The Western Conference continues to rule the top of the MLS standings, with the race for the Supporters' Shield looking like a four-way jaunt between Los Angeles, Seattle, Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas. As a result, those teams continue to occupy the top four spots in the latest SBI MLS Power Rankings.
In the Eastern Conference, a couple of teams that not many picked to land atop the conference have the current view from the peak of the mountain, as Philadelphia and Columbus come in at Nos. 5 and 6, respectively. The ranking is the Crew's highest of the season.
On the other hand, something just isn't clicking for the New York Red Bulls. After coming very close to a two-loss week, New York tumbled to ninth in the SBI MLS Power Rankings, its lowest position yet this season.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 19)
1. (Last Week — 1) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (11-2-9, 42 points)
Last week: Beat Columbus, 1-0, on Wednesday.
This week: at Vancouver, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: Sean Franklin's first-career MLS goal came at the right time for the Galaxy, which haven't lost in 13 league matches despite absences to key players due to injury, international duty and international weddings. The hope for Los Angeles is that the calf injury to Landon Donovan doesn't keep the captain out of action for any longer.
2. (2) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (10-4-8, 38 points)
Last week: Idle.
This week: at Houston, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Despite a 7-0 schellacking at the hands of Manchester United, the Sounders are still in fine shape heading forward, having not lost in league play in nine games. Seattle faces a challenging week, with a CONCACAF Champions League match in Panama on Tuesday and a quick turnaround to face the Dynamo in Houston over the weekend.
3. (3) REAL SALT LAKE (9-3-6, 33 points)
Last week: Beat San Jose, 4-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Columbus, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Alvaro Saborio's dive-turned-penalty turned things in RSL's favor against the Earthquakes, and the floodgates opened soon after. With four games in hand on Los Angeles, Dallas and Seattle, RSL continues to control its fate as to the Supporters' Shield race and Western Conference playoff positioning.
4. (4) FC DALLAS (11-5-6, 39 points)
Last week: Beat Toronto FC, 1-0, on Wednesday; Tied New York, 2-2, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Chivas USA, Sunday, 7:30 p.m., Galavision
Outlook: FCD made out pretty well from its two-game road swing and now turns its attention to the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round, where it takes on Alianza in El Salvador in the first leg of their battle before returning home for a league game against the Goats while sitting in the thick of the race for the Supporters' Shield.
5. (5) PHILADELPHIA UNION (8-4-7, 31 points)
Last week: Idle.
This week: vs. Colorado, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: The Union turned in two inspired performances against Everton and Real Madrid and still finds themselves atop the Eastern Conference despite not playing a league game last week. With four games in hand on New York and two in hand on Columbus, Philadelphia is positioned to remain at the top of the conference, especially with another game on the horizon at PPL Park — where the club hasn't lost in nine matches (5-0-4).
6. (7) COLUMBUS CREW (8-6-7, 31 points)
Last week: Lost to Los Angeles, 1-0, on Wednesday; Beat Portland, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The fact that the Crew are tied for first place at this point in the season in light of the team's offseason purging of veterans is a testament to a top-notch coaching job by Robert Warzycha. Columbus isn't necessarily getting it done in an attractive fashion, but it like deserves to have at least one All-Star (ahem, Chad Marshall). This weekend's matchup at RSL provides a stiff test to a team that has done most of its winning at home.
7. (8) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (6-6-8, 26 points)
Last week: Beat Toronto FC, 4-2, on Saturday.
This week: vs. New England, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Sporting KC got back in the win column, and it did so in style, with Kei Kamara scoring one of the goals of the season. He and DP striker Omar Bravo each netted braces to fend off Toronto FC, and newcomer DP Jeferson looked right at home in the center of Peter Vermes' attack. New England is playing better recently, but SKC is fully expected to add to its current 12-game unbeaten run.
8. (11) COLORADO RAPIDS (7-6-10, 31 points)
Last week: Beat New York, 4-1, on Wednesday; Tied New England, 2-2, on Saturday.
This week: at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: Sanna Nyassi's emergence as a capable forward lessens the blow of losing Conor Casey for the season, and he showed his value by striking for an improbable hat trick against the Red Bulls. Nyassi also drew a penalty against the Revs, but the Rapids couldn't hold on and settled for a disappointing tie. Considering the bevy of injuries throughout the season, Colorado is still in solid position to make a return to the postseason.
9. (6) NEW YORK RED BULLS (6-5-12, 30 points)
Last week: Lost to Colorado, 4-1, on Wednesday; Tied FC Dallas, 2-2, on Saturday.
This week: Idle.
Outlook: The Red Bulls had an underwhelming week against last year's two MLS Cup finalists, and it took a marvelous goal from Thierry Henry to salvage a mere point from the two matches. The Red Bulls' 12 ties are tied for most in the league, and there appears to be an uneasiness about the team as it heads to London to compete in the Emirates Cup.
10. (12) CHIVAS USA (6-7-8, 26 points)
Last week: Beat Houston, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: at FC Dallas, 7 p.m., Sunday, Galavision.
Outlook: Braun's performance lifted the Goats, who haven't lost in five matches but face a stern road test against FCD. Chivas is settled in sixth place in the Western Conference, but the upper echelon of teams still have a decent buffer. A win at Dallas, against a team that could be ripe for the picking after a Thursday match in El Salvador, would certainly shrink that margin.
11. (10) HOUSTON DYNAMO (5-7-9, 24 points)
Last week: Lost to Chivas USA, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Seattle, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Dynamo's road woes continue. Houston fell to 0-4-6 on the road after being on the wrong end of Justin Braun's second hat trick of the year. Despite having four MLS All-Stars, Houston is still in a tenuous position and has struggled to find a level of consistency all season.
12. (9) D.C. UNITED (5-6-8, 23 points)
Last week: Lost to New England, 1-0, on Wednesday.
This week: at San Jose, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: United blew a glorious chance to make some headway in the Eastern Conference but lost at home to a short-handed New England side that was without Benny Feilhaber. United's ability to put up strong performances against good teams on the road only to struggle in games they should win at home is one of the bigger enigmas of the season.
13. (13) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (5-7-9, 24 points)
Last week: Tied Vancouver, 2-2, on Wednesday; Lost to Real Salt Lake, 4-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. D.C. United, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The good news is that Chris Wondolowski broke out of his scoring slump with a two-goal outburst against the Whitecaps. The bad news is that the wheels completely fell off after Bobby Burling's red card for "tripping" Saborio in the penalty area. With D.C. coming to town, along with former Earthquakes defender Brandon McDonald, San Jose will need to gather itself to avoid slipping any further in the West.
14. (14) PORTLAND TIMBERS (6-10-3, 21 points)
Last week: Lost to Columbus, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Toronto FC, 11 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Portland hung tough with the Crew, but the inability to clear a goal-line scrum resulted in the only goal and a tough loss to take for the Timbers. Portland's attackers should be licking their chops at the prospects of getting to attack Toronto's porous back line at Jeld-Wen Field this weekend.
T-15. (15) CHICAGO FIRE (2-6-12, 18 points)
Last week: Idle.
This week: Idle.
Outlook: Aside from a friendly against Manchester United, Chicago has had some time to collect its thoughts and sort out all of the roster pieces, which now includes Mexican veteran Pavel Pardo and Argentine midfielder Sebastian Grazzini. The team's performance against the Red Devils was spirited, and Chicago figures to be a tougher opponent going forward.
T-15. (17) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (4-9-8, 20 points)
Last week: Beat D.C. United, 1-0, on Wednesday; Tied Colorado, 2-2, on Saturday.
This week: at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Revs' win at RFK Stadium was a Steve Nicol special — absorb pressure, defend well, connect on a set piece, get out of town. The team played a confident match at Colorado — a traditional house of horrors for New England — and escaped with a draw after a late PK leveled the score. Is it possible that the Revs have started to figured things out?
17. (18) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-10-9, 15 points)
Last week: Tied San Jose, 2-2, on Wednesday.
This week: vs. Los Angeles, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: Eric Hassli's brace against San Jose solidified a point for the 'Caps and snapped the team's four-game losing streak. Hassli's All-Star-caliber season has been as bright a spot as there is for Vancouver, which will look to find its top form on national television when it welcomes the first-place Galaxy to town.
18. (16) TORONTO FC (3-11-9, 18 points)
Last week: Lost to FC Dallas, 1-0, on Wednesday; Lost at Sporting Kansas City, 4-2, on Saturday.
This week: at Portland, 11 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Danny Koevermans and Ryan Johnson provided glimpses of what Toronto's attack can be in its loss at Livestrong Sporting Park, but the defense is still an absolute mess. It's tough to shuffle pieces in and out and expect any sort of reliability in front of an exposed Stefan Frei, but that's the task at hand for Aron Winter and newcomers Andy Iro and Eddy Viator.