Sporting Kansas City is still the team to beat in MLS right now, but the San Jose Earthquakes sure are making things interesting.
While Kansas City suffered its first loss of the season in Portland over the weekend, the Earthquakes improved to 5-1-1 with a 3-1 triumph over Real Salt Lake, pushing them to No. 2 in this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings. It has been an unlikely rise for a San Jose team that missed the playoffs last season, with a stout defense and the torrid scoring form of Chris Wondolowski sparking the club's hot start.
Elsewhere in the rankings, the Los Angeles Galaxy continued to climb back toward the top of the ladder, moving up four spots to No. 8 following a road win over Colorado. And the Philadelphia Union jumped three slots to No. 13, using a 1-0 victory at Chivas USA to put the club's 0-3 start even further in the rear-view mirror.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 7)
1. (Last week – 1) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (7-1-0, 21 points)
Last week: Beat Vancouver 3-1 on Wednesday; lost to Portland 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Idle
Outlook: It turns out the only team capable of beating Kansas City apparently is … Kansas City. Chance Myers' epic own goal gifted Portland the only tally it would need to hand Kansas City its first loss of the season. But it was still a productive Pacific Northwest road trip for Peter Vermes' squad, which dominated a formidable Vancouver side midweek.
2. (3) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (5-1-1, 16 points)
Last week: Beat Salt Lake 3-1 on Saturday
This week: At Philadelphia, 7 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Up a player from the 29th minute on and enjoying a two-man advantage after the 69th minute, San Jose still waited until second-half stoppage time to find the winner from Simon Dawkins (as well as Chris Wondolowski's clincher). It wasn't the most convincing performance, but three points against a team like Salt Lake is typically three points well earned.
3. (2) REAL SALT LAKE (5-3-0, 15 points)
Last week: Lost to San Jose 3-1 on Saturday
This week: At Dallas, 8:30 p.m., Wednesday; vs. Toronto, 9 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: It was nearly a heroic draw for Salt Lake, which was minutes away from grabbing a point on the road despite two red cards. Alas, it wasn't meant to be for Salt Lake, which now must travel to Dallas without the suspended Fabian Espindola or Jamison Olave. On the plus side, a home game against lowly Toronto looms around the corner.
4. (4) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (3-1-1, 10 points)
Last week: Idle
This week: At Chicago, 8:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: The bye week came at a good time for Seattle, which avoided having to play another game without midfield maestros Alvaro Fernandez (quad strain) and Mauro Rosales (knee sprain). Steve Zakuani's continued progress while recovering from a broken leg is another welcome development for the Sounders.
5. (5) HOUSTON DYNAMO (2-1-2, 8 points)
Last week: Tied Columbus 2-2 on Saturday
This week: At D.C. United, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: With just two games remaining on its seven-game road trip to start 2012, Houston still has just a single loss. Despite missing Brad Davis again this past weekend, the Dynamo got another point thanks to a standout performance from second-year player Will Bruin, who notched a goal and an assist.
6. (7) D.C. UNITED (3-2-3, 12 points)
Last week: Tied Montreal 1-1 on Wednesday; beat New York 4-1 on Sunday
This week: Vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Even with the Designated Player duo of playmaker Branko Boskovic and striker Hamdi Salihi not producing for coach Ben Olsen, United are still racking up the goals. If Chris Pontius (four goals), Maicon Santos (four goals) and Nick DeLeon (three goals) stay in form, Boskovic and Salihi could end up being the league's two most expensive bench players.
7. (9) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (3-2-2, 11 points)
Last week: Lost to Kansas City 3-1 on Wednesday; beat Dallas 1-0 on Saturday
This week: At Columbus, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: After being handled at home by Kansas City, the Whitecaps did well to bounce back and return to their stingy defensive ways in a win over Dallas on Saturday. One question fans are now wondering: Did 2011 No. 1 pick Omar Salgado do well enough in a rare start to warrant another one next weekend?
8. (12) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (3-3-0, 9 points)
Last week: Beat Colorado 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Dallas, 10:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: It was a welcome sight for Galaxy fans, seeing Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan link up for the second goal against Colorado in a play reminiscent of Donovan's MLS Cup-winning tally in November. While an awful penalty kick call in the waning moments nearly gifted Colorado a result, Josh Saunders came up with the massive save for Los Angeles.
9. (6) NEW YORK RED BULLS (3-3-1, 10 points)
Last week: Lost to D.C. United 4-1 on Sunday
This week: Vs. New England, 3:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Playing without Wilman Conde, Roy Miller, Teemu Tainio and Rafa Marquez, New York apparently decided to just forgo defense altogether during its trip to the nation's capital. If Thierry Henry's body language was any indication, the Frenchman's patience is starting to wear dangerously thin.
10. (8) FC DALLAS (3-3-1, 10 points)
Last week: Lost to Vancouver 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Salt Lake, 8:30 p.m., Wednesday; at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: With a loss at BC Place, Dallas dropped to 0-3 on the road this season. On the plus side, the club will return home, where it is 3-0-1, for a midweek match against Salt Lake before traveling Saturday to take on another Western Conference powerhouse in the Galaxy. Dallas will be hoping goalkeeper Kevin Hartman's back spasms aren't too serious.
11. (13) CHICAGO FIRE (2-1-2, 8 points)
Last week: Beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Seattle, 8:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: The Fire have seemingly flown under the radar because of their light schedule to start the year, but if Dominic Oduro keeps scoring goals, Sebastian Grazzini continues controlling the midfield and Arne Friedrich stays healthy in the back, Chicago will be a team to keep an eye on.
12. (10) COLORADO RAPIDS (3-4-0, 9 points)
Last week: Lost to Los Angeles 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Chivas USA, 9 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: It was perhaps fitting that Omar Cummings missed his stoppage-time penalty kick, seeing as it was an opportunity the Rapids had no business having. But it was still a tough pill to swallow for Colorado, which came so close to battling back from a 2-0 deficit to grab a point against the defending champions.
13. (16) PHILADELPHIA UNION (2-3-1, 7 points)
Last week: Beat Chivas USA 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Vs. San Jose, 7 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Despite drawing two red cards on the road, the Union still found a way to win against Chivas, using a clever back-heel strike Freddy Adu and another steady performance from resurgent goalkeeper Zac MacMath to claim the three points. Unbeaten in three, can Philadelphia put an end to San Jose's good run of form?
14. (11) CHIVAS USA (3-4-0, 9 points)
Last week: Lost to Philadelphia 1-0 on Saturday
This week: At Colorado, 9 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: It's truly remarkable that Chivas have somehow managed to lose all four of their home games by a 1-0 score this season — while going 3-0 on the road. Is the lifeless atmosphere at the Home Depot Center for Chivas games really that detrimental? Perhaps the return of Juan Pablo Angel will spark that anemic attack.
15. (15) PORTLAND TIMBERS (2-4-1, 7 points)
Last week: Beat Kansas City 1-0 on Saturday
This week: At Montreal, 3:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: It was far from pretty, but the Timbers ended their four-game losing streak with a triumph over previously undefeated Kansas City. It looks like Portland has found a home for Lovel Palmer in his natural central midfield position after previously using the Jamaican as a right back.
16. (14) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (2-4-0, 6 points)
Last week: Idle
This week: At New York, 3:30 p.m., Saturday, NBC Sports
Outlook: After a week off, the Revolution will make the short trip to Red Bull Arena for a match against the defensively challenged Red Bulls. It's an enviable matchup that must have new strikers Saer Sene (two goals in five games) and Jose Moreno (one goal in one start) chomping at the bit.
17. (17) COLUMBUS CREW (2-3-1, 7 points)
Last week: Tied Houston 2-2 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Vancouver, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Eddie Gaven's brace wasn't enough to get Columbus back in the win column, even though the Crew were facing a road-weary Houston team playing without MVP finalist Brad Davis. Defensively, Chad Marshall and Co. have some significant issues to sort out.
18. (18) MONTREAL IMPACT (1-5-2, 5 points)
Last week: Tied D.C. United 1-1 on Wednesday
This week: Vs. Portland, 8:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Another game, another lead surrendered by the Impact. At least this time around, Montreal still managed to hang onto a point, grabbing a nice midweek result in D.C. After Lamar Neagle's active appearance off the bench included an exquisite cross to set up Bernardo Corradi's strike, the former Seattle man may have worked his way back into the starting 11.
19. (19) TORONTO FC (0-6-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Chicago 3-2 on Saturday
This week: At Salt Lake, 9 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: All the optimism that Torsten Frings' return would stabilize Toronto quickly evaporated when the German's blunder gifted Chicago a score in the opening minute. While Reggie Lambe's two-goal performance provided BMO Field with some short-lived energy, this team remains an absolute mess defensively.