The Columbus Crew has turned to a few rookies to play key minutes, and after the club took some lumps early on, the youngsters are starting to come through.
Bernardo Anor, Justin Meram and Rich Balchan have all raised their levels of play, and their contributions (among others) in Columbus' win in Houston over the weekend, helped push the Crew all the way up to a tie for No. 7 in the latest SBI MLS Power Rankings.
Los Angeles maintained its grip on the top spot after a convincing victory at the other No. 7, Colorado, but FC Dallas replaced Philadelphia at No. 2 after getting back in the win column. FCD is followed by Seattle, which has reached its highest point of the season at No. 3.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 14)
1. (Last week – 1) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (9-2-7, 34 points)
Last week: Beat Colorado, 3-1, on Saturday.
This week: at San Jose, 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: Despite playing without Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Donovan Ricketts, the Galaxy had no problem coming up with a road win over a Colorado team that welcomed Omar Cummings back into the fray. Juninho stepped up in a big spot as he has most of the season and will be called upon again should Beckham (back) not be able to go against the Earthquakes.
2. (4) FC DALLAS (8-4-4, 28 points)
Last week: Beat Chivas USA, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Portland, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Substitute Jackson's late goal put FCD in the winner's circle again, as the club continues to move forward without the injured David Ferreira. Despite being robbed of a couple of goals by Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy, Dallas persevered behind the All-Star-caliber play of Brek Shea and remains on the Galaxy's heals for the Supporters' Shield. The club trails in the race by six points but has two games in hand.
3. (6) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (6-4-7, 25 points)
Last week: Beat Toronto FC, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. New York, 10 p.m., Thursday, ESPN2; vs. New England, 4 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Fredy Montero's late strike gave the Sounders a crucial three points heading into a week when it hosts two Eastern Conference foes. They catch a bit of a break considering Thierry Henry is slated to miss their midweek matchup after picking up a red card in New York's draw with Portland on Sunday. After some unsteady times, Seattle is right back in the thick of things in the West.
T-4. (3) NEW YORK RED BULLS (5-2-8, 23 points)
Last week: Tied Portland, 3-3, on Sunday.
This week: at Seattle, 10 p.m., Thursday, ESPN2; at Chicago, 2 p.m., Sunday, ESPN.
Outlook: The Red Bulls found their way to a draw at Jeld-Wen Field in a wild encounter on Sunday night (and even had nothing but "complimentary" remarks about the officiating!), but Dwayne De Rosario's return to the lineup and late-game play salvaged the point to keep New York unbeaten in five matches. A big week of nationally televised game beckons, but the Red Bulls are still heavily affected by injury (Luke Rodgers), suspensions (Henry) and international absences (Rafa Marquez, Tim Ream, Juan Agudelo).
T-4. (5) REAL SALT LAKE (6-3-4, 22 points)
Last week: Tied D.C. United, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Chicago, 8:30 p.m., Wednesday; vs. Toronto FC, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: RSL was left shaking its head after Charlie Davies' questionable penalty allowed D.C. to take a point at Rio Tinto Stadium. The club gets its remaining players on international duty back at a time when it needs them most — during a lull in the team's play and with up-and-coming Jean Alexandre suspended for a game. The first match of the week marks the return of RSL assistant coach C.J. Brown to Chicago, where he spent his entire 13-year MLS playing career.
6. (2) PHILADELPHIA UNION (6-4-4, 22 points)
Last week: Lost to Vancouver, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday; vs. Chivas USA, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Union suffered a bad loss, albeit on the road, at the hands of the Whitecaps and return home for two matches it should win. The club is unbeaten at PPL Park, but the attack that exploded a few weeks ago is back to its subpar ways. New signing Veljko Paunovic did not produce in his debut with the club, and the shouts for Danny Mwanga to rejoin the starting lineup aren't getting any quieter.
T-7. (7) COLORADO RAPIDS (5-4-7, 22 points)
Last week: Lost to Los Angeles, 3-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Columbus, 8 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: Not the best of losses for the Rapids. With the Galaxy playing without Donovan, Beckham and Ricketts, Colorado fell flat. The good news for the club is that Brian Mullan's 10-game suspension has expired and a meeting with President Barack Obama awaits on Monday.
T-7. (13) COLUMBUS CREW (5-4-6, 21 points)
Last week: Beat Houston, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Colorado, 8 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: The young guns got it done for Columbus, with Anor and Meram contributing to the attack, but so too did Designated Player Andres Mendoza, who scored the opener against the Dynamo. Columbus has been inconsistent for the most part, which is to be expected when relying on young players, but perhaps the Crew has turned the corner. After his performance, Anor deserves another crack at the starting lineup.
9. (8) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (5-5-4, 19 points)
Last week: Lost to Sporting Kansas City, 1-0, on Friday.
This week: vs. Los Angeles, 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: The Earthquakes' six-game unbeaten stretch ended with a thud after SKC silenced a Steven Lenhart-led attack that had been on a roll. The Quakes' matchup with California rival Los Angeles may lack some star power (Donovan, Beckham, Chris Wondolowski), but it's still a meeting of two of the Western Conference's most competitive teams.
10. (11) D.C. UNITED (4-5-5, 17 points)
Last week: Tied Real Salt Lake, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Houston, 6 p.m., Saturday, Telefutura.
Outlook: Davies saved a point for United by coaxing a referee into calling a late penalty for the second time this season. Now United turns its attention to correcting one of its biggest performances this season when it played at Houston earlier in the year. Dynamo rookie Will Bruin lit up the D.C. defense for a hat trick, and he'll be a marked man Saturday night.
11. (12) PORTLAND TIMBERS (5-6-3, 18 points)
Last week: Tied New York, 3-3, on Saturday.
This week: at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m, Saturday.
Outlook: The Timbers must be kicking themselves for letting a 3-1 lead slip away, and captain Jack Jewsbury — his stellar overall performance aside — should have sealed the deal with his penalty attempt that he missed. Instead of taking the momentum of another home win with them to Dallas, Portland is left wondering what went wrong while it tries to steal a result against one of the league's hotter teams.
12. (9) HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-6-6, 18 points)
Last week: Lost to Columbus, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at D.C., 6 p.m., Saturday, Telefutura.
Outlook: One moment it's up, the next it's way down. Houston has been the yo-yo of MLS teams this season, and its lackluster performance at home against Columbus is a bit troubling. The Dynamo will hope that Bruin can repeat his performance against D.C. as it looks to regain a consistent scoring punch. It will also need to replace starting midfielder Lovel Palmer, who is suspended after being red-carded against the Crew.
13. (10) CHIVAS USA (4-6-5, 17 points)
Last week: Lost to FC Dallas, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: For a second straight week, a defensive miscue resulted in a 2-1 loss for the Goats. That's not exactly the Robin Fraser way, and Chivas has slipped now after seemingly figuring things out. Opponents have yet to win at PPL Park, but Chivas will hope to snap that spell while catching the Union in its second match of the week.
14. (14) CHICAGO FIRE (2-4-9, 15 points)
Last week: Tied New England, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Real Salt Lake, 8:30 p.m., Wednesday; vs. New York, 2 p.m., Sunday, ESPN.
Outlook: The Fire blew a lead at New England and managed to tie for the eighth time in its last 10 games. While welcoming Brown back to Chicago will be a treat for the fans, the fact remains that two extremely challenging home games await a team that looks to be in the middle of getting over the hump.
15. (16) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (3-6-4, 13 points)
Last week: Beat San Jose, 1-0, on Friday.
This week: at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday; vs. Vancouver, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Sporting KC is starting to make up for its lackluster start by showing well at home and topping a previously in-form San Jose team. The word that Ryan Smith will be gone for the year puts a damper on things, but there's enough attacking talent in the team's arsenal to overcome his loss, such as rookie and game-winning-goal scorer C.J. Sapong. More impressive is how the club's defense has responded after an atrocious start to the season.
T-16. (17) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (3-7-6, 15 points)
Last week: Tied Toronto FC, 0-0, on Wednesday; Tied Chicago, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Seattle, 4 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: The club managed a two-point haul when it expected six from two winnable home games. While it snapped a four-game losing streak in the process, that's still not good enough, and it won't get any easier as it goes into Qwe… CenturyLink Field to try and win for the first time since May 14. On the plus side, Benny Feilhaber is reportedly listed as probably as he works his way back from injury.
T-16. (18) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-6-8, 14 points)
Last week: Beat Philadelphia, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Welcome back to the win column, Vancouver! After 14 matches since opening day ended either in a loss or a draw, the Whitecaps found a way to knock off the Union at home through Alain Rochat's wondrous strike. Up next is a rematch of one of the more thrilling games this season, as the 'Caps and SKC do battle for the second time — in their other meeting at Empire Field, Camilo scored twice in stoppage time to salvage a 3-3 draw.
18. (15) TORONTO FC (2-6-9, 15 points)
Last week: Tied New England, 0-0, on Wednesday; Lost to Seattle, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Oh, Toronto. It seems as if every step of progress is met with a resounding step or two backward. After managing a road point in New England, the Reds couldn't capitalize on a man-advantage and lost on a dagger of a free kick by Montero. Going into Rio Tinto doesn't figure to be the recipe for getting back on track, either.