The ever-changing landscape in the Eastern Conference has some teams moving up and down the SBI MLS Power Rankings as the playoffs get closer.
Among those moving up is Houston, as the Dynamo are up to a season-high No. 6 spot following a major victory over Texas rival FC Dallas. D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls are also headed in the right direction after big victories helped them keep pace with the rest of the contenders in the East.
On the downward slope is Columbus, which fell for the fourth time in five games and slipped all the way out of the top 10 after a loss to the consensus No. 1 Los Angeles Galaxy, which put out a reserve-heavy lineup for the game.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 28)
1. (Last Week — 1) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (17-3-10, 61 points)
Last week: Beat Columbus, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Real Salt Lake, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Supporters' Shield might as well get comfortable at the Home Depot Center, because after a makeshift Galaxy lineup went to Columbus and came away with three points, it looks like the club will remain atop the league table for the remainder of the season. Chad Barrett's rebound off a saved Landon Donovan blast accounted for the shock winner, and the Galaxy turn their focus to recapturing their CONCACAF Champions League form while staying healthy and fresh for the playoffs.
2. (3) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (15-6-9, 54 points)
Last week: Beat Vancouver, 3-1, on Saturday.
This week: at New England, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Sounders captured the Cascadia Cup, with red-hot Fredy Montero leading the way. RSL's slip-up in D.C. paved the way for the Sounders to pounce on the No. 2 seed in the West, but either way both look to be on a crash course for an early-round playoff affair. With a mid-week CCL match, weekend league match and U.S. Open Cup final next week, nobody on the roster should be off limits over this next stretch.
3. (2) REAL SALT LAKE (15-8-6, 51 points)
Last week: Beat New York, 3-1, on Wednesday; Lost to D.C. United, 4-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Chicago, 9 p.m., Wednesday; at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m.
Outlook: Trying to balance out minutes across his team, Jason Kreis gambled with an experimental lineup over the weekend and saw his club's five-game winning streak go up in smoke. While the Supporters' Shield now seems like a longshot, the club is pretty locked in to either the second or third seed and a place in the conference semifinals. Playmaker Javier Morales is set to return to the field at Rio Tinto Stadium against the Fire.
4. (4) FC DALLAS (13-10-7, 46 points)
Last week: Lost to Houston, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Colorado, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Dallas is pretty locked into that fourth playoff seed in the West, but there's certainly cause for concern after the club failed to score in its third straight league game. In fact, Dallas will go the entire month of September without scoring a league goal, because its MLS Cup rematch against Colorado is slated for Oct. 1. That's hardly the way to enter the postseason, and perhaps the schedule congestion and myriad of injuries is catching up with a club that looked as solid a bet as any to make a deep playoff run.
5. (5) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (10-9-11, 41 points)
Last week: Tied Philadelphia, 1-1, on Friday.
This week: vs. Columbus, 8:30 p.m., Wednesday; at San Jose, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: SKC missed out on a chance to climb into first place in the East, surrendering an equalizer to the Union and settling for a home draw. The club is still in OK shape, currently locked into one of the conference's automatic playoff bids, and it can make more headway in the East with a victory over suddenly-struggling Columbus before heading to the West Coast for a date with the Earthquakes.
6. (9) HOUSTON DYNAMO (10-9-12, 42 points)
Last week: Beat FC Dallas, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Chicago, 4 p.m., Saturday, Telefutura.
Outlook: After lingering in the middle of the Eastern Conference pack for a while, the Dynamo are the latest to stand at the top of the mountain following their first road victory of the season. Brad Davis' MVP candidacy is in full force after another assist — this one to Geoff Cameron — gave Houston the win over rival Dallas.
7. (6) PHILADELPHIA UNION (9-7-13, 40 points)
Last week: Tied Sporting Kansas City, 1-1, on Friday.
This week: vs. D.C. United, 8 p.m., Thursday, ESPN2; at Chivas USA, 8 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: Like SKC, Philadelphia couldn't maximize its opportunity on Friday but has two games this coming week in which to fortify its run to the postseason. The I-95 rivalry with D.C. United will capture plenty of attention because of the playoff and conference implications, but almost equally as important is the game with Chivas, where the Union can bury the Goats' chances with a road victory.
8. (11) D.C. UNITED (9-8-11, 38 points)
Last week: Tied Chivas USA, 2-2, on Wednesday; Beat Real Salt Lake, 4-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Philadelphia, 8 p.m., Thursday, ESPN2; at Columbus, 4 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: De-Ro. That's the best way to sum up United's fortunes after the veteran All-Star put on a display for the ages against RSL over the weekend, following his flail-and-missed-PK in his chance to steal a win from Chivas. With Chris Pontius out for the year and Charlie Davies struggling to find consistency, it looks like United will go as far as Dwayne De Rosario will take them; however, it should be noted that Andy Najar was stellar against RSL as well. It doesn't get much bigger than the two conference games coming up for Ben Olsen's squad.
9. (8) COLORADO RAPIDS (10-9-12, 42 points)
Last week: Tied San Jose, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. FC Dallas, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Colorado has all but conceded that it won't be making the CCL knockout stage and is turning its focus to league play. That didn't show in its 1-1 draw with the Earthquakes, a result that extended the Rapids' winless streak to five matches (0-3-2). When Colorado faces also-struggling FC Dallas in an MLS Cup rematch, something's got to give.
10. (12) NEW YORK RED BULLS (8-7-15, 39 points)
Last week: Lost to Real Salt Lake, 3-1, on Wednesday; Beat Portland, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: Just when you think you can write the Red Bulls' obituary, they come out and turn in a complete performance against a fellow playoff contender. With Rafa Marquez banned from the lineup by Hans Backe, the Red Bulls sent a message that the midweek catastrophe against RSL wasn't the end of the season after all. With a healthy Luke Rodgers, an inspired Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere and a team that showed it's not quitting just yet, high-priced New York could still be a player down the stretch.
11. (7) COLUMBUS CREW (11-11-8, 41 points)
Last week: Lost to Los Angeles, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m., Wednesday; vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: Since beating the Union on Aug. 20, the Crew are winless in five matches (0-4-1) and are watching their hold on an automatic playoff berth in the East slip away. Games against two conference contenders will go a long way in determining the fortunes for Columbus, a team beset by an increasingly hard schedule and a number of injuries. There's little excuse for the loss to the Galaxy, though, as the visitors brought a glorified B team to Crew Stadium and still managed to take all three points.
12. (10) PORTLAND TIMBERS (10-13-7, 37 points)
Last week: Tied San Jose, 1-1, on Wednesday; Lost to New York, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Vancouver, 4:30 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: The Timbers' grasp on the postseason is starting to slip after a pair of missed opportunities this past week. Needing at least three points from its two matches, Portland walked away with just one and trails both New York and D.C. in the hunt for a wildcard berth. Normally a game against fellow-expansion club Vancouver wouldn't appear so difficult, but being the visiting team as the Whitecaps open the renovated BC Place won't be easy.
13. (14) CHICAGO FIRE (6-8-15, 33 points)
Last week: Beat New England, 3-2, on Sunday.
This week: at Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m., Wednesday; at Houston, 4 p.m., Saturday, Telefutura.
Outlook: It's official: Dominic Oduro's breakout season is for real, and he remains a threat in the Golden Boot discussion after his 11th goal and sixth in the last eight games. Chicago's late-season run is probably too little, too late, but the refusal to pack it in by Frank Klopas' squad is commendable. The Fire are still mathematically alive, so they'll be gunning for maximum points at two extremely tough places to play against two in-form postseason contenders.
14. (15) CHIVAS USA (8-12-11, 35 points)
Last week: Tied D.C. United, 2-2, on Wednesday; Beat Toronto FC, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Philadelphia, 8 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: Where did Juan Pablo Angel get his time machine, and how can we get one? Angel is scoring like it's 2007, with his four-goal week singlehandedly keeping the Goats in the postseason hunt. His five goals in his last three games has Chivas USA still (barely) alive in the postseason hunt, but as long as the Goats keep winning, they have a chance. A home game against Philadelphia — a club rumored to be interested in Angel's services this summer — presents a challenge, though.
15. (16) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (6-11-13, 31 points)
Last week: Tied Portland, 1-1, on Wednesday; Tied Colorado, 1-1, Saturday.
This week: vs. Sporting Kansas City, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Chris Wondolowski entered exclusive company by tying Landon Donovan for second on the club's all-time goals scored list, and he remains in the Golden Boot picture for the second straight year, proving that 2010 was no fluke. That said, the Earthquakes might as well focus on next season, with too many clubs in front of them and missing the postseason being all but an inevitability.
16. (13) TORONTO FC (6-13-12, 30 points)
Last week: Lost to Chivas USA, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. New York, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: The up-and-down nature of TFC's season reared its head again after a listless loss to Chivas USA that all but counts the Reds out of the postseason (something that was pretty clear a while ago, for what it's worth). Even so, the club remains alive in the CCL picture, has the attacking talent to play spoiler and surely wants to right the wrong that was a 5-0 loss to the Red Bulls back on July 6.
17. (17) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (5-13-12, 27 points)
Last week: Lost to Chicago, 3-2, on Sunday.
This week: vs. Seattle, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Ryan Guy's two stoppage-time goals make Sunday's result look respectable, but the scoreline doesn't show how one-sided the affair really was. The Revs are all but eliminated from playoff contention, but they can still have a say in the playoff picture if they can catch the Sounders napping at a time when the club has more important games (CCL, Open Cup final) on the mind.
18. (18) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (4-15-10, 22 points)
Last week: Lost to Seattle, 3-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Portland, 4:30 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: The Whitecaps had a brief lead over the Sounders only to watch things evaporate into yet another loss. They face their second straight Pacific Northwest rival at home this weekend, but they'll play their first match at the sparkling BC Place, which should draw a fair share of attention to the club this weekend.