 | -7 GD
• Head-to-Head with KC: L (3-2 on 4/23)• Next Three Opponents: @ Seattle (Sun.), @ Real Salt Lake (7/4), vs. Philadelphia (7/17)
• Thoughts: The Revs appear to be slowly sinking, no wins in its last five games and face two very difficult road tests before traveling to Philly -- who haven't been beaten at home of yet.
• How Sporting can climb the table: New England comes to Livestrong Sporting Park at the end of July to cap off a brutal six-game (four of them on the road) month.Toronto: 15 points | 17 games | 2-6-9 | -11 GD
• Head-to-Head with KC: D (0-0 on 6/4)
• Next Three Opponents: @ Real Salt Lake (Sat.), vs. Vancouver (6/29), @ New York (7/6)
• Thoughts: Arguably the worst-team in MLS (worst goal differential by four goals) faces two very difficult road games and one rivalry game in the next three.
• How Sporting can climb the table: Sporting plays them on July 23. Again, points on the table.If I remember to put it together, this will be a weekly feature.