With the Seattle Sounders win on Wednesday, the race for the Supporter's Shield is wide open. No such speculation is needed though for determining that Chivas USA, D.C. United and Toronto F.C. have locked up the league's three worst records. The only possible spoiler, the Columbus Crew, added on another three points in their cushion with their victory over the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday.
Typical of cellar dwellers, the Chivas USA, D.C. United and Toronto F.C. trinity boast poor records (12 combined wins; the Philadelphia Union has 10), and being on the wrong side of more than a few lopsided games. No MLS trio can combined for a more comprehensive goals differential: -61 (65/126) with a combined 23 games left.
What's surprising-or in truth might not be surprising at all-is how dependent these three teams have been in acquiring on-loan players. Of the 31 or so players loaned to MLS clubs this season, 17 were loaned to Chivas USA (7), DC United (4) or Toronto (6).
The loan process can be appealing-you gain a player who might otherwise be unattainable and almost certainly at a significant discount-but the effects are ephemeral. It's increasingly unlikely that most if not all Chivas USA players, Erick Torres in particular, will remain in MLS next year.
While researching this, I came across an article on Watford's furious run at promotion to the Premier League on the backs of players on loan. Watford ultimately fell short to Crystal Palace but the loans were viewed with suspicion as most of the loans were from Udinese and Granada, i.e. clubs owned by the Pozzo family who along owns Watford.
If Chivas USA were a championship contender, would people become suspicious that the club acquired eight players from CD Guadalajara? Surely the topic of whether a person can own two clubs and loan players between them not being subject to transfer fees deserves debate.
I can hardly say whether this is mere coincidence or part of a trend. However when the two most prominent championship contenders on the other end of the table-Real Salt Lake and the L.A. Galaxy--don't actively have any on-loan players in their books.
Looking at both ends of the table, it's hard to argue with the results.