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MLS Power Rankings, Week 29: Who's in and out

9/28/2011

Three of 10 Major League Soccer postseason slots have been filled, only one team is out of contention, and the regular season heads into its final four weeks, we could be treated the the greatest race in league history.

Not at the top, where it'll take something wholly unexpected to keep the Galaxy from successive Supporters' Shields. Only Seattle and Real Salt Lake can catch L.A., and last week both clinched playoff berths to join the Western leader.

The battle for the Eastern Conference title, the East's three automatic postseason berths and the four wild-card slots is going to be fantastic.

The top six teams in the East are separated by four points, with first-place Houston just a point in front of Sporting Kansas City and Columbus, which meet Wednesday night looking to overtake the Dynamo.

Eight teams fighting for six postseason berths -- figuring FC Dallas' 46 will be enough if it can't reverse its slide -- are separated by five points, and Chicago's ceiling throws it into that group, too.

Only Vancouver has been eliminated, but New England and Toronto figure to join them this week, and Chivas USA ought not survive much longer, either.

This week's rankings:

1. GALAXY (17-3-10, 61 points), Last week: 1

Week 28:
Brilliant free kick leads to 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League Group A loss at Alajuelense (Costa Rica); Chad Barrett's stoppage-time strike delivers 1-0 victory at Columbus

Remark: League points records -- 68 in the shootout era (Galaxy, 1998), 64 post-shootout (San Jose, 2005) -- are within reach

Big surprise in '11: Juan Pablo Angel's offensive struggles before he was jettisoned to Chivas

Next: Wednesday in Champions League vs. Morelia (Mexico) at Home Depot Center, 7 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel and Telefutura-KFTR/Channel 46); Saturday vs. Real Salt Lake at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket); Tuesday at New York, 5 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

2. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (15-6-9, 54 points), Last week: 2

Week 28: Fredy Montero
scores goals three minutes apart for 3-1 win at Vancouver; Osvaldo Alonso's goals lead comeback for CONCACAF Champions League Group D draw at Comunicaciones (Guatemala)

Remark: Sounders win Cascadia Cup, is first club to clinch quarterfinal berth in the Champions League, now aim for third successive U.S. Open Cup title

Big surprise in '11: Lamar Neagle's emergence into a solid attacking backup

Next: Saturday at New England, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup final vs. Chicago, 7 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

3. REAL SALT LAKE (15-8-6, 51 points), Last week: 3

Week 28: Fabian Espindola
scores twice in first 21 minutes as Utahns romp, 3-1, at New York; no stopping Dwayne De Rosario as reserve-heavy side falls, 4-1, at D.C. United

Remark: Javier Morales makes the 18s, could return to the field vs. Chicago or at L.A.

Big surprise in '11: The Lions' difficulties after Morales' injury

Next: Wednesday vs. Chicago, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. Galaxy at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket); Thursday, Oct. 6, at Vancouver, 6:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

4. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (10-9-11, 41 points), Last week: 4

Week 28: Omar Bravo
, lots of possession can't topple Philadelphia in 1-1 draw

Remark: Sporting just one point off the lead, but Peter Vermes said he doesn't “feel like we've accomplished anything. We’ve got four games left, and a lot can happen in four games.”

Big surprise in '11: The abrupt turnaround once Livestrong Sporting Park was open for business

Next: Wednesday vs. Columbus, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday at San Jose, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

5. HOUSTON DYNAMO (10-9-12, 42 points), Last week: 7

Week 28: Geoff Cameron
's header from Brad Davis' 14th assist lifts Dynamo past FC Dallas, 1-0, and atop the Eastern standings

Remark: Cameron's switch to the backline was critical move in climb to the top

Big surprise in '11: Dynamo's struggle to get back to the top bears fruit

Next: Saturday vs. Chicago, 1 p.m. (Telefutura-KFTR/Channel 46)

6. PHILADELPHIA UNION (9-7-13, 40 points), Last week: 8

Week 28: Sebastien Le Toux
's seventh goal in seven games gives Philly a 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City

Remark: Colombian playermaker Roger Torres, just 20, is emerging into something good

Big surprise in '11: Nowak makes Philly a contender

Next: Thursday vs. D.C. United, 5 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes); Sunday vs. Chivas USA at Home Depot Center, 5 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22)

7. FC DALLAS (13-10-7, 46 points), Last week: 5

Week 28:
Hoops surrender late goals in home shutout losses to Pumas UNAM (Mexico) in the Champions League and cross-state rival Houston

Remark: No comeback? David Ferreira's season is likely over

Big surprise in '11: Hoops' late, ongoing collapse

Next: Wednesday in CONCACAF Champions League Group C game at Tauro (Panama), 5 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel); Saturday at Colorado, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

8. D.C. UNITED (9-8-11, 38 points), Last week: 9

Week 28:
D.C. can't hold on to two-goal lead in 2-2 draw vs. Chivas USA; MLS Player of the Week De Rosario scores fastest hat trick in MLS history -- 10 minutes -- to rout Real Salt Lake, 4-1

Remark: Is De Rosario separating himself from the rest of the MVP field? He admits, sort of, he took a dive against the Goats

Big surprise in '11: De Ro's impact in making United a contender

Next: Thursday at Philadelphia, 5 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes); Sunday at Columbus, 1 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

9. COLORADO RAPIDS (10-9-12, 42 points), Last week: 6

Week 28: Andre Akpan
's goal isn't enough in a 2-1 home loss to Real EspaƱa (Honduras) in the Champions League; Drew Moor's header provides 1-1 draw vs. San Jose

Remark: Rapids give up on the Champions League? Reserves fall to the Hondurans, and they send assistant coach with another reserve team to El Salvador for must-win encounter

Big surprise in '11: Omar Cummings' struggles to find form following injuries, his and others'

Next: Wednesday in CONCACAF Champions League Group B game at Isidro Metapan (El Salvador), 7 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel, 9:30 p.m.); Saturday vs. FC Dallas, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

10. NEW YORK RED BULLS (8-7-15, 39 points), Last week: 11

Week 28:
Bulls surrender three goals in the first 21 minutes in 3-1 loss vs. Real Salt Lake; Dane Richards, Luke Rodgers tally in 2-0 win over Portland

Remark: Rafa Marquez rips teammates (“Unfortunately, there isn't an equal level between my teammates and I”), is suspended, then tries to clear the air. Damage to the Bulls could be massive

Big surprise in '11: The league's most talented side is a poor team

Next: Saturday at Toronto FC, 4:30 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel); Tuesday vs. Galaxy, 5 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

11. COLUMBUS CREW (11-11-8, 41 points), Last week: 12

Week 28: Emilio Renteria
sparks five chances in the final five minutes, but a stoppage-time goal gives Galaxy a 1-0 win

Remark: Month-plus without a win, and longtime Eastern leaders are in danger of falling out of the playoffs

Big surprise in '11: Crew far better than expected the first two-thirds of the campaign

Next: Wednesday at Sporting Kansas City, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Sunday vs. D.C. United, 1 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

12. CHIVAS USA (8-12-11, 35 points), Last week: 15

Week 28:
Angel scores two in comeback for 2-2 draw at D.C. United, scores two more in 3-0 romp over Toronto FC

Remark: Goats talking to Santa Ana, three other So Cal cities about potential stadium deals

Big surprise in '11: Dan Kennedy and Nick LaBrocca emerge as stars

Next: Sunday vs. Philadelphia at Home Depot Center, 5 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22)

13. PORTLAND TIMBERS (10-13-7, 37 points), Last week: 10

Week 28: Kenny Cooper
's early strike isn't enough in a 1-1 draw vs. San Jose; controversial Kalif Alhassan red card/penalty kick nails down 2-0 loss at New York

Remark: Cooper and rookie Darlington Nagbe finally turning into a true tandem

Big surprise in '11: October arrives, and Portland is still in the playoff chase

Next: Sunday at Vancouver, 1:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

14. CHICAGO FIRE (6-8-15, 33 points), Last week: 14

Week 28:
Fire take quick three-goal lead, then hold on for 3-2 win vs. New England

Remark: Sebastian Grazzini's hamstring injury wrenches slimming postseason hopes

Big surprise in '11: The inability to turn early performances into victories

Next: Wednesday at Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday at Houston, 1 p.m. (Telefutura-KFTR/Channel 46); Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup final at Seattle, 7 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

15. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (6-11-13, 31 points), Last week: 16

Week 28: Khari Stephenson
scores again in 1-1 draw at Portland, Chris Wondolowski nets No. 11 in 1-1 tie at Colorado

Remark: Wondo ties Landon Donovan for the No. 2 spot on the Quakes' scoring charts, with 32. Needs another 30 to surpass Ronald Cerritos' mark

Big surprise in '11: The Quakes' late-summer form kills their chances

Next: Saturday vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

16. TORONTO FC (6-13-12, 30 points), Last week: 13

Week 28:
Reds offer nothing in 3-0 defeat at Chivas USA; Peri Marosevic finish leads to 1-1 Champions League Group C draw vs. Pumas UNAM (Mexico)

Remark: League form's all over the place, but TFC remains alive heading into its Champions League group finale

Big surprise in '11: The amount of work Aron Winter needed to do -- and how much more remains

Next: Saturday vs. New York, 4:30 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

17. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (5-13-12, 27 points), Last week: 17

Week 28: Ryan Guy
scores in the 90th and stoppage, but it's too late in 3-2 loss at Chicago

Remark: Steve Nicol's, Shalrie Joseph's contracts set to expire -- time for a new direction?

Big surprise in '11: Zero progress following last year's debacle

Next: Saturday vs. Seattle, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

18. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (4-15-10, 22 points), Last week: 18

Week 28: Camilo
scores early, then Seattle takes charge in 3-1 decision

Remark: 'Caps won't miss Empire Field, take 4-4-5 home mark to restructured BC Place, their new home

Big surprise in '11: All that attacking talent couldn't score consistently

Next: Sunday vs. Portland, 1:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Thursday, Oct. 6, vs. Real Salt Lake, 6:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

All times Pacific