1. Beware of the worst team in the league
Last week, the worst team in MLS - at least in terms of points accumulated - was the Chicago Fire, with 23 from 24 games played. Chicago put that right by beating the New York Red Bulls and tying Orlando, finishing Week 26 as the second-worst team in the league, thanks to a tie-breakers advantage over Philadelphia.
This week, Philly carried the burden of being the league's bottom team all the way to San Jose. All the way to play a team that had won four in a row without conceding a goal. And the Union was losing by a goal with 20 minutes left in the game. Enter Conor Casey, who banged in two goals to win Philly three points. Now the Union is at the head of the queue of teams hoping to profit should Montreal slip up in its bid to secure the sixth and final playoff place in the East.
Throw in an honorable mention to Colorado (out of action this week), which was the worst team in the West until its current three-game winning streak - and it has been a good couple of weeks for the bad teams in MLS.
What does it all mean? Largely that parity and the basic desire of all players not to lose games makes the league hard to predict. It also means RBNY needs be on its toes. Chicago is the league's worst team again - after losing to Montreal this week - and will be playing the Red Bulls once again in Week 28. RBNY will hope home advantage is sufficient to avoid another result of the sort that temporarily shook the confidence of the RalfBall era in Harrison the last time the two teams met.
2. San Jose really misses Anibal Godoy
A couple of week's ago, MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle published his analysis of the significance of Anibal Godoy to San Jose's late-season turnaround in form. As if to prove Doyle's point, the Quakes conceded their first goals and slumped to their first loss since they started including Godoy in their lineup. Why? Perhaps because Godoy was on international duty this week.
Inevitably, San Jose will lose with Godoy in the team at some point. But it hasn't yet. And this week his absence seemed to prove his value to the Quakes as much as the four straight games they had won in his presence.
3. The Shield race is a sprint (still)
Last week, this column devoted a lot of space to forecasting required points totals to make the playoffs and win the Supporters' Shield. No need to revisit those calculations this week, not least because only five games were played. But the fact that half the league was idle - including Shield race leaders LA Galaxy and challengers Vancouver Whitecaps, New York Red Bulls and D.C. United - allowed a few more contenders to take a step forward and into the race for the regular season title.
New England's win over Orlando means the Revs have picked up 16 points from the last 18 contested - and have pulled to within six points of LA with a game in hand. FC Dallas beat Columbus to nudge to within two points of the Galaxy, with two games in hand. Even Seattle isn't out of the race yet, despite slumping for essentially the entire summer and winning just nine points in 13 games from early June to late August. The Sounders beat Toronto this week, and have now won three of their last four matches. They are five points behind LA, with six games left to play. (And one of those is a home game against the Galaxy on October 4.)
After Week 27, there are nine teams within six points or less of the Galaxy's table-topping total of 46 points. Some of those teams have games in hand (as many as three - looking at you, RBNY and Sporting Kansas City). Some don't. Several could mount a challenge for the Shield if results go their way in the next few weeks.
Ten teams - half the league - still have a shot at winning the regular season title after Week 27. It's an open field set for a sprint finish for the 2015 Supporters' Shield.
4. Might the Revs be ready to go on a run?
That is a stupid question: the Revs are already on a run. As of Week 27, thanks to a win over Orlando and San Jose's loss to Philly, the New England Revolution has the longest active winning streak in MLS (four games). And it has the longest active unbeaten streak in the league: six games.
The Revs are flying, after a 12-game stretch with just one win had threatened to weigh down their season. Ominously for the rest of the Eastern Conference, New England's run-in looks like an invitation for the hot streak to continue.
Their most challenging game on paper is up next: a road trip to play Toronto on September 13. After that, it's RBNY in New England on September 16 (historically, an unhappy journey for the Red Bulls) and then five games against four of the current worst teams in the East: Montreal twice (away on September 19; at home on October 17); hosting Philly on September 26; visiting Chicago on October 3; a trip to NYC FC on October 25.
As it happens, five of New England's last six games have been against struggling teams: the Revs' revival has coincided with a run of matches against the less-good sides in MLS 2015. And New England will mostly be playing less-good sides for the rest of the regular season. It may be time to start pondering whether the Revs are capable of sustaining a run at the Shield or - at least - the Eastern Conference title.
5. Conor Casey joins elite MLS goalscoring club
Casey's equalizer against San Jose brought him entry to a select group of MLS players: those with 70 or more carer regular season goals. His match-winner was the 71st MLS regular season goal he has scored.
Only 24 players in the league's history have reached 70 regular season goals in a career in MLS. Only 22 players have passed 70 - though Kei Kamara has scored exactly 70 to date and can reasonably be expected to score a few more in the near future.
The 25th player to reach the 70-goal threshold will almost certainly be Robbie Keane (68 to date) before this season is over. After that, it could be a while before we see another player make the milestone.
Alvaro Saborio has 65 career MLS regular season goals, but he is 33 and his playing time and scoring output has slowed substantially in recent years. Mike Magee is younger than Saborio (31) and has 64 regular season goals to his name - but his minutes and scoring have dropped off even more precipitously than the Costa Rican's. Chris Rolfe (32 years old; 63 regular season goals) is enjoying a career-year in front of goal, but it remains to be seen if that continues in 2016.
If one of those three men makes the 70-goals club, it will most likely be next season. And if they don't, the next closest contender - Fabian Espindola (30 years old; 58 career regular season goals) - might need another two years to get to the total, since he's not typically a high-volume single-season goal scorer.
Congratulations, Conor Casey: 70+ regular season goals in a career in MLS is still a pretty big deal.