The Los Angeles Galaxy has held a firm grip on the top spot in the MLS Rankings for two months now, but a challenger looks poised to try and take No. 1 from Bruce Arena's squad.
The Columbus Crew posted a pair of road victories to catapult itself into first place in the Eastern Conference and draw closer to the Galaxy just before the unbeaten teams are set to meet at Crew Stadium.
The Galaxy did its part, posting another shutout (a fourth straight) in disposing of FC Dallas. Playing without stars Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle, as well as injured starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, the Galaxy still played stingy defense and posted the road victory.
There wasn't any movement at the top of this week's MLS Power Rankings, with the Top Five staying the same, but Toronto FC continued its surprising climb while the slumping Red Bulls slid a bit.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings:
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (Week 9)
1 (Last Week- 1). LOS ANGELES GALAXY (8-0-2)
Last Week- Beat FC Dallas, 1-0, last Thursday.
Next Week– at Columbus Crew on Saturday.
Last Five: 5-0-1 (W-T-W-W-W)
Outlook: Four straight shuouts for the Galaxy defense as LA wins despite missing Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle. The toughest test of the season awaits next week with a visit to unbeaten Columbus.
Last Week- Beat New York Red Bulls, 3-1, last Thursday; Beat Kansas City Wizards, 1-0, last Sunday.
Next Week– vs. Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.
Last Five: 5-0-1 (W-W-W-W-T)
Outlook: Columbus showed off its impressive depth and team toughness in posting two quality road wins. Emilio Renteria stepped on to stake his claim to a starting role, while the Crew defense held up well without Chad Marshall (as it has often this season). With first in the East locked up, the Crew can take over the top spot in the Power Rankings by beating the Galaxy.
3 (3). REAL SALT LAKE (5-3-1)
Next Week– vs. Kansas City Wizards on Saturday.
Last Five: 5-1 (W-W-W-W-T)
Outlook: RSL is playing with confidence these days and Fabian Espindola's late winner should give the champions added momentum against an underachieving KC side when they meet at Rio Tinto on Saturday. Given the recent form of Alvaro Saborio and Espindola, RSL won't be missing Robbie Findley all that much in the coming weeks as he heads to the World Cup.
4 (4). SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (5-2-1)
Last Week– Beat Seattle Sounders, 1-0, last Saturday.
Next Week– vs. Toronto FC on Saturday.
Last Five: 3-1-1 (W-T-W-W-L)
Outlook: Who could have imagined that the Earthquakes would draft a defender like Ike Opara, and actually post shutouts with him on the bench? San Jose is playing some disciplined soccer and with Chris Wondolowski wearing horseshoes in his cleats, the Earthquakes are doing just enough to win games. The question at this point is whether the Earthquakes offense can start to produce more goals before the defense starts to slump (and yes, I'm saying the defense will slump).
5 (5). COLORADO RAPIDS (4-3-1)
Last Week- Bye Week in MLS; lost 3-0 to New York Red Bulls on Wednesday (U.S. Open Cup);
Next Week- vs. Seattle Sounders on Saturday.
Last Five: 3-2 (W-L-L-W-W)
Outlook: A week off should help the Rapids deal with some injuries ahead of a vital Western Conference clash at home against a struggling Seattle side. Losing in US. Open Cup to New York has to be a cause for concern considering Rapids played several starters.
6 (7). HOUSTON DYNAMO (5-4-1)
Last Week- Beat D.C. United, 2-0, last Saturday.
Next Week– vs. Philadelphia Union on Saturday.
Last Five: 3-2 (W-L-W-L-W)
Outlook: Luis Landin looked good in the role of playmaker as he set up both goals in Houston's win vs. D.C. He and Dom Oduro are playing well together, while Tally Hall looked sharp playing in place of Pat Onstad. Perhaps the most promising aspect of Saturday's win? The play of young midfielder Danny Cruz.
7 (8). TORONTO FC (4-4-1)
Last Week- Beat New England Revolution, 1-0, last Saturday.
Next Week– at San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
Last Five: 3-1-1 (W-T-W-L-W)
Outlook: Beating a short-handed and struggling New England side isn't cause for that much celebration, but the fact remains TFC has compiled ten points from five matches, an impressive run made even more impressive by the team's Canadian Club Championship success during that same span. Chad Barrett's inconsistent finishing remains a concern, but the defense will get to test itself against San Jose's stingy defense next.
8 (6). NEW YORK RED BULLS (5-4)
Last Week– Beat Colorado Rapids, 3-0, last night (U.S. Open Cup); Lost to Columbus Crew, 3-1, last Thursday.
Next Week– at New England Revolution on Saturday.
Last Five: 2-3 (L-L-L-W-W)
Outlook: The Red Bulls moved the ball well, and created a bunch of chances against Columbus, but they hit the woodwork three times while defensive blunders cost them the game. As much as Hans Backe wanted to talk up the team's play, it can't be overlooked that Columbus was content to let New York have possession while it held a two-goal lead. The team's youngsters impressed in the friendly win vs. Juventus and against Colorado, making you wonder if Backe will consider giving players such as Tony Tchani and Irving Garcia more playing time.
9 (12). CHICAGO FIRE (2-3-3)
Last Week– Bye Week
Next Week- vs. FC Dallas on May 27th
Last Five: 2-1-2 (T-L-T-W-W)
Outlook: With some international friendlies under their belt, the Fire will look to get their offense rolling after a week away from MLS action. FC Dallas' s defense doesn't give up a ton of goals, but Brian McBride could be in for a big day.
10 (9). SEATTLE SOUNDERS (3-4-3)
Next Week- at Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
Last Five: 1-3-1 (L-W-L-T-L)
Outlook: Losing Jhon Kennedy Hurtado to a torn ACL is devastating news and regardless of how many capable reserve defenders are on the roster, none of them is replacing the Colombia standout. We will get a good test of how the patchwork Sounders defense can hold up against Rapids forwards Conor Casey and Omar Cummings.
11 (13). FC DALLAS (2-2-5)
Last Week- Lost to Los Angeles Galaxy, 1-0, last Thursday.
Next Week- at Chicago Fire on Saturday.
Last Five: 2-1-2 (L-T-W-W-T)
Outlook: After falling to the Galaxy last week, FC Dallas must register at least a road point in Chicago to avoid falling too far behind the lead pack in the West. Can Jeff Cunningham stop with the easy misses and recapture his Golden Boot form of 2009? He will have to beat Chicago's Wilman Conde to do so.
12 (11). KANSAS CITY WIZARDS (2-4-2)
Next Week- at Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
Last Five: 0-2-3 (L-T-L-L-T)
Outlook: Losing midfielder Stephan Auvrey to surgery is a tough blow, even if only for a few weeks. They'll miss him atainst RSL, with playmaker extraordinaire Javier Morales on the attack. Jimmy Conrad will have his hands full dealing with an in-form Alvaro Saborio.
13 (10). CHIVAS USA (3-6-1)
Last Week- Lost to Real Salt Lake, 2-1, last Saturday.
Next Week– at D.C. United on Saturday.
Last Five: 1-3-1 (L-L-L-W-T)
Outlook: The Goats will welcome Sacha Kljestan to the fild ahead of a pivotal battle of bottom-feeders against D.C. United. Chivas USA has shown flashes of being an effective offensive team, but the defense continues to show flaws as it sinks deeper and deeper in the West standings.
14 (14). NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (2-6-2)
Last Week– Lost to Toronto FC, 1-0, last Saturday.
Next Week- vs. New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Last Five: 0-3-2 (L-T-L-L-T)
Outlook: The bad news is Stevie Nicol's men are winless in their past five. The good news is Shalrie Joseph is back. It may take him some time to regain his sharpness, but they absolutely need him against a Red Bulls team looking to halt a three-match league losing streak. Will Joseph's return help spark Marko Perovic? The Revs certainly hope so.
15 (15). PHILADELPHIA UNION (1-5-1)
Last Week– Bye week
Next Week- at Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
Last Five: 0-4-1 (T-L-L-L-L)
Outlook: The Union has been terrible on the road this year (at least in terms of results, and often defensively) and things won't get any easier against a Dynamo team that is capable of scoring goals in bunches. Will Danny Mwanga take on a bigger role after his late equalizer two weeks ago? It is looking like time to give the No. 1 pick some starts to see how far along he has come, and how much further he has to go.
16 (16). D.C. UNITED (1-8)
Last Week- Lost to Houston Dynamo, 2-0, last Saturday.
Next Week– vs. Chivas USA on Saturday.
Last Five: 1-4 (L-L-L-W-L)
Outlook: D.C. showed some signs of life against AC Milan on Wednesday, and that confidence could lead United into a good performance against struggling Chivas USA. Will Luciano Emilio recapture his scoring touch in MLS, or is he only interested in scoring in friendlies where Mexican scouts may be?
What do you think of this week's rankings? Who do you feel is ranked too highly? Who isn't ranked high enough?
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