Does anyone want to win the Eastern Conference?
The constant shifting in the East has as many as five teams in position to lay claim to the conference's top seed. Sporting Kansas City looks like the best bet of the bunch after a convincing win over the Houston Dynamo put the club level on points atop the conference table with Columbus and has the team up to No. 5 in the latest SBI MLS Power Rankings.
Things are starting to take shape a bit more in the West. The Los Angeles Galaxy look like a good bet to capture the Supporters' Shield, but Real Salt Lake is making a late charge after topping the Seattle Sounders on the road. Even though RSL still trails Seattle and FC Dallas on total points, it still has two games in hand on both teams. That, combined with its recent three-game winning streak, has RSL all the way up to No. 2 in the rankings.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 26)
1. (Last Week — 1) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (15-3-10, 55 points)
Last week: Beat Colorado, 1-0, on Friday.
This week: vs. Vancouver, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Galaxy are riding high after Landon Donovan's well-taken goal provided the only tally necessary in the win over the Rapids and clinched a spot for Los Angeles in the postseason. Perhaps just as important is the return of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who is fully recovered from his broken arm. While the focus is still on cementing another Supporters' Shield, the Galaxy will look to become the third MLS team to win in Mexico with it's crucial CCL bout against Morelia on Tuesday night.
2. (4) REAL SALT LAKE (13-7-6, 45 points)
Last week: Beat Seattle, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Sporting Kansas City, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: RSL appears to have its mojo back as winners of three straight. Alvaro Saborio provided the game-winner at Seattle, and Kyle Beckerman continues his Best XI-caliber play fresh off another showing with the U.S. national team. This weekend's match against Sporting KC provides a chance at redemption for RSL, which dropped an earlier result at Livestrong Sporting Park, and is also the must-see match of the weekend slate.
3. (2) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (13-6-9, 48 points)
Last week: Lost to Real Salt Lake, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. D.C. United, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Seattle's chances at the Supporters' Shield got a whole lot slimmer after its loss to RSL, which was its first loss in a month and included yet another missed penalty and an odd Kasey Keller own goal. This week doesn't get any easier, with a trip to Costa Rica followed up by a home match against in-form D.C. United.
4. (3) FC DALLAS (13-8-7, 46 points)
Last week: Lost to New England, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. New York, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: FC Dallas turned in perhaps the most head-scratching result of the week, dropping a road result in New England. All of the minutes logged over the last month seem to have caught up with Brek Shea, who needed to be taken off at halftime against the Revs. The schedule doesn't clear up any more, as a mid-week CCL match looms prior to a home game against the Red Bulls this weekend.
5. (7) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (10-8-10, 40 points)
Last week: Beat Houston, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Teal Bunbury has his groove back, and that's an extremely dangerous thing for opponents, especially considering the continued form of rookie striker C.J. Sapong. SKC will have to readjust to playing away from home, though, as its high-profile match against RSL will be the first time it will be playing somewhere else than Livestrong Sporting Park in nine matches.
6. (5) COLORADO RAPIDS (10-8-11, 41 points)
Last week: Lost to Los Angeles, 1-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Toronto, 1:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Rapids sorely missed Drew Moor's presence against the Galaxy, as his yellow-card suspension prevented him from taking the field for the first time in a league-record 6,210 minutes. Even so, Colorado is hardly in danger of dropping out of the playoff picture, as it has a firm grasp of the second wild card spot.
7. (6) COLUMBUS CREW (11-9-7, 40 points)
Last week: Lost to Toronto, 4-2, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday; at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: What was expected to be another three points turned out to be disaster for Columbus, which fell for the first time against Toronto FC and has made life a lot more difficult for itself going forward. The Crew, who have yielded 10 goals in their last two matches, don't have time to dwell on their shocking loss to TFC, as they have two games against prime conference contenders in a four-day span.
8. (10) D.C. UNITED (8-7-10, 34 points)
Last week: Beat Chivas USA, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Seattle, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: D.C. came up with a golden result when it needed it most, taking road points from a chief competitor for a postseason berth. The win came at a huge cost, though, as Chris Pontius is likely out for the remainder of the season with a broken leg, one that he suffered after setting up Charlie Davies for all three goals against Chivas.
9. (8) PHILADELPHIA UNION (8-7-12, 36 points)
Last week: Tied New England, 4-4, on Wednesday; Tied Portland, 0-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Union failed to capitalize on the momentum from their superb comeback against the Revolution, and the club's winless stretch is up to eight games at a time when every result matters more than the previous one. A win against the Crew would alleviate some fears that Philadelphia may be slipping out of the postseason altogether.
10. (11) PORTLAND TIMBERS (9-12-6, 33 points)
Last week: Tied Philadelphia, 0-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. New England, 11 p.m., Friday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: Expansion Portland is still hanging around the playoff chase after holding the Union to a scoreless draw behind a stout defensive effort and strong play in goal by Troy Perkins. The draws need to turn to victories for Portland, though, which remains a point behind D.C. for the 10th playoff spot (D.C. has two games in hand) and welcomes suddenly-dangerous New England to Jeld-Wen Field for a nationally televised bout Friday night.
11. (9) HOUSTON DYNAMO (8-9-11, 35 points)
Last week: Lost to Sporting Kansas City, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Columbus, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday; vs. San Jose, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Another road test, another failure to win. The Dynamo are losers of two straight and are teetering on the edge of the playoff picture after falling to 0-6-8 on the road this season following being outplayed in just about every aspect by SKC. A huge match at Columbus looms on Wednesday, as both Eastern Conference contenders are in need of a boost after recent lulls.
12. (13) NEW YORK RED BULLS (6-6-15, 33 points)
Last week: Tied Vancouver, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Red Bulls tied the Fire's dubious MLS record for most draws in a single season, but that's hardly a consolation after another disappointing effort has fans ready to jump off the bandwagon. Like Portland, the Red Bulls are now a point behind D.C. United for the final playoff spot, but D.C. has two games in hand. With just seven games remaining in the season, New York has to flip the switch or risks becoming the most underachieving team in league history.
13. (12) CHIVAS USA (7-11-10, 31 points)
Last week: Lost to D.C. United, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Chicago, 4 p.m., Saturday, Telefutura.
Outlook: The Goats have had their share of chances this season, but almost every one has ended in an unfavorable way. Playing at home against D.C. with both teams vying for a postseason berth, Chivas got out-classed and allowed Davies and Pontius to run the show. The club is sorely missing Heath Pearce in defense, and by the time he returns from injury, it could be too late.
14. (15) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (5-11-12, 27 points)
Last week: Tied Philadelphia, 4-4, on Wednesday; Beat FC Dallas, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Portland, 11 p.m., Friday, Fox Soccer Channel.
Outlook: A four-point haul against two postseason-caliber teams is a nice get for New England, which should have earned six points but blew a 4-1 halftime lead against the Union. Even so, the in-season acquisitions are starting to gel, as Moncef Zerka, Milton Caraglio and Benny Feilhaber have made the Revs a more challenging team to defend. Rookie A.J. Soares has also emerged as a more consistent performer down the stretch of his first season.
15. (16) TORONTO FC (5-12-12, 27 points)
Last week: Beat Columbus, 4-2, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Colorado, 1:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: TFC delivered a massive blow to the Crew's chances at securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference in capturing its first victory in the Trillium Cup series in 13 matches. As some of the Reds' recent matches have shown, the seeds are being planted for 2012 to be the year that TFC breaks through and makes the postseason. Until then, the club's focus remains the CCL, where it will try to be the latest MLS team to win in Mexico when it faces Pumas UNAM on Wednesday.
16. (17) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (6-10-11, 29 points)
Last week: Beat Chicago, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Houston, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: After a 13-match streak, San Jose is back in the win column. The Earthquakes put together their best performance in some time in beating the Fire, and, as usual, Chris Wondolowski was at the heart of the San Jose win. Wondolowski is up to 10 goals on the season, which gives him a somewhat realistic shot at repeating as Golden Boot champion. He trails Donovan and Thierry Henry by just two goals as the season hits the final stretch.
17. (14) CHICAGO FIRE (4-8-15, 27 points)
Last week: Lost to San Jose, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Chivas USA, 4 p.m., Saturday, Telefutura.
Outlook: The Fire failed to build on their recent positive momentum by laying an egg against the Earthquakes, who had been stuck in a hopeless rut until their match over the weekend. Like with Toronto, some pieces are in place for a the Fire to become one of the more improved units in 2012, but those holding out hope for a 2011 postseason berth will wind up disappointed.
18. (18) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (4-13-10, 22 points)
Last week: Tied New York, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Whitecaps continue to relish their role as spoiler, denting the Red Bulls' playoff hopes by forcing a tie at Red Bull Arena behind Davide Chiumiento's goal, which was about as classy a finish as there's been in the league this season. Their next opponent, L.A., is firmly entrenched in the postseason, but the Whitecaps can make the race for the Supporters' Shield a bit more interesting if they can come up with a result at the Home Depot Center.