Despite losing their U.S. national team centerback to Stoke City, the Houston Dynamo have continued their rapid ascension in the Eastern Conference, winning their fourth straight en route to the No. 3 spot in this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings. Despite having Cameron in the lineup for just one game in July, Houston only allowed one goal in six matches throughout the month.
Elsewhere in the rankings, Salt Lake surged to No. 2 thanks to a win over Vancouver and New York's loss to Montreal. Otherwise, there was little fluctuation in the poll as many matchups went as predicted.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 21)
1. (Last week — 1) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (13-5-5, 44 points)
Last week: Tied Chicago 1-1 on Saturday
This week: Idle
Outlook: This San Jose team really does have a flair for the dramatic, doesn't it? Down a goal in the eighth minute of stoppage time, the Earthquakes found the equalizer on a Steven Lenhart strike — on his own wig night, no less.
2. (3) REAL SALT LAKE (13-7-3, 42 points)
Last week: Beat Vancouver 2-1 on Friday
This week: Saturday at Colorado, 9 p.m.
Outlook: Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman got the best of MLS All-Star teammate Jay DeMerit, helping draw a penalty kick on the Whitecaps centerback in RSL's 2-1 win. After opening CONCACAF Champions League play Tuesday in Costa Rica against Herediano, it's back to the Rocky Mountain Cup for Salt Lake on Saturday — a trophy RSL has already clinched, but a rivalry match that still carries history and intensity.
3. (5) HOUSTON DYNAMO (10-5-7, 37 points)
Last week: Beat Toronto 2-0 on Saturday
This week: Friday vs. New York, 8 p.m.
Outlook: Calen Carr continued his fine form with another goal, and veterans Brian Ching and Brad Davis chipped in with a goal and two assists, respectively, to give the Dynamo their first-ever win in Canada. If the back line can continue to hold up without Cameron, Houston could make a run in the East once more.
4. (2) NEW YORK RED BULLS (11-6-5, 38 points)
Last week: Lost to Montreal 3-1 on Saturday
This week: Friday at Houston, 8 p.m.
Outlook: The Red Bulls took a step back, looking shaky defensively against Montreal. The acquisitions of Sebastien Le Toux and Tim Cahill bolster an already-dangerous attack, but they will matter not if New York doesn't ultimately find the right centerback partnership.
5. (6) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (10-10-3, 33 points)
Last week: Beat Dallas 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Sunday at Seattle, 9 p.m.
Outlook: With Landon Donovan suspended and David Beckham fulfilling his Olympic duties in London, the Galaxy leaned on DP No. 3 Robbie Keane, who set up Mike Magee's winner at Dallas. Los Angeles' 39 goals scored now rank second in MLS.
6. (4) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (11-7-4, 37 points)
Last week: Lost to Columbus 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Saturday at New England, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: Kansas City continues to be an up-and-down team aside from its winning streak to start the season, fighting for first place in the Eastern Conference but also in danger of falling out of the top three playoff slots. Getting Aurelien Collin back from his facial fracture suffered in the All-Star Game will be key.
7. (7) D.C. UNITED (10-7-3, 33 points)
Last week: Idle
This week: Saturday vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: United may have had the week off, but it was far from a vacation for All-Star MVP Chris Pontius and Dwayne De Rosario, who combined on a goal in the MLS All-Star Game before starting D.C.'s draw with Paris Saint-Germain. Next up is a Crew team that defeated United 1-0 two weekends ago.
8. (9) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (9-5-7, 34 points)
Last week: Beat Colorado 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Sunday vs. Los Angeles, 9 p.m.
Outlook: All-Stars Osvaldo Alonso and Eddie Johnson stayed in form, tallying a goal apiece to lead the Sounders to a 2-1 win over Colorado. The entrance of German playmaker Christian Tiffert now adds another dimension to Seattle's attack.
9. (10) CHICAGO FIRE (9-7-5, 32 points)
Last week: Tied San Jose 1-1 on Saturday
This week: Saturday vs. Toronto, 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: Seconds away from getting a big three points at San Jose, the Fire let the lead slip away and settled for a still-respectable draw. With Sherjill MacDonald and Alvaro Fernandez joining the fold, it looks like Chicago is loading up for the stretch run.
10. (8) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (9-7-7, 34 points)
Last week: Lost to Salt Lake 2-1 on Friday
This week: Idle
Outlook: Friday night's loss at Salt Lake did have a silver lining as rookie Darren Mattocks continued to impress, scoring his seventh goal in his past 10 matches played. How he and recently signed Scotsman Kenny Miller work together will be crucial for the Whitecaps going forward.
11. (11) COLUMBUS CREW (8-7-4, 28 points)
Last week: Beat Kansas City 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Saturday at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: This Columbus team doesn't have a lot of big names but it just keeps grinding out results, the most recent of which came thanks to Jairo Arrieta's first-half brace. But some name value is on the way in the form of new DP Federico Higuain, the older brother of Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain.
12. (12) PHILADELPHIA UNION (7-10-2, 23 points)
Last week: Beat New England 2-1 on Sunday
This week: Saturday vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: Jack McInerney's late winner slid the Union to within nine points of a playoff position with two games in hand. Thanks to the team's surge under interim coach John Hackworth, the Union are not out of the playoff picture by any means.
13. (14) CHIVAS USA (7-8-5, 26 points)
Last week: Beat Portland 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Idle
Outlook: Chivas grabbed their second 1-0 win over Portland in as many weeks to stay right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt. While their 14 goals scored is by far the worst in MLS, Dan Kennedy's heroics in goal continue to bail this club out.
14. (15) MONTREAL IMPACT (8-13-3, 27 points)
Last week: Beat New York 3-1 on Saturday
This week: Saturday at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: Marco Di Vaio finally opened his account with Montreal and Alessandro Nesta made his long-awaited debut as the Impact dismissed New York. With only 10 games remaining and some ground to make up on multiple teams, it's all looking like too little, too late, though, for Montreal — regarding this season, at least.
15. (13) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (6-10-5, 23 points)
Last week: Lost to Philadelphia 2-1 on Sunday
This week: Saturday vs. Kansas City, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: A controversial penalty kick call and a late goal allowed cost New England a result at Philadelphia and pushed the Revolution even further back in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. The Revolution now have just 13 games to make up nine points in the race for a postseason berth.
16. (16) COLORADO RAPIDS (7-14-1, 22 points)
Last week: Lost to Seattle 2-1 on Saturday
This week: Saturday vs. Salt Lake, 9 p.m.
Outlook: Colorado has lost six in a row, but the combined margin of defeat in those matches has only been seven goals. The Rapids aren't that far off, but they've got to figure out how to get some points in those close games.
17. (17) FC DALLAS (5-11-7, 22 points)
Last week: Lost to Los Angeles 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Sunday at Portland, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The Brek Shea saga continues. In the latest chapter, the young winger was held out of Dallas' match against Los Angeles. Without him, Schellas Hyndman's side fell 1-0 at home to a short-handed Los Angeles team.
18. (18) TORONTO FC (5-12-4, 19 points)
Last week: Lost to Houston 2-0 on Saturday
This week: Saturday at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: It was Toronto that gave way in a clash of teams on three-game winning streaks, as Houston felled the Reds. With the playoffs all but out of the question, Toronto — bolstered by the additions of Quincy Amarikwa and Eric Hassli — will now turn its focus to Champions League play.
19. (19) PORTLAND TIMBERS (5-12-4, 19 points)
Last week: Lost to Chivas 1-0 on Saturday
This week: Sunday vs. Dallas, 7 p.m.
Outlook: Another week, another loss for the Timbers. The 1-0 defeat to Chivas made it a five-game losing streak for Portland, which has a remarkable minus-17 goal differential through 21 games. Perhaps sacking John Spencer was a bit hasty considering what has happened after his dismissal?