The Houston Dynamo were in a bit of a tailspin mode in recent weeks, having won just one of their past seven MLS matches, but a change in formation and a well-earned victory have Dom Kinnear's squad back on track and back in the top half of the SBI MLS Power Rankings.
The Dynamo reverted to their old 4-4-2 formation in their 2-0 victory against the New England Revolution and the shift away from the 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 produce the kind of performance Houston will need to solidify their hold on a playoff spot in the East.
With Brad Davis and Oscar Boniek Garcia workings the flanks, and Ricardo Clark and Adam Moffatt anchoring the midfield, Houston put together a solid match that should give the Dynamo something to build on as they close out the regular season.
Both the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake used match-ups against the two weakest teams in MLS to enjoy a pair of confidence-building blowouts. As much fun as the Red Bulls and RSL had against Toronto FC and Chivas USA respectively, their upcoming tasks will provide significantly tougher challenges. The Red Bulls take on the Chicago Fire while RSL take on the Galaxy, two match-ups that will go a long way in determining who will finish in the top two in each conference.
There weren't many dramatic changes in the latest power rankings, but one team that did move up despite not posting a victory is the Vancouver Whitecaps. They settled for a scoreless draw against the Seattle Sounders, but the match was arguably the best match they had played in weeks and could be just what they need to turn things around in the final weeks of the regular season.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings:
SBI MLS Power Rankings (Week 30)
1. (Previous Rank- 1) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (18-6-7, 61 points)
Last week: Tied FC Dallas. 3-3. last Saturday.
This week: at Colorado on Saturday.
Outlook: Needed another late comeback to salvage a point against FC Dallas. You keep getting the sense that they just might use up all their late-game magic too soon. As inspiring as the comeback was, giving up three goals to Dallas has to be a cause for concern for San Jose's defense.
2. (2) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (17-7-7, 58 points)
Last week: Beat Chicago Fire, 2-0, last Friday.
This week: at Columbus Crew on Sunday.
Outlook: With Graham Zusi playing some of the best soccer in MLS, and their defense looking like the stongest unit in MLS, Sporting KC is on a roll and their convincing victory against the Fire showed just how well they are playing. Peter Vermes isn't afraid to experiment either, with his decision to star Lawrence Olum ahead of Aurelien Collin certainly turning some heads.
3. (3) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (15-11-5, 50 points)
Last week: Tied Colorado Rapids, 1-1, last ASunday.
This week: vs. Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
Outlook: The good news for Bruce Arena was that David Beckham made a successful return and Marcelo Sarvas continued his outstanding form. The bad news? The Galaxy look to have lost A.J. DeLaGarza for the rest of the regular season. With tough matches against Real Salt Lake, San Jose and Seattle left on the schedule, the Galaxy will have to work very hard to grab the No. 2 seed in the West playoffs.
4. (4) CHICAGO FIRE (16-9-5, 53 points)
Last week: Lost to Sporting Kansas City, 2-0, last Friday.
This week: vs. Philadelphia Union on Wednesday; at New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Outlook: Thoroughly outplayed in the first half of their loss to Sporting Kansas City, the Fire did look much better in the second half, which gives them something to build on down the stretch. Graham Zusi's success finding space in the Chicago midfield is something the Fire will want to look at, while Guillermo Franco's effort off the bench was definitely an encouraging sign that he is ready to make an impact.
5. (5) REAL SALT LAKE (16-11-4, 52 points)
Last week: Beat Chivas USA, 4-0 last Saturday.
This week: At Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.
Outlook: As much attention as Alvaro Saborio's hat-trick will receive, the man of the match for RSL on Saturday was Fabian Espindola, who was magical in tearing apart the Chivas USA defense. If he finds his form heading into the playoffs then RSL is suddenly a title contender once again after a so-so past few months.
6. (7) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (13-7-10, 49 points)
Last week: Tied Vancouver Whitecaps, 0-0, last Saturday.
This week: vs. Portland Timbers on Sunday.
Outlook: The Sounders defense held up well against the Whitecaps, but the attack's inability to seriously test Vancouver does raise some eyebrows. Fredy Montero has cooled off in recent weeks, but he faces a favorite target in the Portland Timbers next, and given his track record against them, you would have to like his chances to find the net.
7. (8) NEW YORK RED BULLS (15-8-8, 53 points)
Last week: Beat Toronto FC, 4-1, last Saturday.
This week: vs. Chicago Fire on Saturday.
Outlook: If there was ever a team that needed a confidence-building win against a punching bag, it was the Red Bulls, and they took full advantage against Toronto FC. Lloyd Sam's contributions on the right wing were the most encouraging sign from the match, followed closely by a two-goal effort from the streaky Kenny Cooper, who just might be ready for another hot streak.
8. (6) D.C. UNITED (15-10-6, 51 points)
Last week: Tied Portland Timbers, 1-1, last Saturday.
This week: at Toronto FC on Saturday.
Outlook: D.C. United's lack of offensive punch finally caught up to them against the Timbers, and only a questionable penalty call kept them from being shut out. The D.C. defense has held up well, and just might be good enough to carry the team into the playoffs, but until some players start stepping up to recharge the offense in the absence of Dwayne DeRosario, D.C. will be destined to settle for a wild card spot.
9. (11) HOUSTON DYNAMO (13-8-10, 49 points)
Last week: Beat New England Revolution, 2-0, last Saturday.
This week: vs. Montreal on Saturday.
Outlook: When Dom Kinnear switched to a 4-3-3 earlier in the season it was seen as a surprising change from a coach who had been a 4-4-2 lifer, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise that he would return to the 4-4-2 to help his team snap out of a recent slump. The midfield foursome of Davis-Clark-Moffatt-Garcia was very effective and should stay together the rest of the way.
10. (9) FC DALLAS (9-12-10, 37 points)
Last Week: Tied San Jose Earthquakes, 3-3, last Saturday.
This week: at Chivas USA on Sunday.
Outlook: As disappointing as blowing a late lead is, FC Dallas still has plenty to feel good about coming away from their road draw at San Jose. Matt Hedges continues to excel, and Blas Perez looks to have returned this outstanding early-season form. If Perez is going to be a consistent threat down the stretch, Dallas can definitely catch Vancouver for the final playoff spot in the West.
Last week: Beat Philadelphia Union, 3-2, last Saturday.
This week: vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.
12. (14) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (10-12-9, 39 points)
13. (12) MONTREAL IMPACT (12-15-4, 40 points)
Last week: Bye
This week: at Houston on Saturday.
14. (13) PHILADELPHIA UNION (8-15-6, 30 points)
Last week: Lost to Columbus Crew, 3-2, last Saturday.
This week: At Chicago Fire on Wednesday; vs. New England Revolution on Saturday.
15. (15) COLORADO RAPIDS (9-18-4, 31 points)
Last week: Tied Los Angeles Galaxy, 1-1, last Sunday.
This week: vs. San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
16. (16) PORTLAND TIMBERS (7-15-9, 30 points)
Last week: Tied D.C. United, 1-1, last Saturday.
This week: at Seattle Sounders on Sunday.
Last week: Lost to Houston Dynamo, 2-0, last Saturday.
This week: at Philadelphia Union on Saturday.
Last week: Lost to Real Salt Lake, 4-0, last Saturday.
This week: At Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday; vs. FC Dallas on Sunday.
19. (19) TORONTO FC (5-19-7, 22 points)
Last week: Lost to New York Red Bulls, 4-1, last Saturday.
This week: vs. D.C. United on Saturday.
What do you think of this week's rankings? Who do you feel is rated to highly? Is there a team you feel is rated to low?
Share your thoughts below.