For the first time this season, Ben Olsen's squad has cracked the top five of the SBI MLS Power Rankings. United defeated the Houston Dynamo 3-2 on Saturday, stretching their unbeaten run to seven games and claiming consecutive wins for the first time since June 2009.
Elsewhere in the rankings, the Seattle Sounders jumped ahead of Real Salt Lake for the No. 3 position with a road win over Chicago, and the Montreal Impact shot up four spots to No. 14 with a triumph over Portland.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 8)
1. (Last week – 1) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (7-1-0, 21 points)
Last week: Idle
This week: Vs. Montreal, 8:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Kansas City enjoyed a welcome bye week following a busy stretch of games, and this weekend's home match against expansion Montreal doesn't look like it would be too stern a test. But Peter Vermes' club must be careful not to overlook the Impact, who seem to be turning a corner.
2. (2) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (6-1-1, 19 points)
Last week: Beat Philadelphia 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Vs. D.C. United, 10:30 p.m., Wednesday; at Vancouver, 7 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Steven Lenhart saved the day for San Jose, scoring a pair of late goals off the bench to stun the PPL Park crowd and give the Earthquakes a tough road win over the Union. This week presents a pair of challenging fixtures against D.C. United and Vancouver, two clubs that, like San Jose, have grown leaps and bounds since missing the playoffs last season.
3. (4) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (4-1-1, 13 points)
Last week: Beat Chicago 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Los Angeles, 10 p.m., Wednesday; Vs. Philadelphia, 4:30 p.m., Saturday, NBC Sports
Outlook: After claiming an impressive victory on the road against the Fire, Seattle returns to CenturyLink Field for another two home fixtures. The returns from injury of Alvaro Fernandez and Mauro Rosales means we're finally starting to see what this team is truly capable of on the offensive end.
4. (3) REAL SALT LAKE (6-3-1, 19 points)
Last week: Tied Dallas 1-1 on Wednesday; Beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday
This week: Vs. New England, 9 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Salt Lake very nearly suffered its second embarrassing result at Rio Tinto Stadium this season, but the late-game heroics of Jonny Steele once again turned one point into three and kept Jason Kreis' side from settling for a draw against lowly Toronto. Next up? The Revolution, losers of three straight.
5. (6) D.C. UNITED (4-2-3, 15 points)
Last week: Beat Houston 3-2 on Saturday
This week: At San Jose, 10:30 p.m., Wednesday; at Toronto, 4:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: A week after dismantling New York's shaky defense in a 4-1 triumph, United picked apart Houston's renowned back line for a 3-2 win. It looks like Ben Olsen has found the right combination with forwards Chris Pontius (four goals) and Maicon Santos (six goals) playing in front of Dwayne De Rosario (one goal, five assists).
6. (7) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (4-2-2, 14 points)
Last week: Beat Columbus 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Vs. San Jose, 7 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: Vancouver just keeps grinding out results thanks to a rock-solid back line and the impressive goalkeeping of veteran Joe Cannon. Sooner or later, though, the Whitecaps will need their stable of accomplished strikers to start living up to their reputations on a consistent basis.
7. (5) HOUSTON DYNAMO (2-2-2, 8 points)
Last week: Lost to D.C. United 3-2 on Saturday
This week: Idle
Outlook: The wear and tear of a seven-game road trip to start the season was bound to catch up with Houston at some point, so it's probably not worth reading too much into a 3-2 loss at an in-form United team. On the plus side, Will Bruin's brace is an encouraging sign for the Dynamo's forward corps.
8. (9) NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-3-1, 13 points)
Last week: Beat New England 1-0 on Saturday
This week: At Los Angeles, 8 p.m., Saturday, ESPN, TSN2
Outlook: So who had the Red Bulls recording a shutout with a back line of Connor Lade, Tyler Ruthven, Markus Holgersson and Brandon Barklage? The Red Bulls deserve credit for some unexpected resiliency, though the loss of MLS leading scorer Thierry Henry (an astonishing nine goals and five assists) to a hamstring injury is a massive blow.
9. (8) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (3-3-1, 10 points)
Last week: Tied Dallas 1-1 on Saturday
This week: At Seattle, 10 p.m., Wednesday; Vs. New York, 8 p.m., Saturday, ESPN, TSN2
Outlook: After Robbie Keane missed a penalty kick, the Galaxy needed a late strike from veteran reserve Pat Noonan to salvage a point a home against Dallas. Los Angeles will have to be better than that if the club is going to get a result in its high-profile clash with Seattle on Wednesday.
10. (10) FC DALLAS (3-3-3, 12 points)
Last week: Tied Salt Lake 1-1 on Wednesday; Tied Los Angeles 1-1 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Colorado, 7 p.m., Sunday, Galavision
Outlook: It was a decent week for Dallas, which claimed a pair of draws against last year's Western Conference finalists, Salt Lake and Los Angeles. This weekend presents an MLS Cup 2010 rematch against the Colorado Rapids, who also are sitting midtable in the Western Conference with 12 points.
11. (12) COLORADO RAPIDS (4-4-0, 12 points)
Last week: Beat Chivas USA 4-0 on Saturday
This week: At New England, 8 p.m., Wednesday; at Dallas, 7 p.m., Sunday, Galavision
Outlook: Well how about that for an offensive outburst from the Rapids? In a match that marked the return of Conor Casey from a long-term Achilles injury, it was Kamani Hill who came off the bench to spark the Colorado attack, scoring two goals in what abruptly became a 4-0 rout of Chivas.
12. (11) CHICAGO FIRE (2-2-2, 8 points)
Last week: Lost to Seattle 2-1 on Saturday
This week: At Chivas USA, 11 p.m., Friday, ESPN Deportes
Outlook: Marco Pappa's late strike directly off a corner kick ended up just being a consolation to the Fire, who dropped a 2-1 result to Seattle in a rematch of last year's U.S. Open Cup final. To boot, Jalil Anibaba picked up a 97th-minute red card that will sideline him Friday against Chivas.
13. (13) PHILADELPHIA UNION (2-4-1, 7 points)
Last week: Lost to San Jose 2-1 on Saturday
This week: At Seattle, 4:30 p.m., Saturday, NBC Sports
Outlook: It was heartbreak for the Union, who saw Gabriel Gomez's late equalizer go for naught when Steven Lenhart grabbed the winner for San Jose in second-half stoppage time. Danny Mwanga's lack of production and playing time thus far this season continues to be a concern for Philadelphia.
14. (18) MONTREAL IMPACT (2-5-2, 8 points)
Last week: Beat Portland 2-0 on Saturday
This week: At Kansas City, 8:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: After repeatedly letting second-half leads slip away, Montreal sealed the deal against Portland, following up Bernardo Corradi's go-ahead strike with a clincher from Sinisa Ubiparipovic. The back line of Zarek Valentin, Matteo Ferrari, Shavar Thomas and Tyson Wahl has quietly developed an impressive rapport.
15. (14) CHIVAS USA (3-5-0, 9 points)
Last week: Lost to Colorado 4-0 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Chicago, 11 p.m., Friday, ESPN Deportes
Outlook: Even with Juan Pablo Angel back in the starting lineup, Chivas' league-worst attack continued to struggle, getting shut out for the fifth time this season. As the defense collapsed, allowing Colorado to pile on three late goals, it became evident that Dan Kennedy and Co. can only do so much.
16. (15) PORTLAND TIMBERS (2-5-1, 7 points)
Last week: Lost to Montreal 2-0 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Columbus, 10:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: If the likes of Darlington Nagbe and Kris Boyd aren't scoring goals for Portland, than it has become quite evident that this team hardly stands a chance. Its back line, after all, just hasn't been getting the job done. Against Montreal, injuries to right back Steve Purdy and goalkeeper Troy Perkins certainly didn't help matters.
17. (16) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (2-5-0, 6 points)
Last week: Lost to New York 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Vs. Colorado, 8 p.m., Wednesday; at Salt Lake, 9 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: If the Revolution can't find a goal against the makeshift back line New York deployed Saturday, then it could be a long season in New England. Losers of three straight, the Revolution need to get forwards Saer Sene and Jose Moreno going if they're going to keep up in the Eastern Conference.
18. (17) COLUMBUS CREW (2-4-1, 7 points)
Last week: Lost to Vancouver 1-0 on Saturday
This week: At Portland, 10:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: On the offensive end, it looks like the Crew just don't have the pieces necessary to consistently trouble opposing back lines. Considering Columbus' only two wins have come against Montreal and Toronto, the optimism at Crew Stadium is quickly fading.
19. (19) TORONTO FC (0-7-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Salt Lake 3-2 on Saturday
This week: Vs. D.C. United, 4:30 p.m., Saturday
Outlook: What more can be said about Toronto? Even when the team finally showed some heart, twice coming from behind to grab an equalizer on the road against a stellar Salt Lake side, it wasn't enough to end its long losing streak to start 2012. It's hard to imagine, at this point, Aron Winter lasting much longer at BMO Field.