Everyone expecting the Philadelphia Union to revert back to the mean is in for a rude awakening. Just ask the New York Red Bulls.
In its second season as a franchise, the Union has the look of a winner after gutting out a home result against New York, maintaining its spot atop the Eastern Conference standings and climbing into the top three of the SBI MLS Power Rankings.
Perched at the top of the rankings, Real Salt Lake doesn't seem to be going anywhere after a convincing win over New England turned in by its reserves. Meanwhile, FC Dallas is back on the rise after a thrashing of its 2010 MLS Cup adversary, previously unbeaten Colorado.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 4)
1. (Last week – 1) REAL SALT LAKE (3-0-0)
Last week: Beat New England, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Colorado, 9 p.m., Wednesday.
Outlook: RSL can do no wrong. Fielding a reserve-heavy lineup, the CONCACAF Champions League finalists went into Gillette Stadium and smacked around the previously unbeaten Revolution. Collen Warner, Paulo Jr. and Chris Schuler stood out while given the chance to start, and Kyle Reynish earned the clean sheet in place of Nick Rimando. Up next: A Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry match with Colorado, which was shorthanded but exposed nonetheless by FC Dallas on Friday.
2. (4) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (2-1-2)
Last week: Tied D.C. United, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Toronto FC, 8 p.m., Wednesday; at Chicago, 4 p.m., Sunday, Telefutura.
Outlook: Without Landon Donovan, the Galaxy didn't have the most fruitful attack but still did enough to earn a result against United. That is, until Charlie Davies drew a controversial PK on Omar Gonzalez and salvaged the draw. Road points in MLS aren't the easiest to come by, but the Galaxy will need to make up for lost points in its two road matches this week to avoid falling even further behind RSL in the West.
3. (6) PHILADELPHIA UNION (3-1-0)
Last week: Beat New York, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Seattle, 4 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Say what you'd like about the possession/chances disparity between the Red Bulls and the Union, but Philadelphia found a way to win and cashed in on a pretty bad error by the normally sure-footed Tim Ream. After four consecutive 1-0 results (odd, right?), the Union must play down the hype and turn its attention to suddenly streaking Seattle, which seems to have found its offensive roadmap.
4. (2) COLORADO RAPIDS (3-1-0)
Last week: Lost to FC Dallas, 3-0, on Friday.
This week: at Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m., Wednesday.
Outlook: Without Pablo Mastroeni and Conor Casey, the Rapids struggled to maintain its early-season form. David Ferreira carved up the Colorado midfield, and he and Fabian Castillo had too much speed and creativity for the back line to handle. Considering the forms of the two teams, we figured the MLS Cup rematch might be a one-sided affair — just the other way around. The Rapids could struggle again unless Mastroeni returns to combat the RSL attack.
5. (3) NEW YORK RED BULLS (1-1-2)
Last week: Lost to Philadelphia, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. San Jose, 7:30 p.m, Saturday.
Outlook: It's a long season, but that loss to the Union certainly put a damper on the enthusiasm surrounding Hans Backe's star-studded roster. Granted, Juan Agudelo hit the post twice, and New York was the better side by all metrics other than the scoreboard; however, in the end, the scoreboard is all that matters. There's no rest for the weary, as the Red Bulls have to figure out how to finish their chances against the team that knocked them out of the postseason last year.
6. (5) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (1-1-2)
Last week: Tied Toronto FC, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Drawing TFC at home can only be seen as a disappointment, but the continued emergence of Simon Dawkins is a big plus as the Earthquakes prepare for a 2010 playoff rematch against the Red Bulls. The potential Ike Opara-Juan Agudelo/Tim Ream-Chris Wondolowski matchups should entice USMNT fans.
7. (T-12) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (1-2-2)
Last week: Beat Chicago, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Mauro Rosales is certainly going to give Sigi Schmid something to think about if/when Fredy Montero is ready to return. In his second game playing a major role, the veteran Argentine was a standout performer and the Sounders' attack was better off for it. With two goals in each of their last two games, the Sounders are on a roll but face one of the league's stingier defenses in one of the more anticipated matchups of the week.
8. (15) FC DALLAS (1-2-1)
Last week: Beat Colorado, 3-0, on Friday.
This week: at Portland, 6 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: Now that's the FC Dallas team that came so close to winning MLS Cup. Against the Rapids, Ferreira looked every bit like the MVP he was last season, other attackers took pressure off of him and allowed him to operate in space, and the defense — led by Ugo Ihemelu and George John — rendered Omar Cummings irrelevant. Now let's see if FCD can build on its best performance of the season.
9. (14) HOUSTON DYNAMO (1-1-2)
Last week: Beat Vancouver, 3-1, on Sunday.
This week: vs. New England, 7 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: The Dynamo turned in a pretty complete performance to win its first match of the season and now gets the Revolution at the right time — with Shalrie Joseph unavailable due to suspension. Perhaps the most encouraging item to come from the win over Vancovuer was that the team posted three goals with Brian Ching unavailable due to his rib injury.
10. (9) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (1-2-2)
Last week: Lost to Houston, 3-1, on Sunday.
This week: vs. Chivas USA, 7 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Health is starting to become a factor for the Whitecaps, who have Jay DeMerit and Terry Dunfield on the shelf. In a positive development, though, Omar Salgado made his MLS debut in the waning minutes of the Houston loss. If Eric "The Red" Hassli can go a game without getting ejected and Davide Chiumiento can stay fit, we might finally see the Whitecaps' attack at full strength. Salgado potentially taking on Chivas is a tasty storyline heading into Week 5.
11. (7) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (1-1-2)
Last week: Lost to Real Salt Lake, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Houston, 7 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: Yes, the Revolution was a bit short-handed, and yes, the team had just played in Vancouver a few days earlier. But there's no excuse for the egg the team laid at home against a reserve-laden Real Salt Lake side. It's not so much the result itself as much as it is how the result was achieved. RSL's reserves dominated for 90 minutes. Now the Revolution will be without Joseph (red card) for the weekend's match against a Houston team that's starting to find itself.
12. (10) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (1-1-1)
Last week: Idle.
This week: at Columbus, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Did Kansas City sort out its defensive issues during its bye week? Playing the Crew is a good way to take a step in the right defensive direction, as Columbus has managed just three goals (two PKs) in four matches. Omar Bravo will be out for the next month or so with a sports hernia, giving more responsibility to able-bodied rookie C.J. Sapong, who should continue to see prime minutes.
13. (8) CHICAGO FIRE (1-1-1)
Last week: Lost to Seattle, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Portland, 11 p.m., Thursday, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes; vs. Los Angeles, 4 p.m., Sunday, Telefutura
Outlook: Despite Diego Chaves finding the net for the third straight match, the Fire was put out by Kasey Keller over the weekend, and the club is in the unenviable position of being the away team at Portland's home opener. If that wasn't tough enough, Chicago has to turn around three days later and host the Galaxy in Sunday's early game. Both matches are on national TV, too, so whatever the Fire does, for better or for worse, will be magnified because of the exposure.
14. (11) D.C. UNITED (1-2-1)
Last week: Tied Los Angeles, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Toronto FC, 7 p.m., Saturday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: D.C. was pretty fortunate to escape Saturday's match with a point, but give United credit for managing to rescue the point while down a man. As the red-carded Santino Quaranta said after the match, it's not a result the team would have gotten last season. United will try to replicate its victory over TFC at BMO Field from last season this weekend.
15. (T-12) COLUMBUS CREW (1-1-2)
Last week: Tied Chivas USA, 0-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: On the plus side, the Crew's defense turned in its third consecutive clean sheet. On the down side, the team's offensive woes continue. Something will likely give one way or another this weekend, as the Crew takes on SKC, which is scoring and yielding more than two goals per game (highest in the league for both).
16. (16) TORONTO FC (1-1-2)
Last week: Tied San Jose, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Los Angeles, 8 p.m., Wednesday; vs. D.C. United, 7 p.m., Saturday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: Coming up with a tie at San Jose is an impressive result for a team in flux, and new additions Tony Tchani and Danleigh Borman seem to be fitting in just fine in their new-found starting roles. TFC welcomes two home challenges this week, and we should know a bit more about where Aron Winter's team really stands after tough matches with L.A. and D.C.
17. (17) CHIVAS USA (0-2-2)
Last week: Tied Columbus, 0-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Vancouver, 7 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Robin Fraser looks to have worked out some of the kinks on the defensive end, but Vancouver's attack will put that to the test at what is sure to be a raucous Empire Field Saturday night. The lack of goals for the Goats is still troubling.
18. (18) PORTLAND TIMBERS (0-2-1)
Last week: Idle.
This week: vs. Chicago, 11:30 p.m., Thursday, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes; vs. FC Dallas, 6 p.m., Sunday.
Outlook: Still in search of their first win, the Timbers will open the doors (and windows) to JELD-WEN Field for the first and second times in what should be a pair of memorable nights in the Rose City. Portland had a week to rest while building off the momentum of its road draw against the Revolution, and Darlington Nagbe used the break to score in a friendly against Oregon State University.