The usual suspects are making their way up the Major League Soccer standings.
The defending MLS Cup Champions Columbus Crew and perennial East power New England Revolution are starting to rack up the results, making the Eastern Conference the brutal group it was expected to be when the season began.
While the East is deeper, the West boasts the current top two teams in the league. Chivas keeps on winning while the Houston Dynamo is playing like the best team in the league. Houston deserves even more credit for the recent run considering Ricardo Clark and Brian Ching haven't been a part of it lately.
Here is how this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings shook out (I will post this week's schedule and Team Outlooks later this afternoon so check back in for that):
SBI MLS Power Rankings (Week 12)
1 (Last week- 1). Chivas USA (8-2-3)
Last Week: Beat Seattle Sounders, 1-0, on Saturday.
This Week: at Houston Dynamo on Wednesday (8:30pm, ESPN2); at Columbus Crew on Sunday (3pm, Telefutura)
Outlook: Beating Seattle without Jesse Marsch was impressive, but things only get tougher this week. Much tougher. Can the Goats stop the red-hot Dynamo AND the rejuvenated Columbus Crew?
2 (3). Houston Dynamo (6-2-3)
Last Week: Beat Chicago Fire, 1-0, on Friday.
This Week: vs. Chivas USA on Wednesday (8:30pm, ESPN2); at FC Dallas on Saturday (8:30pm, FSC)
Outlook: No Clark or Ching? No problem. Kei Kamara stepped up, as did Geoff Cameron, who is playing like an All-Star.
3 (2). Chicago Fire (5-2-6)
Last Week: Lost to Houston Dynamo, 1-0, on Friday.
This Week: at D.C. United on Saturday (7:30pm, Direct Kick)
Outlook: Played well vs. Houston but just couldn't finish chances. Chicago might be looking forward to a trip to D.C. considering how poorly the Fire has played at home this year.
4 (4). Colorado Rapids (4-2-4)
Last Week: Tied Real Salt Lake, 1-1, on Saturday.
This Week: Bye week
Outlook: A week off comes at a perfect time as the Rapids prepare to play without MLS scoring leader Conor Casey.
5 (6). D.C. United (3-2-7)
Last Week: Beat New York Red Bulls, 2-0, on Thursday.
This Week: vs. Chicago Fire on Saturday (7:30pm, Direct Kick)
Outlook: Christian Gomez and Jaime Moreno are looking like the league's most dangerous Super Subs, a strategy Tom Soehn may want to stick with against Chicago.
6 (10). Columbus Crew (3-2-7)
Last Week: Beat Kansas City, 2-0, on Saturday.
This Week: vs. Chivas USA on Sunday (3pm, Telefutura)
Outlook: Guillermo Barros Schelotto has jumped into the MVP race feet first and is the key to the Crew's revival, not that anybody should be surprised. He will look to unlock a stingy Chivas USA defense.
7 (5). Seattle Sounders (4-3-5)
Last Week: Los to Chivas USA, 1-0, on Saturday.
This Week: vs. San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday (10:30pm, Direct Kick)
Outlook: Sounders offense is floundering, but the cure for a struggling offense is on the way in the form of San Jose's defense.
8 (9). New England Revolution (4-3-4)
Last Week: Beat New York Red Bulls, 4-0, on Sunday.
This Week: at Kansas City Wizards on Saturday (8:30pm, Direct Kick)
Outlook: With Twellman back to his goal-scoring ways, the Revs look poised to make a run, with the struggling Wizards next on the docket.
9 (11). Los Angeles Galaxy (2-1-9)
Last Week: Beat Toronto FC, 2-1, on Saturday.
This Week: vs. Real Salt Lake on Saturday (10:30pm, Direct Kick)
Outlook: Who would have thought that the Galaxy would finally record a victory with Landon Donovan on national team duty. LA has a chance to start a run against a faltering RSL team that is awful on the road.
10 (8). Kansas City Wizards (4-5-4)
Last Week: Lost to Columbus Crew, 2-0, on Saturday.
This Week: vs. New England Revolution on Saturday (8:30pm, Direct Kick)
Outlook: The erratic offense is one thing, but when KC's normally solid defense makes mistakes the Wizards cannot win. Jimmy Conrad and Co. better get it together because Taylor Twellman is up next and he looks hungry for goals.
11 (7). Toronto FC (4-5-4)
Last Week: Lost to Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-1, on Saturday.
This Week: vs. New York Red Bulls on Saturday (8pm, Direct Kick)
Outlook: Losing at home to the Galaxy is one thing, but if TFC loses to the collapsing Red Bulls on Saturday we might have to start wondering whether the honeymoon is over for interim head coach Chris Cummings.
12 (12). Real Salt Lake (3-6-3)
Last Week: Tied Colorado Rapids, 1-1, on Saturday.
This Week: at Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday (10:30pm, Direct Kick).
Outlook: Surrendering a last-minute equalizer was awful for RSL team trying to recapture its early-season form. Now Real Salt Lake must travel to California to face an LA team riding the momentum of a road victory.
13 (13). FC Dallas (2-6-4)
Last Week: Tied San Jose Earthquakes, 2-2, on Sunday.
This Week: vs. Houston Dynamo on Saturday (8:30pm, FSC)
Outlook: Offense is starting to get going, but the defense still has major question marks. Could face a fatigued Dynamo team that plays on Wednesday. Don't be surprised if FCD pulls off the upset considering the last meeting between these teams finished 1-0 in Houston a month ago.
14 (15). San Jose Earthquakes (2-7-3)
Last Week: Tied FC Dallas, 2-2, on Sunday.
This Week: at Seattle Sounders on Saturday (10:30pm, Direct Kick)
Outlook: The Earthquakes offense steps up and puts the team in position to win, then the defense lets the club down yet again. San Jose fans could be in for a long weekend against a Seattle team desperate for three points and playing at home in front of a great crowd.
15 (14). New York Red Bulls (2-9-3)
Last Week: Lost to D.C. United, 2-0, on Thursday; Lost to New England, 4-0, on Sunday.
This Week: at Toronto FC on Saturday (8pm, Direct Kick)
Outlook: Although this year's version is a better team, the 2009 Red Bulls season is starting to resemble the nightmarish 1999 MetroStars season.
Here are some thoughts on this week's rankings:
Houston is locked in and should be considered an MLS Cup favorite. Yes, Chivas USA still boasts the best record in MLS, but the Dynamo is playing the best soccer in the league. Not having Ricardo Clark for the next month will hurt, but Richard Mulrooney has slid right into central midfield as Houston shows
Taylor Twellman's return has helped rejuvenate a Revs season that was in danger of slipping out of control. With Twellman and Ralston back in the mix, and rookies Darrius Barnes and Kevin Alston continuing to develop, New England looks poised to move right back to its usual place near the top of the East standings.
Colorado has enjoyed a surprisingly strong season, but the Rapids will struggle to keep it going now that Conor Casey is headed to the Confederations Cup in South Africa. Can Omar Cummings step it up? He will have to in order to keep the Rapids in a playoff spot.
I'm officially changing my tune on the LA Galaxy. No, they're not a league power, or even a real Western Conference power, but they are a fiesty team that gets the most out of their aging roster. Winning in Toronto without Landon Donovan was impressive and right now I have to say that LA has done well to tread water while they wait for David Beckham to return (assuming he does). I'm still not ready to say I see them in the playoffs, but I wouldn't anything past Bruce Arena's bunch at this point.
While I'm giving LA more credit than I used to, I still have to drop Toronto quite a bit for losing at home to a Landon-less Galaxy team. That's a thoroughly shocking result, Amado Guevara or no Amado Guevara.
The New York Red Bulls are toast. Seven points behind the pack in the East and boasting nine losses, it will be impossible for the Red Bulls to crawl out of the cellar. Juan Carlos Osorio wasn't in trouble a month ago, or even two weeks ago, but now he's clearly on shaky ground and in danger of losing his job. Red Bulls management was ready to back Osorio through a rough patch, but that patch has turned into a full-blown disaster.
What do you think of this week's rankings? Think any teams are ranked too high? Not ranked high enough?
Share your thoughts below.