SAO PAULO (AP) – Call it "the week of the underdogs" in MLS as we watched four teams near the bottom of the standings record sorely-needed victories. Clubs like Philadelphia and Portland earned wins after recent slumps, while the LA Galaxy successfully transitioned back into the playoff picture thanks to a pair of impressive road victories.
One top team that kept up the winning ways was San Jose. The Earthquakes sit in first place after a pair of victories earned by late-game goals. With Real Salt Lake suddenly struggling and Seattle mired in a seven-match winless skid, San Jose has a chance to extend their surprising lead in the West.
The Los Angeles Galaxy will have something to say about that. Winners of three straight, including a 3-0 thrashing of Vancouver, the Galaxy travel to Northern California to take on the Earthquakes next weekend in what will easily be the best match of the upcoming round.
San Jose took over first place in the West thanks to Saturday's win against Real Salt Lake, while the Eastern Conference is now led by two teams after New York's 3-2 victory against D.C. United. With Thierry Henry returning to action, the Red Bulls are looking like a good bet to hold on to the East lead.
Here is how this week's FOX Soccer MLS Power Rankings look this week:
1- SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
The "Cardiac Kids" keep finding ways to grab late results and their late-game heroics have helped them climb to the top of the MLS standings. Alan Gordon has looked unstoppable at times as a second half substitute, while Chris Wondolowski continues to produce goals with regularity. With Victor Bernardez back in the fold, San Jose could stay in first place for a while.
2- NEW YORK RED BULLS
It really has been impressive watching the Red Bulls generate results without a healthy Thierry Henry in the starting lineup. Now that the Frenchman is on the verge of being fully fit, New York could create some distance at the top of the Eastern standings. Brandon Barklage has been one of the revelations of the season, and Heath Pearce is making the Red Bulls look very good for pulling off the blockbuster trade to acquire him.
3- D.C. UNITED
A week after looking flat in a 1-0 road win versus Philadelphia, D.C. United paid for lack of sharpness by falling to New York at Red Bull Arena. Bill Hamid was outstanding in goal, but D.C. United's inability to control the wings, and deal with set pieces, cost them. Ben Olsen has some tough lineup decisions to make now that his team is healthy again, and after two subpar efforts, we should expect a shake-up ahead of next week's game against Montreal.
4- SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Few people could have seen last Saturday's debacle coming. A 4-0 loss to struggling Philadelphia should provide a wake-up call for a Sporting KC side that is still right in the thick of the race for first place in the East. Matt Besler's absence was definitely felt against Philadelphia, and KC will need him back against Chicago on Saturday if they want to avoid slipping further in the East standings.
5- REAL SALT LAKE
A pair of home losses in matches the team led has to be a cause for concern for RSL head coach Jason Kreis. The two losses can be chalked up to the absence of Jamison Olave. Without Olave, both Nat Borchers and Nick Rimando struggled to deal with both the Galaxy and Earthquake attacks.
6- CHICAGO FIRE
Marco Pappa is on fire. There is no other way to say it. The Guatemalan midfielder is playing with some real confidence and has helped give the Chicago attack a much-needed boost. The defense welcomed back Arne Friedrich to the field and the veteran German centerback provided a good stabilizing presence. They will need that on Friday against a Sporting KC side with one of the better offenses in the league.
7- VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
How quickly momentum can chang for a team. The Whitecaps came into last week riding a two-match winning streak that had them on the verge of breaking into the top two in the West, but after dropping points at home to New York and suffering a 3-0 beating against Los Angeles, the Whitecaps head into their bye week licking their wounds. Martin Rennie won't be too worried though, especially with midfielder Barry Robson set to join the team.
8- LA GALAXY
A three-game winning streak has propelled the Galaxy right back into the playoff mix, and a rejuvenated Landon Donovan has LA looking like a team capable of shooting right back up the West standings after having resided in the basement just a month ago. The defense is still a question mark, but with Josh Saunders back and playing well, and Todd Dunivant looking like a Best XI defender again, the Galaxy are poised for a strong run.
9- COLUMBUS CREW
The recent MLS break did not sit too well with the Crew apparently. After their surprising elimination from the US Open Cup, Columbus has managed one points from their past two matches. Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum has been good, but as was the case earlier in the season, the Crew's offense just doesn't generate enough goals. If that doesn't change soon, an upcoming stretch of matches against the likes of RSL and Sporting KC could see the Crew drop in the East standings.
10- SEATTLE SOUNDERS
The Sounders keep on sliding, now winless in seven matches. Losing Fredy Montero to a red card won't help matters either, with road trips to New England and Real Salt Lake up next on the calendar. Sigi Schmid has to be shaking head at the inconsistency of his attack and defense. Both units take turns disappointing, and it has been two months since the Sounders delivered a truly balanced and quality team performance.
11- HOUSTON DYNAMO
What has happened to the Dynamo's once-vaunted defense? Seven goals allowed in two matches has to be a cause for concern for Dom Kinnear. On the bright side, Will Bruin is really rounding into a serious goal-scoring threat. With Houston rumored to still be after European-based forward options, the Dynamo offense should receive a boost in the coming weeks.
12- COLORADO RAPIDS
The Rapids must have felt cheated after their 2-1 loss to San Jose last Wednesday after Alan Gordon's last-minute flop earned the Earthquakes a game-winning penalty. Matt Pickens was outstanding in goal and deserved better, but ultimately the Rapids cost themselves points by fading late at home. The result is a drop to sixth place in the West.
13- MONTREAL IMPACT
Two wins from two games at Stade Saputo has the Impact riding high, and a mid-week showdown at home against Toronto FC could push them even closer to a playoff place. The loss of Bernardo Corradi to a torn ACL was a tough blow, but Marco Di Vaio's impending debut will make up for that loss. The midfield tandem of Felipe and Patrice Bernier has been playing some of the best soccer in the league and should only improve with Di Vaio's arrival.
14- CHIVAS USA
Four points from two matches makes for a good week for Robin Fraser's squad. The defense continues to impress, and Dan Kennedy has played well enough this season to merit US national team consideration. The big question is when will the Goats offense begin to show some consistency?
15- PORTLAND TIMBERS
Sunday's victory over arch-rival Seattle not only took some pressure off head coach John Spencer, it also gave the Timbers a push heading into a critical run of games against Western Conference opponents. A big positive for Portland was the play of David Horst, who will be key to the Timbers coping without suspended defender Hanyer Mosquera.
16- NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Rallying back from a two-goal deficit on the road, in Saturday's 2-2 tie vs. Toronto FC, marked just the second time this year the Revs took points away from home. That could be the kind of confidence-building result that Jay Heaps' side can ride into an important three-game home stretch.
17- PHILADELPHIA UNION
Things are beginning to look up for the Union after a thoroughly impressive 4-0 thumping of Sporting Kansas City. Jack McInerney is gaining confidence and the defense put together another strong effort. The news of Bakary Soumare's signing is also a boost for a club that can definitely still be a factor in the Eastern playoff race.
18- FC DALLAS
You know things are bad when a scoreless draw can be seen as a sign of progress. Shutting out Chivas USA at home isn't the biggest accomplishment, but for a defense that had its share of recent struggles, it's a positive sign. Now the real question is whether the offense is going to wake up in time for the Hoops to salvage anything from a thoroughly disappointing season.
19- TORONTO FC
Two promising offensive performances and two blown multi-goal leads reminded us just how potent the TFC attack can be and how awful their defense is. Paul Mariner knows he needs defensive help, but finding it without much salary cap space to work with could make things difficult.