It may be early in the 2012 season, but the Western Conference is already well on its way to proving its dominance.
Seven of the top nine clubs in this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings hail from the West, with Real Salt Lake, the Seattle Sounders and the Los Angeles Galaxy in the first three positions. Eastern Conference sides, on the other hand, occupy of seven on the bottom eight slots.
Such feebleness has allowed Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo, the top two finishers in the East last year, to again position themselves as the class of the conference and create some early breathing room.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 2)
1. (Last week – 1) REAL SALT LAKE (2-0-0, 6 points)
Last week: Beat New York, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Chivas USA, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Even without Nat Borchers, Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio at full fitness, Salt Lake has still managed to open its campaign with wins over the league's two highest-spending teams. A home fixture against struggling Chivas on the horizon could very well mean 3-0 for Jason Kreis and Co.
2. (2) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (1-0-0, 3 points)
Last week: Beat Toronto, 3-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Houston, 10 p.m., Friday, NBC Sports.
Outlook: After a brutal 6-1 midweek loss at Santos Laguna ended Seattle's Champions League hopes, the Sounders rebounded with a win over an in-form Toronto side. The hat trick from unheralded third-year player David Estrada will leave Seattle fans feeling a lot better about the team including Mike Fucito in the Eddie Johnson deal with Montreal.
3. (3) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (1-1-0, 3 points)
Last week: Beat D.C. United, 3-1, on Sunday.
This week: Idle.
Outlook: So much for Robbie Keane's lack of confidence. The Irish striker notched his first MLS brace in a convincing win over D.C. United on Sunday, giving the Galaxy some momentum going into a much-needed bye week. And aside from allowing a meaningless late goal, the Los Angeles back line against D.C. looked stable for this time this year.
4. (5) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (2-0-0, 6 points)
Last week: Beat New England, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Dallas, 7 p.m., Sunday, Galavision.
Outlook: Kansas City's home opener was a walk in the park, as an early red card to Stephen McCarthy derailed the Revolution and paved the way for SKC to bag three goals in the game's first 47 minutes. After a breakout 2011, midfielder Graham Zusi seems poised for perhaps an even bigger 2012.
5. (7) HOUSTON DYNAMO (2-0-0, 6 points)
Last week: Beat San Jose, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Seattle, 10 p.m., Friday, NBC Sports.
Outlook: After winning just two road games all of last year, Houston has already matched that total two weeks into 2012. It hasn't been pretty for the Dynamo, but a rock-solid defense led by centerbacks Geoff Cameron and Bobby Boswell and goalkeeper Tally Hall might be the league's best.
6. (8) COLORADO RAPIDS (2-0-0, 6 points)
Last week: Beat Philadelphia, 2-1, on Sunday.
This week: at New York, 4 p.m., Sunday, ESPN.
Outlook: Yes, Philadelphia may be a mess right now, but these Rapids could be for real. After fighting off the Union to secure three points on the road despite being a man down, Colorado will head up Interstate 95 to take on the Red Bulls and try to claim another result away from home.
7. (6) PORTLAND TIMBERS (1-0-1, 4 points)
Last week: Tied Dallas, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: at New England, 4 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: After opening the season with an impressive victory over Philadelphia, Portland showed its mettle away from Jeld-Wen Field, coming from behind to pick up a point against a tough FC Dallas squad. Could Darlington Nagbe's goal mark the start of a breakout campaign for the Akron product?
8. (4) FC DALLAS (1-0-1, 4 points)
Last week: Tied Portland, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Kansas City, 7 p.m., Sunday, Galavision.
Outlook: It's unlikely Dallas is satisfied with a draw at home, but considering the absence of attacking catalysts Brek Shea and David Ferreira, the point isn't a terrible result. And seeing Panamanian forward Blas Perez open his account in a Dallas uniform has to be encouraging.
9. (9) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-0-0, 6 points)
Last week: Beat Chivas USA, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. D.C. United, 10 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: It may have taken more than a year, but the Whitecaps finally recorded their first MLS road win thanks to Jay DeMerit's tally against Chivas. With struggling D.C. United coming to town, can Vancouver move to 3-0 to start 2012 after having the league's worst record last year?
10. (12) CHICAGO FIRE (0-0-1, 1 point)
Last week: Tied Montreal, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Philadelphia, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: After taking Week 1 off, Chicago kicked off its season with the unenviable task of (again) being the opponent for an expansion side's home opener. Although Chicago could have caved when Montreal found the game's first goal, the Fire came back to earn a draw thanks to Dominic Oduro's opportunistic strike.
11. (10) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (1-1-0, 3 points)
Last week: Lost to Houston, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Toronto, 1 p.m., Saturday, TSN.
Outlook: With one goal in two home games to start the season, San Jose's attack hasn't exactly been lighting it up. The Earthquakes must be hoping that as Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart continue to develop chemistry, that strike partnership will flourish sooner rather than later.
12. (14) TORONTO FC (0-1-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Seattle, 3-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. San Jose, 1 p.m., Saturday, TSN.
Outlook: After claiming passage to the Champions League semifinals with a midweek win at Los Angeles, Toronto couldn't make it 2-for-2 on the road against Western Conference powers, dropping its MLS opener at Seattle. Midfielder Torsten Frings' hamstring injury could be a devastating blow going forward, both in MLS play and the Champions League.
13. (11) NEW YORK RED BULLS (0-2-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Salt Lake, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Colorado, 4 p.m., Sunday, ESPN.
Outlook: Picking up a result at Rio Tinto Stadium is no easy task, but the Red Bulls will still be disappointed to drop to 0-2. On the plus side for coach Hans Backe, Rafa Marquez will return from suspension Sunday against Colorado to hopefully calm down what has been an unstable central midfield.
14. (13) PHILADELPHIA UNION (0-2-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Colorado, 2-1, on Sunday.
This week: at Chicago, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Second-year goalkeeper Zac MacMath made it two gaffes in as many games when he allowed a howler against Colorado on Sunday, and the Union's attack still seems a bit lost without Sebastien Le Toux. It'll be interesting to see whether centerback Danny Califf returns to the lineup against Chicago on Saturday after being benched this past weekend.
15. (15) D.C. UNITED (0-2-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Los Angeles, 3-1, on Sunday.
This week: at Vancouver, 10 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: After his side looked out of sorts in a season-opening loss to Kansas City, United coach Ben Olsen yanked Designated Players Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi from his starting lineup for Sunday's uninspiring loss at Los Angeles. After already losing Bill Hamid and Perry Kitchen to U.S. Under-23 national team duty, the team will now see Andy Najar depart to join the Honduras U-23s.
16. (19) MONTREAL IMPACT (0-1-1, 1 point)
Last week: Tied Chicago, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Columbus, 4 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Montreal undoubtedly wanted the win in front of its 58,912 raucous fans at Olympic Stadium, but with the draw, the Impact will be pleased to officially be on the board in the Eastern Conference standings. Saturday's late cameo from recently signed Italian striker Bernardo Corradi gave Montreal fans a taste of what the team's attack will look like going forward.
17. (16) COLUMBUS CREW (0-1-0, 0 points)
Last week: Idle.
This week: vs. Montreal, 4 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Coming off a bye week to organize itself following a lackluster loss at Colorado to open the season, Columbus will look to get back on track with an enviable home fixture against Montreal. But replacing Dilly Duka (hamstring strain) could be a tall task for the Crew.
18. (17) CHIVAS USA (0-2-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Vancouver, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Salt Lake, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: In two home games to start the season, Chivas have failed to score a single goal while dropping both contests. A trip to Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday seems to have Chivas destined for 0-3. And based on the size of Saturday's Home Depot Center crowd, it looks like the Chivas supporters have already lost faith.
19. (18) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (0-2-0, 0 points)
Last week: Lost to Kansas City, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Portland, 4 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Any chance the Revolution had of stealing a result at Livestrong Sporting Park went out the window when Stephen McCarthy was shown red in the game's 14th minute. The silver lining for New England is it still hasn't played its home opener — that comes Saturday against Portland.