Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
We're only one week into the season, but the SBI MLS Power Rankings have already experienced an unexpected shake-up at the top.
For all the offseason talk about how the Los Angeles Galaxy have only gotten better since their MLS Cup triumph, Real Salt Lake moved to No. 1 with a triumph over the Galaxy on Saturday at the Home Depot Center, where Los Angeles didn't suffer a single loss all last season.
Elsewhere, Sporting Kansas City claimed its spot as the highest-ranking Eastern Conference side with a dramatic 1-0 victory at D.C. United, while the likes of FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers used statement wins to secure positions toward the top of the ladder.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 1)
1. REAL SALT LAKE (1-0-0, 3 points)
Last week: Beat Los Angeles, 3-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. New York, 10 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: It was a fairly quiet offseason for coach Jason Kreis' side, but with its win at the Galaxy, Salt Lake showed its veteran core is more than capable of competing for the Supporters' Shield this year. And a return to full health and fitness for playmaker Javier Morales will only make Salt Lake tougher.
2. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (0-0-0, 0 points)
Last week: Idle.
This week: vs. Toronto, 10 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Seattle hasn't opened its MLS season yet, but the Sounders did show well in a 2-1 win over Santos Laguna in Champions League play. Forward Fredy Montreo looked particularly sharp in that encounter, and the Colombian could be poised for an MVP-caliber season.
3. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (0-1-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Salt Lake, 3-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. D.C. United, 7 p.m., Saturday, Galavision.
Outlook: Fatigue seemed to get the better of Los Angeles against Salt Lake as the visitors grabbed three late goals to notch a stunning road result. The Galaxy won't get a break from their fixture congestion this weekend, swinging right back into MLS action Sunday after tonight's CONCACAF Champions League match against Toronto.
4. FC DALLAS (1-0-0, 3 points)
Last week: Beat New York, 2-1, on Sunday.
This week: vs. Portland, Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: Even without playmaker David Ferreira back in the fold, Dallas looked much sharper in Sunday's win over New York than it did while wrapping up 2011 with a whimper. But losing Brek Shea to Olympic qualifying duty for the next couple weeks will be a tough blow.
5. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (1-0-0, 3 points)
Last week: Beat D.C., 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. New England, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Kansas City on Saturday looked like a team returning 10 starters from a squad that finished atop the Eastern Conference last year, controlling the match and creating numerous chances. Although the finishing touch wasn't quite there, forward C.J. Sapong showed the kind of depth coach Peter Vermes has to play with, coming off the bench to notch the late winner.
6. PORTLAND TIMBERS (1-0-0, 3 points)
Last week: Beat Philadelphia, 3-1, on Monday.
This week: at Dallas, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Keyed by a standout performance from winger Kalif Alhassan, Portland kicked off its season with an impressive triumph over Philadelphia amid a raucous atmosphere at Jeld-Wen Field. With his classy header goal, Kris Boyd looked like the perfect fit up top for Portland.
7. HOUSTON DYNAMO (1-0-0, 3 points)
Last week: Beat Chivas USA, 1-0, on Sunday.
This week: at San Jose, 5 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: After recording just two wins on the road all of last season, Houston kicked off its 2012 campaign with one against Chivas. The Dynamo will need to keep up with that kind of production away from home, considering their opener at BBVA Compass Stadium is still two months away.
8. COLORADO RAPIDS (1-0-0, 3 points)
Last week: Beat Columbus, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., Sunday, NBC Sports.
Outlook: Paced by right back Kosuke Kimura's two assists, Colorado recorded a convincing victory Saturday over a scattered Columbus side. This weekend's trip to the City of Brotherly Love should provide new Rapids coach Oscar Pareja with a more stern test.
9. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (1-0-0, 3 points)
Last week: Beat Montreal, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Chivas USA, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Sebastien Le Toux didn't wait long at all to make his presence felt for a Vancouver attack that has the weapons to be one of the best in the Western Conference. This weekend's trip to play Chivas presents the Whitecaps with a prime opportunity to keep the momentum going with a valuable road win.
10. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (1-0-0, 3 points)
Last week: Beat New England, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Houston, 5 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Well Chris Wondolowski started his 2012 campaign with the same scoring touch he ended 2011 with, notching an early goal that ended up being all San Jose needed to dispose of New England. He'll have his hands full this weekend, though, trying to break through Houston's stellar back line.
11. NEW YORK RED BULLS (0-1-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Dallas, 2-1, on Sunday.
This week: at Salt Lake, 10 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Although rookie Ryan Meara looked solid in goal, the defense in front of him wasn't quite so stellar during a loss to Dallas. That back line will be put the test again this weekend, when New York travels to Rio Tinto Stadium to take on Fabian Espindola, Javier Morales and the rest of Salt Lake's vaunted attack.
12. CHICAGO FIRE (0-0-0, 0 points)
Last week: Idle.
This week: at Montreal, 2 p.m., Saturday, TSN.
Outlook: The Fire watched from the sidelines during Week 1 and were pleased to see just two Eastern Conference rivals — Kansas City and Houston — pick up victories. Chicago this weekend will open its season against the expansion Impact in the league's first game in Montreal.
13. PHILADELPHIA UNION (0-1-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Portland, 3-1, on Monday.
This week: vs. Colorado, 4 p.m., Sunday, NBC Sports.
Outlook: Offseason acquisitions Gabriel Gomez and Lionard Pajoy turned in decent performances for the Union against Portland, but goalkeeper Zac MacMath's erratic night between the posts and a lack of cohesion going forward cost them. Philadelphia will look to rebound from the comforts of home Sunday against Colorado at PPL Park.
14. TORONTO FC (0-0-0, 0 points)
Last week: Idle.
This week: at Seattle, 10 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: A 2-2 home draw against Los Angeles in Champions League play was ultimately a disappointing effort, one Toronto will look to nullify with a win in tonight's second leg at the Home Depot Center. Matters don't get much easier for Toronto in MLS play on Saturday, when the Reds travel to CenturyLink Field to take on the Sounders.
15. D.C. UNITED (0-1-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Kansas City, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Los Angeles, 7 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: After a scattered preseason that saw a combination of injuries, national team commitments, late signings and weather issues keep coach Ben Olsen from using his preferred starting XI, United looked like a team in need of chemistry during a disjointed loss to Kansas City. In a break for United, they catch Los Angeles this weekend coming off another midweek Champions League fixture.
16. COLUMBUS CREW (0-1-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Colorado, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: Idle.
Outlook: With MLS now featuring an odd number of teams, that means at least one club will be on bye every weekend. That's Columbus this time around, and Crew coach Robert Warzycha will be more than happy to have some extra time to work with his side after it looked completely out of sorts during a loss at Colorado on Saturday.
17. CHIVAS USA (0-1-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Houston, 1-0, on Sunday.
This week: vs. Vancouver, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Opening 2012 just the way it opened 2011 — with a loss at home — Chivas had a few chances to bury Houston but couldn't capitalize, allowing the Dynamo to stay in the game and ultimately snatch the winner off a stoppage-time set piece. This weekend's match against Vancouver should be a good barometer for both sides early in the campaign.
18. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (0-1-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to San Jose, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: New England has some real talent in midfield with the likes of Benny Feilhaber, Shalrie Joseph and Kelyn Rowe, but the rest of new coach Jay Heaps' roster is quite suspect. After falling to San Jose, New England faces a tough trip to Livestrong Sporting Park and the prospect of an 0-2 start.
19. MONTREAL IMPACT (0-1-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Vancouver, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Chicago, 2 p.m., Saturday, TSN.
Outlook: Montreal didn't look out of its league during a loss at Vancouver to open its existence as an MLS franchise, but coach Jesse Marsch's bunch did look like an expansion side lacking in depth and continuity. After Vancouver and Portland both won their emotional home openers last year, can Montreal do the same Saturday against Chicago?