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MLS Power Rankings: Top five shakeup
by Ridge Mahoney, August 8th, 2012 2:30AM

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A tighening Eastern Conference race featured victories for Houston against New York and D.C. United's downing of Columbus, as well as Chicago's dispatch of struggling Toronto and Sporting Kansas City's second win of the season against New England.

Eastern teams thus occupy five of the top eight spots in the power rankings, though top dog San Jose, which sat out league play, still tops the overall standings. The teams ranked sixth and seventh, Sporting Kansas City and Seattle, respectively, meet Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup final.
 
1. SAN JOSE (13-5-5). The Quakes played Swansea City (2-2) in a midweek friendly and spent the weekend watching the former Quakes, i.e., the Dynamo ascend to the second spot. They should be well-rested and fresh for a Saturday showdown with Seattle, which plays in the Open Cup final Wednesday. Last week: 1.

2. HOUSTON (11-5-7). So much for an Eastern Conference showdown. Houston exploited a New York midfield lacking Dax McCarty to beat the Red Bulls, 2-0, Friday with goals by Jermaine Taylor and Calen Carr, whose tally was his fourth in the last four games. Taylor scored from a scramble 75 seconds into the match and held control for most of the match. The Dynamo has won five in a row heading into a Red Bull Arena rematch Friday night; the teams are tied for the conference lead, and just four points behind San Jose in the race for the Supporters' Shield. Last week: 3.

3. REAL SALT LAKE (13-8-3). A 1-0 loss at Colorado in which RSL forced just one save from the opposing keeper is clear proof this talented team has yet to shake off a tendency to play lousy. Its Concacaf Champions League opener against Herediano yielded a defeat and a hamstring injury to Jamison Olave. So which team shows up for this week's trip to Vancouver? Last week: 2.

4. D.C. UNITED (11-7-3). A seventh straight home win, 1-0 over Columbus, brought United to within one of the team record, set in 1998. Chris Pontius strengthened his case for a USA callup by scoring his team-high 10th goal of the season early in the second half. Another crucial conference match is on tap when D.C. plays at Kansas City. Last week: 5.
 
5. NEW YORK (11-7-5). Tim Cahill's debut couldn't have been more underwhelming; he looked the part but little else impressed as the Red Bulls went down, 2-0, at Houston. Cahill got two good looks, sending an early shot straight at keeper Tally Hall and hitting a later effort high. He and his new teammates get a quick turnaround to rectify matters when they host Houston this Friday, and will also get back Dax McCarty from suspension. Last week: 4.
 
6. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (12-7-4). Teal Bunbury's goal in the 20th minute brought SKC a 1-0 win at New England and ended a three-game winless streak. The victory gave SKC seven out of nine possible points against the Revs heading into a very tough week of home games: the Open Cup final against Seattle Wednesday, followed by D.C. United Saturday. Last week: 7.

7. SEATTLE (10-5-7). The Sounders demolished the Galaxy, 4-0, on Sunday in front of 60,908 fans at CenturyLink Field. Eddie Johnson opened the scoring and Fredy Montero notched the second before Alex Caskey chipped a shot from distance and Andy Rose got his first MLS goal. Winners of three of their last four, the Sounders play at San Jose Saturday following their quest to win a fourth straight Open Cup in Kansas City Wednesday. Last week: 9.
 
8. CHICAGO (10-7-5). A 2-1 defeat of lowly Toronto FC enabled the Fire to snap a two-game losing streak and holds its place in the rankings. Marco Pappa's equalizer came after his giveaway provided TFC with the chance it converted to take the lead. Pappa tied with a shot from close range in the 64th minute and 20 minutes later Austin Berry headed home Pavel Pardo's free kick. Last week: 8 .
 
9. LOS ANGELES (10-11-3). A full-strength team looked amazingly feeble while absorbing a 4-0 smackdown in Seattle that dropped LA back below the .500 mark. David Beckham will again be absent to attend the Olympic Games Closing Ceremony when the Galaxy plays "at" Chivas USA on Sunday. Last week: 6.

10. VANCOUVER (9-7-7). MLS's answer to The Changeling spent a bye week incorporating Scottish striker Kenny Miller and Irish defender Andy O'Brien, who is awaiting his MLS debut, into the mix. It gets a statement game this week when it hosts RSL but won't have keeper Joe Cannon, who will serve a suspension for a red card he received when the 'Caps lost to the Utahns, 2-1. Last week: 11.

11. COLUMBUS (8-8-4). The Crew players and coaches were awoken early Sunday morning after losing 1-0 to D.C. to hear news of a much greater loss: midfielder Kirk Urso, who didn't travel with the team, had died. The rookie had won a national title with North Carolina just eight months ago, and the Crew selected him in the Supplemental Draft. There will be remembrances and many tears Saturday when the team hosts Toronto FC. Last week: 10.
 
12. CHIVAS USA (7-8-5).  A bye week gave coach Robin Fraser some valuable days to tinker with his team and blend in yet another fresh ingredient; former Revs midfielder Shalrie Joseph, who comes west after a stellar New England career ended with he and club management in dispute. With 14 games remaining, there's sufficient opportunity to pick up points to make the playoffs, with a home game against the Galaxy and a road trip to Colorado coming up next. Last week: 12.
 
13. PHILADELPHIA (7-11-2).  The Union lost, 2-0, in Montreal, and though it still has the fewest games played (20) of any team aside from Chivas USA, it is 12 points out of  a playoff spot, Jack McInerney was sent off, along with Nelson Rivas, when they got into a shoving match with 21 minutes to play. Philly hosts the Fire Saturday and yes, it's yet another must-win. Last week: 13.
 
14. FC DALLAS (5-11-8). Brek Shea looked spirited and motivated upon his return to the lineup after a two-game hiatus, and he set up Scott Sealy's goal in a 1-1 tie at Portland garnered after Zach Loyd was sent off with a second yellow card. Some sharp saves by Kevin Hartman helped secure the point. Still, this team's short- and long-term futures look murky. Last week: 15.
 
15. MONTREAL (9-13-3). Andrew Wenger and Felipe Martins scored as the Impact improved its home mark to 8-3-2 by beating Philadelphia, 2-0, but defender Nelson Rivas faces a multi-game suspension for head-butting Antoine Hoppentot. His suspension will start Sunday in a road game at New England. Last week: 16.
 
16. NEW ENGLAND (6-11-6). A promising debut season for rookie head coach Jay Heaps has gone sour; a 1-0 loss to SKC left the Revs with just one victory and a 1-4-4 record in their last nine games. The anemic attack (two goals in the last five games) could look a lot more potent if Honduran Jerry Bengston, who scored three goals at the Olympics, gets paired up with Saer Sene. Last week: 14.

17. COLORADO (8-14-1). The Rapids rose from the ashes -- corny, but accurate -- of a six-game losing streak to down RSL, 1-0, on Joseph Nane's first MLS goal. It was their first points since beating Portland June 30 and marked a milestone for Brian Mullan, who became the 15th player in league history to play 300 games. Last week: 18.
 
18. TORONTO FC (5-13-4). A 1-0 lead provided by Ryan Johnson evaporated in a 2-1 defeat at Chicago in which Logan Emory's two cautions left TFC down to 10 men after the 79th minute. Eric Hassli debuted for the club in its second league loss in a row, but at least its Concacaf schedule got off well with a 5-1 pasting of CD Aguila. Last week: 17.
 
19. PORTLAND (8-12-5). Jack Jewsbury smashed a shot through traffic for the equalizer in a 1-1 tie with FC Dallas that snapped a five-game losing streak. But their inability to parlay a man advantage and a 19-8 shot superiority into a home win doesn't bode well for the Timbers, whose 0.91 points per game surpasses only that of TFC. Last week: 19.



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