The best team in Major League Soccer at the moment that isn't Sporting Kansas City -- and maybe you can include it, too -- could be considered local, sort of, for neutrals at this end of the state.
The San Jose Earthquakes are off to a 6-1-1 start, are playing with fantastic verve and grit, pulling out tough games at the finish -- witness last week's triumph at Philadelphia, or the week before against Real Salt Lake, or two weeks before that against Vancouver -- and doing so with contributions from a few players we know well down here.
Their only loss: a 1-0 decision in week two against Houston, on a bitterly contested penalty kick. They're atop our Power Rankings for a second straight week.
Here's a quick guide to San Jose's So Cal boys:
F Steven Lenhart: Gnatty striker from Yorba Linda (Esperanza HS/Azusa Pacific University) who's not above taking a fall to win a free kick or penalty. He's hated by everyone except teammates and home fans, and is reigning MLS Player of the Week for a reason.
M Rafael Baca: Intelligent Mexican midfielder from Lawndale (Animo Leadership HS/Loyola Marymount) whose MLS career was delayed by immigration paperwork, but he's been a force since finding the field.
F Cesar Diaz Pizarro: Skilled Peruvian forward from Chino Hills (Ayala HS/UC Riverside) is a rookie with promise. Hasn't yet featured for the first team.
Others: Head coach Frank Yallop was the Galaxy's head coach in 2006-07. Assistant coach Ian Russell played for the Galaxy in 2007. Forward Alan Gordon played many years for the Galaxy and a short span with Chivas USA. Defender Jason Hernandez played for Chivas. Rookie midfielder Sam Garza, a Texan, was a first-round draft pick out of UC Santa Barbara. Defender Josh Suggs, who has been loaned to the NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies, played last year for the L.A. Blues.
Here are this week's power rankings:
1. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (6-1-1, 19 points), Last Week: 1
Week 8: Yorba Linda's Steven Lenhart is MLS Player of the Week after scoring twice, including a gutty stoppage-time winner, for a 2-1 decision at Philadelphia.
Latest: Chris Wondolowski is MLS's Player of the Month for April after scoring four goals with two assists (for season totals of eight and two) in four games as the Quakes took the top spot in the West.
Trophy case: MLS Cup 2001, 2003, Supporters' Shield 2005, Western Conference 2003.
Next: Wednesday vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday at Vancouver, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
2. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (7-1-0, 21 points), LW: 2
Week 8: Idle.
Latest: Seth Sinovic undergoes hand surgery, Michael Harrington ready to return to starting XI.
Trophy case: MLS Cup 2000, Supporters' Shield 2000, Western Conference 2004, U.S. Open Cup 2004.
Next: Saturday vs. Montreal, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
3. REAL SALT LAKE (6-3-1, 19 points), LW: 3
Week 8: Rookie Emiliano Bonfigli answers iffy penalty in 1-1 draw at FC Dallas; Jonny Steele's stoppage-time strike beats Toronto FC, 3-2.
Latest: Steele, supersub? That's two late goals (one to tie, one to win) off the bench.
Trophy case: MLS Cup 2009, Eastern Conference 2009.
Next: Saturday vs. New England, 5 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, May 9, at Chicago, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
4. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (4-1-1, 13 points), LW: 4
Week 8: Eddie Johnson nets his first goal as a Sounder to pace 2-1 victory in Chicago.
Latest: Sounders soaring for Galaxy showdown. Says Sigi Schmid: “We want to measure ourselves against Los Angeles — they are the defending MLS Cup champions. They've got all the star power. They've got Keane, they've got Beckham, they've got Donovan. They've got a good team, and they've got quality. But our team has quality as well.”
Trophy case: U.S. Open Cup 2009, 2010, 2011, APSL 1995, 1996, USL First Division 2005, 2007, USL Commisioner's Cup 1994, 2002, 2007.
Next: Wednesday vs. Galaxy, 7 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22); Saturday vs. Philadelphia, 1:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network); Wednesday, May 9, at FC Dallas, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
5. D.C. UNITED (4-2-3, 15 points), LW: 5
Week 8: Maicon Santos' second goal gives D.C. its third (and the last) lead in a 3-2 triumph over Houston.
Latest: Wanna bet Chivas wishes it had today's Maicon Santos (six goals in nine games for D.C.) rather than the 2009-10 model (two in 19 games for the Goats)?
Trophy case: MLS Cup 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004, Supporters' Shield 1997, 1999, 2006, 2007, Eastern Conference 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2004, U.S. Open Cup 1996, 2008, CONCACAF Champions' Cup 1998, InterAmerica Cup 1998, CONCACAF Giants Cup 2001.
Next: Wednesday at San Jose, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday at Toronto FC, 1:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
6. NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-3-1, 13 points), LW: 6
Week 8: Thierry Henry scores another beauty, then goes sprawling with a serious hamstring injury, in 1-0 victory over New England.
Latest: Henry's nine goals better than nine teams' totals (and same as two more teams). Ailing hammy could be devastating for the Bulls -- “This is, of course, a disaster for us,” Hans Backe says -- with more than a half-dozen starters already out.
Trophy case: Western Conference 2008.
Next: Saturday vs. Galaxy at Home Depot Center (Carson), 5 p.m. (ESPN and ESPN Deportes); Wednesday, May 9, vs. Houston, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
7. GALAXY (3-3-1, 10 points), LW: 8
Week 8: Robbie Keane misses a PK, but Pat Noonan puts things right with stoppage-time equalizer in 1-1 draw against FC Dallas.
Latest: Josh Saunders' situation: Another hurdle, or a rallying point?
Trophy case: MLS Cup 2002, 2005, 2011, Supporters' Shield 1998, 2002, 2010, 2011, Western Conference 1996, 1999, 2005, 2009, 2011, U.S. Open Cup 2001, 2005, CONCACAF Champions' Cup 2000.
Next: Wednesday at Seattle, 7 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22); Saturday vs. New York at Home Depot Center (Carson), 5 p.m. (ESPN and ESPN Deportes).
8. COLORADO RAPIDS (4-4-0, 12 points), LW: 9
Week 8: Rookie Tony Cascio scores a great opener, and Kamani Hill adds two late goals in 4-0 romp over Chivas USA.
Latest: Conor Casey gets a few minutes against Chivas, but he doesn't travel to New England for midweek clash.
Trophy case: MLS Cup 2010, Western Conference 1997, Eastern Conference 2010.
Next: Wednesday at New England, 5 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Sunday at FC Dallas, 4 p.m. (Galavision).
9. HOUSTON DYNAMO (2-2-2, 8 points), LW: 7
Week 8: Will Bruin brings Dynamo back twice, but they can't overcome third disadvantage in 3-2 loss at D.C. United.
Latest: BBVA Compass Stadium almost ready, looks glorious. Ribbon was cut Tuesday, and the opener against D.C. United is 10 days away.
Trophy case: MLS Cup 2006, 2007, Western Conference 2006, 2007, Eastern Conference 2011.
Next: Wednesday, May 9, at New York, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
10. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (4-2-2, 14 points), LW: 10
Week 8: Lee Young-Pyo's looping free kick finds the net for a 1-0 victory in Columbus.
Latest: Canadian Championship semifinal foe FC Edmonton brings up David and Goliath and thanks Kings for knocking off the Canucks in NHL playoffs, tweeting: “Here's to making you proud when we do the same thing vs @WhitecapsFC.”
Trophy case: Canadian Soccer League 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, USL First Division 2006, 2008, USL Commissioner's Cup 1993.
Next: Wednesday in a Canadian Championship semifinal first leg at FC Edmonton (NASL), 7 p.m.; Saturday vs. San Jose, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, May 9, in a Canadian Championship semifinal second leg vs. FC Edmonton (NASL), 8 p.m.
11. FC DALLAS (3-3-3, 12 points), LW: 11
Week 8: Questionable penalty kick prods Hoops to 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake; Brek Shea converts another in 1-1 draw against the Galaxy.
Latest: Palos Verdes' Kevin Hartman could be back in the nets after missing three games with back spasms.
Trophy case: U.S. Open Cup 1997, Western Conference 2010.
Next: Sunday vs. Colorado, 4 p.m. (Galavision); Wednesday, May 9, vs. Seattle, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
12. CHICAGO FIRE (2-2-2, 8 points), LW: 13
Week 8: Fire can't rally all the way back from a two-goal deficit to Seattle, lose their coach and a defender to suspension after postgame brawl.
Latest: Jalil Anibaba isn't told about his postgame red-card until the following day. He and Frank Klopas decline to appeal their bans.
Trophy case: MLS Cup 1998, Supporters' Shield 2003, Western Conference 1998, Eastern Conference 2003, U.S. Open Cups 1999, 2000, 2003, 2006.
Next: Friday vs. Chivas USA at Home Depot Center (Carson), 8 p.m. (ESPN Deportes); Wednesday, May 9, vs. Real Salt Lake, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
13. PHILADELPHIA UNION (2-4-1, 7 points), LW: 15
Week 8: Gabriel Gomez's late equalizer doesn't hold as Philly, with coach Peter Nowak starting a three-game suspension, fall to visiting San Jose. 2-1.
Latest: Zac MacMath's shutout streak reaches 407 minutes before Steven Lenhart's opener.
Trophy case: None.
Next: Saturday at Seattle, 1:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network); Wednesday, May 9, in friendly vs. Schalke 04 (Germany), 4:30 p.m.
14. COLUMBUS CREW (2-4-1, 7 points), LW: 16
Week 8: Crew's best performance of the year spoiled when Andy Gruenebaum misplays free kick for a goal in 1-0 loss to Vancouver.
Latest: Crew returns to Ohio State's annual Connor Senn Memorial, romps to 4-0 win in rain-shortened match. Senn collapsed during a 2001 game and died hours later of a congenital heart defect, and this year's edition more meaningful after Bolton's Fabrice Muamba collapsed and Livorno's Piermario Morosini died on the field in the last seven weeks.
Trophy case: MLS Cup 2008, Supporters' Shield 2004, 2008, 2009, Eastern Conference 2008, U.S. Open Cup 2002.
Next: Saturday at Portland, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
15. CHIVAS USA (3-5-0, 9 points), LW: 12
Week 8: Goats headed for fifth 1-0 loss when Colorado starts pouring in goals late for 4-0 rout.
Latest: The fan base is losing patience, and another 1-0 home loss Friday would be disastrous.
Trophy case: None.
Next: Friday vs. Chicago at Home Depot Center (Carson), 8 p.m. (ESPN Deportes).
16. PORTLAND TIMBERS (2-5-1, 7 points), LW: 14
Week 8: Hand-ball call on Steven Smith is cruel, costly in 2-0 loss at Montreal.
Latest: Timbers coach John Spencer is incensed after Impact's Sanna Nyassi cleats goalkeeper Troy Perkins. “Troy is lucky he’s not in for plastic surgery today. He’s got a gash from one nostril right around to the other side. I’ve seen it a number of times on slow motion. … That’s a stonewall red card for me. … I think he was lucky not to have lost an eye.”
Trophy case: USL Commissioner's Cup 2009.
Next: Saturday vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
17. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (2-5-0, 6 points), LW: 17
Week 8: Revs are shut out for the fourth time in seven games in 1-0 loss at New York.
Latest: Back in the late '90s, rising French star Thierry Henry gave his shirt to a 12-year-old fan. Saër Sene now calls Henry a friend.
Trophy case: Eastern Conference 2005, 2006, 2007, U.S. Open Cup 2007, SuperLiga 2008.
Next: Wednesday vs. Colorado, 5 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday at Real Salt Lake, 5 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
18. MONTREAL IMPACT (2-5-2, 8 points), LW: 18
Week 8: Iffy penalty kick, Sinisa Ubiparipovic's follow up beats visiting Portland, 2-0.
Latest: Impact post their first shutout. “We've felt all along the team is coming together in a good way,” Jesse Marsch says. “We know we can still get better, but I'm sure today ... was a pretty good performance and a dominant performance from start to finish.”
Trophy case: Canadian Championship 2008, APSL 1994, USL First Division 2004, 2009, USL Commisioner's Cup 1995, 1996, 1997, 2005, 2006.
Next: Wednesday in a Canadian Championship semifinal first leg vs. Toronto FC, 5 p.m.; Saturday at Sporting Kansas City, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, May 9, in a Canadian Championship second leg at Toronto FC, 5 p.m.
19. TORONTO FC (0-7-0, 0 points), LW: 19
Week 8: Reds battle back twice to tie in Salt Lake City, lose No. 7 on a stoppage-time goal.
Latest: TFC matches MLS record for worst start, switches priority this month to winning another Canadian Championship.
Trophy case: Canadian Championship 2009, 2010, 2011.
Next: Wednesday in a Canadian Championship semifinal first leg at Montreal, 5 p.m.; Saturday vs. D.C. United, 1:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, May 9, in a Canadian Championship semifinal second leg vs. Montreal, 5 p.m.
All times Pacific