With the league's best record on the line, the San Jose Earthquakes came through Saturday in spectacular fashion.
San Jose, the Supporters' Shield front-runner, rose to the challenge against second-place Real Salt Lake on Saturday, cruising to a 5-0 win that secured a season sweep of RSL and a firm grasp on the top spot in this SBI MLS Power Rankings.
With Salt Lake and D.C. United suffering blowout losses, Sporting Kansas City jumped up to the No. 2 position after a 2-0 win over Columbus. And in the week's biggest drop, the Vancouver Whitecaps plunged five slots to No. 10 after losses to Toronto and Chicago.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 19)
1. (Last week — 1) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (12-4-4, 40 points)
Last week: Beat Salt Lake 5-0 on Saturday
This week: Wednesday vs. Dallas, 11 p.m., Sunday at Vancouver, 7 p.m.
Outlook: With his hat trick against Salt Lake on Saturday, Chris Wondolowski made it 17 goals in just 18 games. At this point, the striker is running away with the MVP race. And with 41 goals total, the Earthquakes have seven more than any other team in MLS.
2. (4) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (11-5-3, 36 points)
Last week: Beat Columbus 2-0 on Saturday
This week: Wednesday at Houston, 8:30 p.m.; Saturday vs. New England, 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: Now sitting by itself atop the Eastern Conference, Kansas City now must defend that position with a pair of conference matchups: a trip to take on surging Houston (unbeaten in four) and a home fixture against the Revolution.
3. (3) REAL SALT LAKE (11-7-3, 36 points)
Last week: Lost to San Jose 5-0 on Saturday
This week: Saturday vs. Colorado, 10 p.m.
Outlook: Salt Lake was hanging tight with San Jose until a Kyle Beckerman red card opened the floodgates for the Earthquakes in the second half. Now RSL must rally for a Rocky Mountain Cup fixture without the club's suspended captain.
4. (2) D.C. UNITED (10-6-3, 33 points)
Last week: Lost to Houston 4-0 on Sunday
This week: Saturday at Columbus, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: Bill Hamid's early red card doomed United, putting the team a goal down, a man down and a substitute down in the Houston heat. From that point on, it was a lost cause. How the team responds in Columbus to conclude a stretch of four out of five on the road will be key.
5. (6) NEW YORK RED BULLS (9-5-5, 32 points)
Last week: Tied Seattle 2-2 on Sunday
This week: Wednesday vs. Chicago, 1 p.m.; Saturday vs. Philadelphia, 2:30 p.m.
Outlook: The shock acquisition of Sebastien Le Toux immediately paid dividends for New York, but the club's iffy back line couldn't hold onto a second-half lead as Seattle battled back for a point on the road. next up, this week's unusual slate brings a pair of matinees at Red Bull Arena.
6. (7) CHICAGO FIRE (9-6-4, 31 points)
Last week: Beat Vancouver 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Wednesday at New York, 1 p.m.
Outlook: The Fire picked up out a 1-0 win over Vancouver thanks to a Pavel Pardo goal and defensive discipline down the stretch following the ejection of Arne Friedrich. The shutout should be a good confidence-builder for Sean Johnson, who has been up and down in goal.
7. (8) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (8-10-2, 26 points)
Last week: Beat Portland 5-3 on Saturday
This week: Wednesday at Vancouver, 10 p.m.; Saturday vs. Chivas, 10 p.m.
Outlook: The Galaxy's Designated Players came through big time at Jeld-Wen Field, combining for five goals and three assists in Los Angeles' 5-3 win over Portland. David Beckham's brace following a two-game suspension was a particularly welcome development for the Galaxy.
8. (9) HOUSTON DYNAMO (7-5-7, 28 points)
Last week: Beat D.C. United 4-0 on Sunday
This week: Wednesday vs. Kansas City, 8:30 p.m.; Saturday vs. Montreal, 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: With Macoumba Kandji rounding into form, Oscar Boniek Garcia making an impact and Will Bruin still scoring goals, the Dynamo now have a wealth of formidable options up front. With two more home games this week, Houston could be a team on the rise.
9. (10) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (8-5-7, 31 points)
Last week: Tied New York 2-2 on Sunday
This week: Idle
Outlook: Eddie Johnson might have earned the All-Star nod from Ben Olsen, but it was strike partner Fredy Montero who came off the bench to earn Seattle a point on the road with a second-half equalizer. The wins have come sparingly for the Sounders lately, but this team is starting to get strong results ahead of their friendly with UEFA Champions League winner Chelsea.
10. (5) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (8-6-6, 30 points)
Last week: Lost to Toronto 3-2 on Wednesday; lost to Chicago 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Wednesday vs. Los Angeles, 10 p.m.; Sunday vs. San Jose, 7 p.m.
Outlook: After a heartbreaking loss at Toronto midweek, Vancouver just didn't have the energy to grab an equalizer at Chicago on Saturday. Going forward, the exit of Sebastien Le Toux and entrance of Kenny Miller gives the club a very different dynamic.
11. (13) PHILADELPHIA UNION (6-9-2, 20 points)
Last week: Beat Montreal 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Saturday at New York, 2:30 p.m.
Outlook: All-Star centerback Carlos Valdes continued his superb season for Philadelphia, notching the 91st-minute winner just moments after a Keon Daniel own goal had drawn Montreal level. With three straight victories, the Union now boast the league's longest current winning streak.
12. (11) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (6-8-4, 22 points)
Last week: Lost to Toronto 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Wednesday at Montreal, 8 p.m.; Saturday at Kansas City, 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: New England continues to slowly but surely fall out of the Eastern Conference playoff field, with the Revolution now six points behind fifth-place Houston. Suffering a loss at home to Toronto is an unacceptable result for Jay Heaps' squad.
13. (12) COLUMBUS CREW (6-7-4, 22 points)
Last week: Lost to Kansas City 2-0 on Saturday
This week: Saturday vs. D.C. United, 2:30 p.m.
Outlook: Like New England, the Crew this weekend dropped points at home they desperately needed to keep up in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. And to make matters worse, goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was snubbed for an All-Star nod.
14. (14) CHIVAS USA (5-7-5, 20 points)
Last week: Idle
This week: Wednesday vs. Portland, 4 p.m.; Saturday at Los Angeles, 10 p.m.
Outlook: Although the club took this past week off from MLS play, it still received a welcome recognition when goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was named to Ben Olsen's All-Star squad. Back in action this week, Chivas face Portland before "visting" the Galaxy in a SuperClasico fixture.
15. (15) COLORADO RAPIDS (7-11-1, 22 points)
Last week: Lost to Dallas 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Wednesday at Toronto, 7 p.m.; Saturday at Salt Lake, 10 p.m.
Outlook: Saturday's loss to lowly Dallas in a 2010 MLS Cup final rematch was the third-straight defeat for the Rapids, who now are four points back of the Galaxy for final Western Conference playoff slot. Pablo Mastroeni's placement on the disabled list was also a tough, if not unexpected, turn of events.
16. (16) MONTREAL IMPACT (6-12-3, 21 points)
Last week: Lost to Philadelphia 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Wednesday vs. New England, 8 p.m.; Saturday at Houston, 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: The Impact surrendered the winner to Philadelphia just two minutes after they had drawn level with an 89th-minute equalizer. It was a brutal defeat for the Impact, who have to be hoping Alessandro Nesta gains fitness sooner rather than later.
17. (18) TORONTO FC (4-11-4, 16 points)
Last week: Beat Vancouver 3-2 on Wednesday; beat New England 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Wednesday vs. Colorado, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The thrill of winning back-to-back matches was dampened by the news Toronto has lost striker Danny Koevermans for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Much of the scoring burden will now fall to Jamaican forward Ryan Johnson.
18. (19) FC DALLAS (4-9-7, 19 points)
Last week: Beat Colorado 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Wednesday at San Jose, 10 p.m.; Saturday vs. Portland, 9 p.m.
Outlook: Following the team's first win in any competition since April, Dallas has an intriguing contract of fixtures in the week ahead: a trip to play the league's top team on the road before a home game against the bottom club in this week's Power Rankings.
19. (17) PORTLAND TIMBERS (5-8-4, 19 points)
Last week: Beat San Jose 2-1 on Tuesday; lost to Salt Lake 3-0 on Saturday
This week: Wednesday at Chivas, 4 p.m.; Saturday at Dallas, 9 p.m.
Outlook: Portland's defense was ravaged by the Galaxy in the debut of interim coach Gavin Wilkinson, surrendering four goals in the game's first 28 minutes, though Kris Boyd's brace did provide some minor consolation.