As we head toward the final month of the MLS regular season, the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City continue to set the pace in their respective conferences, but the LA Galaxy just might be rounding into the strongest team in the league.
The Earthquakes were thoroughly impressive in out-playing Seattle in Seattle last weekend to secure a win and hit the 60-point mark. They are closing in on the Supporters Shield, though Sporting KC hasn't quite given up the chase. A win tonight against red-hot Chicago will help KC keep the pressure on San Jose for regular-season honors, as well as potential home field in the MLS Cup Final.
The Galaxy have been the best team in the league since the June international break, and are about to welcome back David Beckham to an already stacked squad. Juninho has been playing some of the best soccer in the league and his partnership with Marcelo Sarvas in recent weeks is going to be tough for Bruce Arena to break up.
The biggest mover in SBI's MLS Power Rankings this week was D.C. United. They haven't exactly been playing beautiful soccer, but posting three consecutive victories since losing Dwayne DeRosario is downright impressive. They have suddenly pushed themselves into position to grab one of the three automatic playoff spots in the East.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings:
SBI MLS Power Rankings (Week 28)
1. (Previous Rank- 1) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (18-6-6, 60 points)
Last week: Tied Portland Timbers, 2-2, last Wednesday; beat Seattle Sounders, 2-1, last Saturday.
This week: vs. FC Dallas on Saturday.
Outlook: The Earthquakes just keep on rolling. Their high-press defense stifled the Sounders and showed just how imposing San Jose can be even against good opponents. They take on a rested and streaking FC Dallas side that gave them plenty of trouble the last time these teams met.
2. (3) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (16-7-7, 55 points)
Last week: Beat New York Red Bulls, 2-0, on Sept. 19th; tied Montreal Impact, 0-0, last Saturday.
This week: vs. Chicago Fire tonight.
Outlook: Sporting KC continued their impressive road form with a pair of shutouts away from home. Now they return to Livestrong Sporting Park in a crucial Eastern Conference clash against the Chicago Fire. Their defense will face their toughest test in more than a month, but if they can post another shutout they will move one step closer to the No. 1 seed in the East playoffs.
3. (2) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (15-11-4, 49 points)
Last week: Tied Puerto Rico Islanders, 0-0 on Wednesday (CONCACAF Champions League); beat Toronto FC, 4-2, last Saturday.
This week: at Colorado Rapids on Sunday.
Outlook: The Galaxy secured their place in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and also continued their dominant league form with another impressive win. With David Beckham set to return from an ankle injury, the Galaxy should roll over the Rapids, though Colorado showed some good fight in tying Vancouver last weekend.
4. (5) CHICAGO FIRE (16-8-5, 53 points)
Last week: Beat Columbus, 2-1, last Saturday.
This week: At Sporting Kansas City tonight; vs. Philadelphia Union on Wednesday.
Outlook: Chris Rolfe is on a roll, but it's the work of the rest of the Fire attack that is helping make it impossible to contain him. Chicago's versatile attack will face a stingy KC defense that is going to force players like Sherjill MacDonald and Patrick Nyarko to step up their game if the Fire are going to pull off the upset tonight.
5. (7) REAL SALT LAKE (15-11-4, 49 points)
Last week: Beat Tauro FC, 1-0, on Sept. 18th (CONCACAF Champions League); beat Portland, 2-0, last Saturday.
This week: at Chivas USA on Saturday.
Outlook: Earned a vital Champions League victory at Tauro to set up a winner-take-all match against Herediano in the group finale next month. Rode set pieces to a win against Portland, but looked very vulnerable in the second half of that match. A match against struggling Chivas USA just what the doctor ordered ahead of their Western Conference showdown vs. the LA Galaxy a week later.
6. (9) D.C. UNITED (15-10-5, 50 points)
Last week: Beat Philadelphia, 1-0, on Sept. 20th; beat Chivas USA, 1-0, last Sunday.
This week: at Portland Timbers on Saturday.
Outlook: They aren't exactly creating chances in bunches, but they have tightened things up defensively and Lionard Pajoy has shown some good signs of life. Branko Boskovic is still settling into a regular role, but D.C. will need him to really find his groove if they are going to push past New York for the No. 3 spot in the East.
7. (6) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (13-7-9, 48 points)
Last week: Beat CD Marathon (CONCACAF Champions League), 3-2, on Sept. 19th; lost to San Jose Earthquakes, 2-1, last Saturday.
This week: at Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.
Outlook: Humbled at home by San Jose, but the Sounders should return to form with the return of Eddie Johnson from suspension and Mauro Rosales from injury.
8. (4) NEW YORK RED BULLS (14-8-8, 50 points)
Last week: Lost to Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 19th; tied New England Revolution, 1-1, last Saturday.
This week: vs. Toronto FC on Saturday.
Outlook: The Red Bulls looked flat-out awful last week. They were thoroughly outplayed by Sporting KC and looked mediocre against a bad New England team. Hans Backe's decision to move Dax McCarty to the right wing proved to be disastrous, but Rafa Marquez's injury and a match against lowly TFC should help the Red Bulls get back to their winning ways.
9. (10) FC DALLAS (9-12-9, 36 points)
Last Week: Bye Week.
This week: at San Jose on Saturday.
Outlook: A week off should help rest Dallas' weary legs, but rest alone won't be enough to stop a strong San Jose side. Dallas gave the Earthquakes trouble the last time they met and they just might have the attacking weapons to earn at least a point in San Jose, where the Earthquakes have been virtually unstoppable.
10. (11) COLUMBUS CREW (13-11-6, 42 points)
Last week: Beat Chivas USA, 1-0, last Saturday.
This week: vs. Philadelphia Union on Saturday.
Outlook: The late win against Chivas USA helped keep the Crew in the playoff picture, but Columbus need to beat the Union to take advantage of Houston's recent struggles. Finding chances against Philly's underrated defense won't be easy, but the Crew should be able to contain the Union's inconsistent offense.
11. (8) HOUSTON DYNAMO (12-8-10, 46 points)
Last week: Beat CD FAS, 4-0, Sept. 20th (CONCACAF Champions League); lost to Philadelphia Union, 3-1, last Sunday.
This week: vs. New England on Saturday.
12. (12) MONTREAL IMPACT (12-15-4, 39 points)
Last week: Tied Sporting Kansas City, 0-0, last Saturday.
This week: Bye.
13. (13) PHILADELPHIA UNION (8-14-6, 30 points)
Last week: Lost to D.C. United, 1-0, on Sept. 20th; beat Houston Dynamo, 3-1, last Sunday.
This week: at Columbus Crew on Saturday; at Chicago Fire on Wednesday.
14. (14) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (10-12-8, 37 points)
Last week: Tied Colorado Rapids, 2-2, last Sunday.
This week: vs. Seattle Sounders on Saturday; vs. Chivas USA on Wednesday.
15. (16) COLORADO RAPIDS (9-18-3, 30 points)
Last week: Tied Vancouver, 2-2, last Sunday.
This week: vs. Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday.
16. (15) PORTLAND TIMBERS (7-15-8, 29 points)
Last week: Tied San Jose, 2-2, on Sept. 19th; lost to Real Salt Lake, 2-0, last Saturday.
This week: vs. D.C. United on Saturday.
Last week: Tied New York Red Bulls, 1-1, last Saturday.
This week: at Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
Last week: Lost to Columbus Crew, 1-0, on Sept. 18th; Lost to D.C. United, last Sunday.
This week: vs. Real Salt Lake on Saturday; at Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday.
19. (19) TORONTO FC (5-18-7, 22 points)
Last week: Lost to LA Galaxy last Saturday, beat CD Aguila, 3-0, last Tuesday (CONCACAF Champions League).
This week: vs. New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
What do you think of this week's rankings? Who do you feel is rated to highly? Is there a team you feel is rated to low?
Share your thoughts below.