After briefly falling on hard times, Real Salt Lake is back in familiar territory.
Dropped to a season-low position of No. 6 in last week's SBI MLS Power Rankings because of a four-game winless drought, Salt Lake jumped back to third in the new poll thanks to a four-point week highlighted by Alvaro Saborio's hat trick in a 3-0 triumph over the Portland Timbers on Saturday.
Elsewhere in the rankings, the San Jose Earthquakes clung to the top spot despite a disappointing week, while the Colorado Rapids experienced the biggest change, dropping five slots to No. 15.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 18)
1. (Last week — 1) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (11-4-4, 37 points)
Last week: Lost to Portland 2-1 on Tuesday; tied Dallas 0-0 on Saturday
This week: Saturday vs. Salt Lake, 10:30 p.m.
Outlook: It was a rough week for the Earthquakes, who took on two of the weakest teams in MLS and emerged with just a single point. Saturday's showdown against RSL will be crucial to the race for not only the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference but for the Supporters' Shield as well.
2. (2) D.C. UNITED (10-5-3, 33 points)
Last week: Idle
This week: Sunday at Houston, 9 p.m.
Outlook: United had a fruitful bye week, enjoying some rest while their foes at the top of the Eastern Conference wilted in the summer heat, burning their games in hand without surpassing D.C. But now it's back to the road for United, who don't play a single league match at RFK Stadium this month.
3. (6) REAL SALT LAKE (11-6-3, 36 points)
Last week: Tied Seattle 0-0 on Wednesday; beat Portland 3-0 on Saturday
This week: Saturday at San Jose, 10:30 p.m.
Outlook: After a midweek draw against Seattle, RSL capped its week in stellar fashion, riding a second-half hat trick from Alvaro Saborio to a thrashing of Portland. Holding down the fort centrally, Kyle Beckerman continues to be in fine form for Jason Kreis' side.
4. (5) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (10-5-3, 33 points)
Last week: Beat Montreal 3-1 on Wednesday; tied Houston 0-0 on Saturday
This week: Saturday at Columbus, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: Kansas City looked to be headed toward another disappointing result midweek before two controversial penalty kicks and a deflected clincher gave the club a fortunate road win over Montreal. On Sunday, Jimmy Nielsen, Aurelien Collin and Graham Zusi all earned their first All-Star nods.
5. (7) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (8-4-6, 30 points)
Last week: Beat Colorado 1-0 on Wednesday; tied Chivas 0-0 on Saturday
This week: Wednesday at Toronto, 7 p.m.; Saturday at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: Jay DeMerit and Co. just keep on shutting things down in the back while Vancouver's talented attacking corps struggle to find a rhythm. At least Darren Mattocks is showing the potential to be that consistent goal-scoring threat this club needs.
6. (3) NEW YORK RED BULLS (9-5-4, 31 points)
Last week: Lost to New England 2-0 on Sunday
This week: Sunday vs. Seattle, 4 p.m.
Outlook: Missing Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and Heath Pearce, among others, New York was always going to have a tough time ending its decade-long drought in New England. After a hot start, Kenny Cooper hasn't found the back of the net since May.
7. (4) CHICAGO FIRE (8-6-4, 28 points)
Last week: Tied Houston 0-0 on Tuesday; lost to Los Angeles 2-0 on Sunday
This week: Saturday vs. Vancouver, 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: After surging toward the top of the Eastern Conference, Chicago settled for a midweek draw against Houston before suffering a shutout loss at home to the defensively challenged Galaxy. Sean Johnson remains a wild card in goal, equally capable of making brilliant saves and unfortunate mishaps.
8. (11) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (7-10-2, 23 points)
Last week: Lost to Philadelphia 2-1 on Wednesday, beat Chicago 2-0 on Sunday
This week: Saturday at Portland, 11 p.m.
Outlook: A home loss to Philadelphia showed the Galaxy side that struggled throughout the season's opening months, but a road win at Chicago gave us the Los Angeles squad that has rebounded of late. Omar Gonzalez's swift recovery from a torn ACL is a massive boost.
9. (9) HOUSTON DYNAMO (6-5-7, 25 points)
Last week: Tied Chicago 0-0 on Tuesday; tied Kansas City 0-0 on Saturday
This week: Sunday vs. D.C. United, 9 p.m.
Outlook: Houston fixed its leaky defense, recording back-to-back shutouts despite missing U.S. national team defender Geoff Cameron, who could very well be departing for Stoke City. But now the Dynamo need to get their offense going, considering they had to settle for a pair of scoreless draws.
10. (12) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (8-5-6, 30 points)
Last week: Tied Salt Lake 0-0 on Wednesday; beat Colorado 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Sunday at New York, 4 p.m.
Outlook: After gutting out a draw at Rio Tinto Stadium in mid-week action, Seattle snapped a nine-game winless drought with a 2-1 triumph over Colorado. With Eddie Johnson finding the back of the net with regularity and Steve Zakuani finally back in action, things are looking up again for the Sounders.
11. (13) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (6-7-4, 22 points)
Last week: Beat New York 2-0 on Sunday
This week: Saturday vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: Jerry Bengtson didn't disappoint in his debut, bagging a goal as New England continued it's long unbeaten run at home against the Red Bulls. The Revolution continue to stay right on the fringe of the playoff picture, and a home game against Toronto this weekend provides a great opportunity for points.
12. (8) COLUMBUS CREW (6-6-4, 22 points)
Last week: Lost to Montreal 2-1 on Sunday
This week: Saturday vs. Kansas City, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: What seemed like a golden chance for three points on the road turned into a loss against Montreal thanks to some clumsy defending down the stretch. But the return of Chad Marshall was a positive development.
13. (17) PHILADELPHIA UNION (5-9-2, 17 points)
Last week: Beat Los Angeles 2-1 on Wednesday; beat Toronto 3-0 on Sunday
This week: Saturday vs. Montreal, 7 p.m.
Outlook: With three goals and two assists in his past three appearances, Jack McInerney is finally cashing in on his high potential. With 10 goals in their past four games, the Union have already scored more under John Hackworth than they did in 12 games under Peter Nowak this season.
14. (14) CHIVAS USA (5-7-5, 20 points)
Last week: Tied Vancouver 0-0 on Saturday
This week: Idle
Outlook: Chivas settled for a point at home as another stellar performance defensively from Dan Kennedy and Co. went unrewarded. With a paltry 11 goals scored in 17 games, Chivas' attack is by far the worst in MLS.
15. (10) COLORADO RAPIDS (7-10-1, 22 points)
Last week: Lost to Vancouver 1-0 on Wednesday; lost to Seattle 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Saturday vs. Dallas, 9 p.m.
Outlook: Back-to-back losses, including a defeat at home Wednesday, are tough to swallow for a Colorado team trying to keep up in the Western Conference playoff chase. But it is good for the Rapids to see Omar Cummings and Conor Casey once again sharing the field together.
16. (15) MONTREAL IMPACT (6-11-3, 21 points)
Last week: Lost to Kansas City 3-1 on Wednesday; beat Columbus 2-1 on Sunday
This week: Saturday at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Outlook: After collapsing in the second half of a mid-week 3-1 loss to Kansas City, Montreal bounced back nicely with a come-from-behind win over Columbus. Alessandro Nesta's debut can't come soon enough for the beleaguered Impact back line that has been decimated by injuries.
17. (16) PORTLAND TIMBERS (5-8-4, 19 points)
Last week: Beat San Jose 2-1 on Tuesday; lost to Salt Lake 3-0 on Saturday
This week: Saturday vs. Los Angeles, 11 p.m.
Outlook: Building an expansion team into a winner is no easy task, but coach John Spencer got the ax after a season and a half just the same. And the firing came less than a week after Portland notched a 2-1 triumph over league-leading San Jose. Now the pressure is all on general manager-interim coach Gavin Wilkinson.
18. (18) TORONTO FC (2-11-4, 10 points)
Last week: Tied Dallas 1-1 on Wednesday; lost to Philadelphia 3-0 on Sunday
This week: Wednesday vs. Vancouver, 7 p.m.; Saturday at New England, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: After earning a point at Dallas on Wednesday, Toronto fell back into its Aron Winter-era funk during a listless 3-0 loss at the Union over the weekend. This week will be another busy one for the Reds, who are dealing with some serious fixture congestion at the moment.
19. (19) FC DALLAS (3-9-7, 16 points)
Last week: Tied Toronto 1-1 on Wednesday; tied San Jose 0-0 on Saturday
This week: Saturday at Colorado, 9 p.m.
Outlook: A pair of draws weren't enough to get Dallas out of the bottom slot, even though David Ferreira's return to the field provides reason for optimism. Dallas still hasn't won a game in any competition since mid-April.