Thus far in 2012, the stars have been anything but aligned for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
After retaining the core of last year's MLS Cup championship squad while also bringing back 2010 MVP finalist Edson Buddle, the Galaxy were the clear No. 1 choice to start the year atop the SBI MLS Power Rankings.
But following Saturday's 3-1 loss to New England, Los Angeles has dropped to ninth in this week's poll. After not losing a game at the Home Depot Center in 2011, the Galaxy have already dropped two home contests this MLS season, as well as a crucial CONCACAF Champions League match against Toronto.
With the Galaxy relegated to middle-of-the-pack status, and last week's No. 1, the Seattle Sounders, coming off a loss, Real Salt Lake has climbed back to the top spot, with undefeated Sporting Kansas City right behind.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 4)
1. (Last week — T-2) REAL SALT LAKE (3-1-0, 9 points)
Last week: Beat Portland 3-2 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Montreal, 9 p.m., Wednesday, vs. Colorado, 9 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Salt Lake emerged from hostile Jeld-Wen Field with the full three points in an early contender for game of the year, as last-gasp goals from Jonny Steele and Kyle Beckerman completed a stunning comeback win over the Timbers. After facing Montreal midweek, Salt Lake's focus will turn to a Rocky Mountain Cup clash against Colorado on Saturday.
2. (T-2) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-0-0, 12 points)
Last week: Beat Chivas USA 1-0 on Sunday
This week: Vs. Los Angeles, 4 p.m., Saturday, ESPN
Outlook: The only 4-0 team MLS has to offer is Kansas City, which over the weekend grinded out its second 1-0 road win of the young season. With three goals in four games, C.J. Sapong not only seems braced to avoid a sophomore slump — at this rate, he'll blow his Rookie of the Year campaign out of the water.
3. (1) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (2-1-0, 6 points)
Last week: Lost to San Jose 1-0 on Saturday
This week: At D.C. United, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Well Seattle's perch atop the Power Rankings didn't last terribly long. Marc Burch's off-the-ball foul gifted San Jose a penalty kick, and Chris Wondolowski converted to give the visitors the game's lone goal. But there is good news for Seattle: Forward Eddie Johnson (hip) could return from injury this weekend when Seattle travels to the nation's capital.
4. (5) HOUSTON DYNAMO (2-1-0, 6 points)
Last week: Idle
This week: Idle
Outlook: In a move made to soften the impact of Houston's two-month stretch of road games to start the season, MLS granted the Dynamo back-to-back bye weeks. But Houston was still in the news plenty last week, with midfielders Adam Moffat and Colin Clark landing suspensions for their actions in a loss to Seattle on March 23.
5. (8) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (3-1-0, 9 points)
Last week: Beat Seattle 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Vancouver, 7 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: It's safe to say the Earthquakes are no longer flying under the radar. After notching an emphatic 3-0 win in Toronto, San Jose followed up that performance by stealing a 1-0 result at CenturyLink Field against the undefeated Sounders. With a penalty kick conversion, Chris Wondolowski brought his total to four goals in as many games to kick off 2012.
6. (11) NEW YORK RED BULLS (2-2-0, 6 points)
Last week: Beat Montreal 5-2 on Saturday
This week: At Columbus, 3 p.m., Saturday, Galavision
Outlook: For a while Saturday, it looked as if the Red Bulls were returning to their lackluster ways. But Thierry Henry's hat trick more than made up for some early defensive lapses, including a particularly glaring error by Markus Holgersson. The groin injury that took Rafa Marquez out at halftime will be worth keeping an eye on.
T-7. (7) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-0-2, 8 points)
Last week: Tied Philadelphia, 0-0, on Saturday
This week: At San Jose, 7 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: After playing in its second-straight scoreless draw over the weekend, Vancouver remained the only team in MLS to have not allowed a goal this season. That's good news for goalkeeper Joe Cannon and the rock-solid centerback duo of Jay DeMerit and Martin Bonjour. The bad news? The Whitecaps aren't yet getting much production out of their deep and talented forward corps.
T-7. (9) COLORADO RAPIDS (3-1-0, 9 points)
Last week: Beat Chicago 2-0 on Sunday
This week: At Salt Lake, 9 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Newcomer Martin Rivero was as good as advertised against Chicago, as the 22-year-old Argentine playmaker stepped right into the Colorado midfield and made his presence felt, notching an assist on Omar Cummings' opener. An otherwise stellar week for the Rapids was dampened by the news that captain Pablo Mastroeni (concussion) will be out at least another six weeks.
9. (4) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (1-2-0, 3 points)
Last week: Lost to New England 3-1 on Saturday
This week: At Kansas City, 4 p.m., Saturday, ESPN
Outlook: The Galaxy in 2011 allowed well less than a goal per game, but Los Angeles this season has conceded seven goals in just three matches (plus another five in two Champions League fixtures). And for all the attacking talent the Galaxy boast, take Landon Donovan out of the lineup and it suddenly seems as if Robbie Keane has to do everything by himself — especially when Juninho is in poor form and David Beckham is mysteriously getting yanked at halftime.
10. (15) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (2-2-0, 6 points)
Last week: Beat Los Angeles 3-1 on Saturday
This week: At Dallas, 8:30 p.m., Thursday
Outlook: New England has quickly made people forget the club's slow start, following a nice home win over Portland with a shocking 3-1 triumph over Los Angeles at the Home Depot Center. So how are the Revolution getting results? Well Kelyn Rowe is looking like a strong Rookie of the Year candidate in midfield, and it looks like the team may have finally found its answer at striker in Frenchman Saer Sene.
11. (16) D.C. UNITED (1-2-1, 4 points)
Last week: Beat Dallas 4-1 on Friday
This week: Vs. Seattle, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: After scoring just one goal in their first three games, United broke out for four tallies against Dallas — including three in a 13-minute span in the second half. Bench players to start the year, Maicon Santos, Nick DeLeon and Danny Cruz all found net Friday, which means the likes of Branko Boskovic, Chris Pontius and Andy Najar could struggle for minutes in the coming weeks.
12. (13) COLUMBUS CREW (2-1-0, 6 points)
Last week: Beat Toronto 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Vs. New York, 3 p.m., Saturday, Galavision
Outlook: It's hard to put too much stock in Columbus' back-to-back wins since the triumphs came over lowly Toronto and Montreal. The back line anchored by captain Chad Marshall, though, has looked steady in the two shutouts. And coach Robert Warzycha was no doubt pleased to see Bernardo Anor find net while filling in for the injured Dilly Duka.
13. (6) FC DALLAS (1-2-1, 4 points)
Last week: Lost to D.C. United 4-1 on Friday
This week: Vs. New England, 8:30 p.m., Thursday
Outlook: With David Ferreira still recovering from his ankle injury, George John sidelined by a hamstring ailment, and a physically and emotionally gassed Brek Shea not looking like his usual self, Dallas fell apart against D.C. There was one thing to build off: Forward Blas Perez continued to impress, scoring his second goal for the club.
14. (12) PORTLAND TIMBERS (1-2-1, 4 points)
Last week: Lost to Salt Lake 3-2 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Chivas USA, 10:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: The Timbers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Salt Lake, seeing three points turn into zero in four short minutes. If there is a silver lining to be found from such a gutting defeat, though, it has to be the electrifying two-goal performance from second-year player Darlington Nagbe.
15. (10) CHICAGO FIRE (1-1-1, 4 points)
Last week: Lost to Colorado 2-0 on Sunday
This week: Idle
Outlook: Goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi struggled between the posts in Chicago's first loss of the season, a development that could lead to U.S. Under-23 international Sean Johnson reclaiming the starting job. It'll be a while before we see who coach Frank Klopas goes with next, though, as Chicago is off this week.
16. (14) CHIVAS USA (1-3-0, 3 points)
Last week: Lost to Kansas City 1-0 on Sunday
This week: At Portland, 10:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Another home game, another 1-0 for Chivas. While goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and a back line led by Heath Pearce are more than carrying their share of the burden, coach Robin Fraser's squad just doesn't have the attacking prowess to get results.
17. (19) PHILADELPHIA UNION (0-3-1, 1 point)
Last week: Tied Vancouver 0-0 on Saturday
This week: Idle
Outlook: It's doubtful Philadelphia was pleased to record a scoreless draw at home against Vancouver, but the Union at least have a point in the standings now. Now, no matter who coach Peter Nowak puts next to Lionard Pajoy up top — whether it's Chandler Hoffman, Jack McInerney, Danny Mwanga or no one at all — the Union need to start scoring goals.
18. (17) TORONTO FC (0-3-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Columbus 1-0 on Saturday
This week: At Montreal, 12 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Toronto once again last week put in an admirable Champions League performance, only to flounder in MLS play. After tying Santos Laguna 1-1 to open their semifinal series, Toronto will travel to Mexico on Wednesday for the all-important second leg. Whatever the result, the Reds won't be able to dwell on it, as they'll face Canadian rival Montreal three days later for the first time in MLS play.
19. (18) MONTREAL IMPACT (0-3-1, 1 point)
Last week: Lost to New York 5-2 on Saturday
This week: At Salt Lake, 9 p.m., Wednesday; vs. Toronto, 12 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Goals from Sanna Nyassi and Justin Mapp gave Montreal hope in the first half against New York before the game got away from the Impact in the second half. For coach Jesse Marsch, it might be worth re-evaluating the first-choice centerback pairing of Tyson Wahl and Matteo Ferrari.