There is little question about which team is No. 1 in the SBI MLS Power Rankings, but the Seattle Sounders took matters into their own hands to determine who should be No. 2.
After a victory in Texas over FC Dallas, Seattle grabbed a stranglehold of the spot behind the Los Angeles Galaxy in the latest rankings. Another team enjoying success is Sporting Kansas City, which is up to a season-best sixth after two more victories at Livestrong Sporting Park.
On the other end of the spectrum is San Jose, which fell to a season-low No. 17 after a loss to the Galaxy extended the team's winless streak to 12 games.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 23)
1. (Last Week — 1) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (14-3-9, 51 points)
Last week: Beat San Jose, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at New York, 7 p.m., Sunday, ESPN2.
Outlook: The Robbie Keane era is off and running after the league's newest Designated Player found the back of the net in his debut. He'll get his first taste of the cross-country rivalry between the league's biggest markets this weekend, although the matchup has lost a bit of its luster considering the rut New York is currently in.
2. (2) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (12-5-9, 45 points)
Last week: Beat FC Dallas, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Columbus, 4 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: There was some question about which team in the West deserved the No. 2 spot, but Seattle proved its case on the field and provided the answer with its victory at Pizza Hut Park. Sigi Schmid has a tricky week to balance, as the Sounders have both a CONCACAF Champions League match at title-holder Monterrey followed by welcome East-leading Columbus to the Pacific Northwest in an intriguing clash.
3. (3) FC DALLAS (12-7-7, 43 points)
Last week: Lost to Seattle, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Even after becoming the first MLS team to win on Mexican soil, are things starting to trend downward in Dallas? A three-game winless stretch in league play, further developments that may facilitate George John's departure to Blackburn and an injury to Zach Loyd are reasons for concern, and a road match at Livestrong Sporting Park against a team to which it already lost by a 4-1 scoreline this season doesn't bode well for the 2010 MLS Cup runners up. Depth will be tested, especially after a midweek CCL clash with Toronto FC.
4. (4) COLORADO RAPIDS (10-6-11, 41 points)
Last week: Tied Chivas USA, 2-2, on Saturday.
This week: at Chicago, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Rapids were undoubtedly disappointed with blowing two one-goal leads and settling for a draw against Chivas, but things are still looking up for the defending champs, who have a midweek CCL match in Honduras before returning to the USA to face the Fire. Just two points behind FCD for the third automatic playoff berth in the West, Colorado is still unbeaten since Conor Casey's season-ending injury (4-0-2).
5. (5) COLUMBUS CREW (11-7-7, 40 points)
Last week: Beat Philadelphia, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Seattle, 4 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Columbus took a giant step toward cementing its place atop the Eastern Conference after a victory over one of its chief competitors, but the upcoming slate is a daunting one. After playing at Seattle, the Crew must deal with the Union again along with Houston, Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles all in the next month.
6. (8) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (9-7-9, 36 points)
Last week: Beat Portland, 3-1, on Wednesday; Beat D.C. United, 1-0, on Sunday.
This week: vs. FC Dallas, 8:30 pm., Saturday.
Outlook: Six more points at home later, and Sporting Kansas City finds itself back in good form and in second place in the Eastern Conference. Since its 10-game, season-opening road trip, Sporting KC is 8-1-6 and continues to get standout play from the underappreciated Graham Zusi behind a strikeforce that seemingly gets a contribution from a different player from game to game.
7. (T-9) HOUSTON DYNAMO (8-7-11, 35 points)
Last week: Tied New England, 1-1, on Wednesday; Beat Real Salt Lake, 3-2, on Saturday.
This week: at Vancouver, 7 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Can the Dynamo snag an automatic playoff berth without winning a single game on the road? Despite an 0-4-8 road mark, Houston is in third place in the conference and is beaming after Homegrown Player Alex Dixon's late goal handed the team a 3-2 win over RSL over the weekend. The club's best chance to snap its streak of road futility comes this weekend against the league-worst Whitecaps, the only team yet to crack the 20-point mark this season.
8. (6) REAL SALT LAKE (10-7-6, 36 points)
Last week: Lost to Houston, 3-2, on Saturday.
This week: at Chivas USA, 10:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: With all of its games in hand (three or four on its top competitors), RSL is still in a solid position, but things are quietly not all well with the club. With four losses in its last five games, Salt Lake is hardly playing up to its potential and will face an eager Chivas team on the road followed by a jam-packed September in which the team has six games. Sleeping on RSL would be a mistake, but the club isn't hitting on all cylinders right now.
9. (7) PHILADELPHIA UNION (8-6-10, 34 points)
Last week: Lost to Columbus, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. New England, 7 p.m., Sunday, Galavision.
Outlook: A win over the Crew would have put the Union back in first place in the East. Instead, they're six points off the pace and in unusual territory down in fourth place after the loss. Philadelphia hasn't won a league game in more than a month — a span of five games (0-2-3) — but its last victory came against its next opponent, New England.
10. (11) CHIVAS USA (7-8-10, 31 points)
Last week: Tied Colorado, 2-2, on Saturday.
This week: at Portland, 11 p.m., Wednesday; vs. Real Salt Lake, 10:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: The addition of Juan Pablo Angel paid immediate dividends with the Colombian striker scoring his first goal in his first match since being acquired from cross-stadium rival Los Angeles. The most important goal for Chivas, however, came from another newcomer, Laurent Courtois, whose late equalizer rescued a precious point as the Goats remain alive in their quest for the postseason.
11. (T-9) D.C. UNITED (7-7-10, 31 points)
Last week: Tied Chicago, 1-1, on Thursday; Lost to Sporting Kansas City, 1-0, on Sunday.
This week: vs. Portland, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: With Dwayne De Rosario coming off the bench and Charlie Davies not even in uniform for the weekend's loss to SKC, it looks like fatigue may have set in for United, which blew a fantastic opportunity to thrust itself into the playoff mix. D.C. is still within range, but the road to the postseason is a bit more difficult, and it will get even harder if goalkeeper Bill Hamid has to miss extended time with a strained right hamstring.
12. (12) NEW YORK RED BULLS (6-6-14, 32 points)
Last week: Tied New England, 2-2, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Los Angeles, 7 p.m., Sunday, ESPN2.
Outlook: The Red Bulls' fall from grace continues, as the team hasn't won in its last 12 league matches (0-6-6) and are on the very edge of the playoff picture with eager teams on their heels with games in hand. As talented as the attacking pieces on that roster are, a failure to beat some of the worse teams in the league over the last few weeks is not a good sign for the future.
13. (13) PORTLAND TIMBERS (8-12-5, 29 points)
Last week: Lost to Sporting Kansas City, 3-1, on Wednesday; Beat Vancouver, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Chivas USA, 11 p.m., Wednesday; at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Portland's disappointing showing in its midweek loss was offset by a Cascadia Cup victory over the Whitecaps, and the Timbers get to follow that up with a second consecutive two-match week. Sitting on 29 points, Portland is still in the mix for a wild card berth, and what better way for the Timbers to make progress in the playoff standings then by taking points from the two teams directly ahead of them?
14. (17) CHICAGO FIRE (3-7-15, 24 points)
Last week: Tied D.C. United, 1-1, on Thursday; Beat Toronto, 2-0, on Sunday.
This week: vs. Colorado, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Dominic Oduro continues to be a bright spot for the fire after scoring his eighth goal in Chicago's much-needed win over TFC. Sure, he managed to miss some golden chances against D.C. that could have put that game away (and it instead ended in the club's league-record 15th draw of the season), but his emergence after being dealt to the Windy City from Houston has been one of the surprises of the campaign.
15. (15) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (4-11-11, 23 points)
Last week: Tied Houston, 1-1, on Wednesday; Tied New York, 2-2, on Saturday.
This week: at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., Sunday, Galavision.
Outlook: The Revs came away with two points from their two home games but likely should have had six after conceding late leads to both the Dynamo and Red Bulls. DP striker Milton Caraglio opened his MLS account with two goals against New York, though, and the club added more firepower by inking Moroccan winger Monsef Zerka. Is it too late in the season to make a push for the playoffs? Almost definitely, but the groundwork for improvement is there.
16. (14) TORONTO FC (4-12-11, 23 points)
Last week: Lost to Chicago, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. San Jose, 7 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: With the playoffs basically out of the question, TFC has its focus on the CCL while planting the seeds for a breakout in 2012. The Reds were a bit unlucky against Chicago, and to add insult to loss, former TFCer Dan Gargan found the back of the net to put the game away. Expect a full-strength squad in TFC's midweek CCL tussle with FC Dallas.
17. (16) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (5-10-10, 25 points)
Last week: Lost to Los Angeles, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Toronto, 7 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: After being one of the league's top success stories in 2010, things are not falling the Earthquakes' way in 2011. The club hasn't won in more than two months, and Chris Wondolowski hasn't found the back of the net in his last five games. Toronto's leaky defense could be a remedy to those problems, but the Reds have played much better at home, in large part to former Earthquake Ryan Johnson's emergence up top.
18. (18) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (3-13-9, 18 points)
Last week: Lost to Portland, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Houston, 7 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Whitecaps are firmly planted on the bottom of the standings and don't seem headed anywhere. A lackluster showing yielded the consolation prize of Camilo netting his eighth goal of the season, but it was too little too late for a team whose best days are in the future. On the plus side, the BC Place renovations are nearing their completion.