Things we learned from MLS Week 15

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Can you learn anything about the league from two games? Sure you can...

1. Fabian Espindola is in the MVP conversation

Espindola has seven goals and eight assists from 15 games played. He's contributed directly, therefore, to 15 of his team's 22 goals - and D.C. United are currently, improbably, top of the East.

He's running the show in DC, and has already racked up more assists than he's ever managed before in MLS, and is just three shy of his best-ever scoring record in the league. In the first half of the season, he has kicked himself up from one of the better attacking players in MLS to one of the best.

And there is no player more important to his team's ability to win than Espindola is to DCU at the moment.

2. Oscar Pareja is a miracle worker

Last season, Pareja was coaching Colorado Rapids, who struggled with an unusual number of injuries to key players throughout the season, and still scraped into the playoffs. The players who stepped up during the Rapids injury-depleted 2013 - Clint Irwin, Dillon Powers, Deshorn Brown, Chris Klute, Shane O'Neill - are now bone fide starters on a team firmly in playoff contention.

This season, Pareja has moved to FC Dallas, and is once again maxing out his squad depth to cope with an unusual cluster of injury problems. Fixture congestion in the front half of the season hasn't helped, and the upshot is FCD went to Portland this week with almost an entire team unavailable for selection.

But for one of the more unlikely meltdowns in recent league history (FCD had two men sent off and conceded two goals in the last 15 minutes), half-strength Dallas would have beaten the Timbers. The draw may have been disappointing under the circumstances, but it was an entirely reasonable result for a team on the road with something like a fourth-string defense.

Of course, because of the late-game meltdown, Pareja now heads into the World Cup break knowing he'll have to figure out a way to compensate for yet another slew of absences. Moises Hernandez and Blas Perez will almost certainly be suspended for their red cards (barring an extremely unlikely reversal of the ref's decisions by the Disciplinary Committee), and Fabian Castillo may join them for his post-game shove on an assistant referee.

3. Portland needs to start worrying again

Just when it seemed the Timbers had turned a corner - three wins in four games - they were damn nearly hammered by hapless Dallas in front of their home crowd. They were very fortunate to get a point on a last-minute equalizer, and they have now dropped 17 of a possible 27 points at home.

This team is back to being not very good again.

The bigger problem is that the Timbers are on the wrong side of the playoff line, and of the teams below them, both LA and San Jose could breeze by Portland should they win their games in hand.

And of the teams above them, they just failed to beat the one they seemed most likely to catch in the short term: FC Dallas.

After the break, Portland must play four of its next six matches on the road. This may be a relief: the Timbers have only one once (from 9 games played) so far this year at home, but they have three away wins (from seven matches).

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