COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – The San Jose Earthquakes removed any doubts about their status as the Western Conference's strongest team last Saturday by thrashing Real Salt Lake , 5-0. It was a victory helped by a questionable red card, but that doesn't take away from the fact the Earthquakes bossed around a team widely-regarded as the favorite to win the West.
With Chris Wondolowski playing the best soccer of his career, and the rest of the Earthquakes playing with an impressive level of confidence, San Jose is on a record-setting pace. It is a pace they will need to maintain if they are going to stay well ahead of a Los Angeles Galaxy side that is rounding into form and looking like the defending MLS Cup champions they are.
Out East, Sporting Kansas City opened up a three-point gap on D.C. United thanks to the team's latest strong defensive effort. Kansas City's offense is still struggling to generate chances in abundance, but with the defense playing like the best back-line in the league, Sporting KC is scoring just enough to keep on rolling.
At the lower ends of the conference tables, the Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC are both enjoying outstanding runs and have cut into what were previously considered to be insurmountable distances between them and the teams in the playoff race. Sure, TFC can probably eliminate any playoff hopes after losing Danny Koevermans to a torn ACL, but the Union have won four of five and have the components to keep on winning.
That recent run has the Union steadily climbing up the FOX Soccer MLS Power Rankings, where they and the Los Angeles Galaxy continue to be the biggest movers.
Here are the latest FOX Soccer MLS Power Rankings:
1- SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
Their 5-0 thrashing of Real Salt Lake sent a clear message that they have no intention of relinquishing the top spot in the West. With Chris Wondolowski on a record-setting goal-scoring pace, and the defense playing outstanding, there is no reason to think San Jose will slow down any time soon.
2- SPORTING KANSAS CITY
It wasn't the prettiest pair of wins you will ever see, but Sporting KC isn't likely to care after moving into first place in the East. Their gutsy U.S. Open Cup semifinal victory on the road against Philadelphia was followed up by another outstanding defensive display in a 1-0 win at Columbus.
3- REAL SALT LAKE
Some might think RSL should plummet down the rankings after being embarrassed in San Jose, but getting blown out by a top team while being a man down isn't a fair judge of where this team stands. Jason Kreis should be concerned about how his team fell apart, but RSL is still very much a title contender (though very much a second fiddle to San Jose until they can prove otherwise).
4- NEW YORK RED BULLS
The acquisition of Sebastien LeToux is a major power play for the Red Bulls, landing a quality forward for the cost of a player in Dane Richards who the team could cover the loss of. The offense is shaping up to be a juggernaut, but questions remain about a defense that can't stay healthy or consistently stop opponents.
5- D.C. UNITED
Bill Hamid's early red card against Houston turned a potentially hard-fought Eastern Conference showdown into a blowout. Too much shouldn't be made about the scoreline considering D.C. had to play a man down for 73 minutes in the sweltering heat in Houston. How the team responds in Columbus on Saturday should give us a better of idea where D.C. United stands.
6- LA GALAXY
The Galaxy just keep on rolling. David Beckham and Robbie Keane look to be hitting their stride at the perfect time and the result is an offense that will be difficult to stop. Throw in the imminent return of Omar Gonzalez to the starting lineup and you have a Galaxy team that could wind up making a run at San Jose for the top spot in the West.
7- CHICAGO FIRE
The Fire defense didn't miss a beat without suspended German center-back Arne Friedrich, with the young tandem of Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba performing well in the team's 1-0 victory against Vancouver. The offense struggled to generate quality chances though, something the team is expected to address in the summer transfer window.
8- HOUSTON DYNAMO
The blowout of D.C. United keeps the Dynamo heading in the right direction, but what remains unclear is how the team will manage without Geoff Cameron. The US national team defender is expected to be sold to Stoke City (barring a breakdown in transfer negotiations), and he will definitely not be easy to replace. On another note, new designated player Oscar Boniek Garcia is looking like he will be a true impact player for the offense.
9- SEATTLE SOUNDERS
The Sounders booked their place in the US Open Cup Final with a romp over Chivas USA, but wound up settling for a point in their visit to Red Bull Arena. Eddie Johnson is on a roll right now, and Fredy Montero's recent benching looks to have sparked the Colombian striker. If Montero gets rolling, the Johnson-Montero tandem could be the best in the league.
10- VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
A two-loss week has halted the Whitecaps' momentum, but it was still a good week with the recent announcement of the signing of Scottish forward Kenny Miller. The addition of Miller and Dane Richards should help boost a Whitecaps offense that has been inconsistent, and they could also help rookie Darren Mattocks have an even greater impact.
11- PHILADELPHIA UNION
The Union suffered a disappointing US Open Cup semifinal defeat to Sporting KC, but John Hackworth's young squad rebounded well with a dramatic last-minute victory against Montreal. That is four wins in five league matches, enough of a run to pull the Union to within eight points of a playoff spot with two games in hand.
12- NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
The Revs saw their dominance at Gillette Stadium halted by a tough defensive effort from TFC and while the loss has to worry head coach Jay Heaps, he knows his team is capable of much better. Losing Jerry Bengtson to the Olympics will be tough, especially with a pair of road games against Montreal and Sporting KC up next.
13- COLORADO RAPIDS
Talk about a bad week in Colorado. First the Rapid lose at home to lowly FC Dallas, and now Pablo Mastroeni has been put in the injured list and his career is in serious doubt because of his concussion history. Having fallen to sixth in the West, the Rapids desperately need a win in Toronto to avoid falling too far out of the playoff picture.
14- CHIVAS USA
A bye week means the Goats now have three games in hand on the current five teams in the Western Conference playoff spots. They can jump back into contention with wins against Portland and the LA Galaxy, the second of those will be tough considering how well the Galaxy are playing.
15- COLUMBUS CREW
The Crew outplayed Sporting KC for much of last Saturday's 2-0 loss, but couldn't put away chances the way Kansas City did. The result is three losses in four matches with a pair of difficult matches on the schedule against East leaders D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City. Without an offense that can score regularly, Columbus is looking set to tumble even further down the East standings.
16- TORONTO FC
A bittersweet week for TFC. They post two victories, including a tough 1-0 win in New England, but then lose Danny Koevermans to a torn ACL. Koevermans had been on a roll in leading the offense. Without him, Toronto's hopes of continuing their recent turnaround are that much tougher. On the bright side, the team's ability to unload Julian DeGuzman via trade should allow them to add some quality defenders in the transfer market.
17- MONTREAL IMPACT
A two-loss week for a Montreal side that was supposed to receive a boost from the arrival of Marco DiVaio. The Italian striker is still getting acclimated, and isn't quite sharp yet, and he's done little to keep Montreal from avoiding its current 1-4 slide. The arrival of Alessandro Nesta should help the defense, but the Impact need both Nesta and DiVaio to hit a high level quickly to keep the team from falling any further out of the East playoff picture.
18- FC DALLAS
The team's dire 13-match winless streak was snapped in Colorado of all places, and Fabian Castillo was the key to a surprising comeback victory. The centerback tandem of Hernan Pertuz and Matt Hedges held its own against the Rapids forwards, a positive sign but still not enough to suggest things are actually turning around for Dallas.
19- PORTLAND TIMBERS
Consider this rock bottom for the Timbers. They followed up the dismissal of head coach John Spencer with a defensive debacle in a 5-3 loss to the LA Galaxy. Interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson clearly has his work cut out and things may only get worse before they get better in the Rose City.