Major League Soccer's Texas two-step is perched atop the standings with FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo emerging as the early best teams in the league. Meanwhile, some of the traditional league powers are off to spotty starts heading into week four of the MLS season.
1. Seattle Sounders (Defeated Montreal Impact 2-0) Beating Montreal doesn't earn style points in the Burgundy Wave rankings, but solid after opening against two tough opponents, it's good to see that the Sounders are mopping the floor with the teams they're supposed to beat. Remember, Montreal last year knocked off Seattle in front of their home crowd. Not this year.
2. FC Dallas (Defeated Chivas USA 3-1) The editors over at mlssoccer.com moved FC Dallas from from No. 12 in the league to the top spot in their rankings. They get no such love here yet, as their high-scoring performances have come largely against a weak slate of opponents. It's not their fault that the schedule worked out that way, but it's still early to proclaim this team as one of the league's top two best.
3. Real Salt Lake (Tied Los Angeles Galaxy 1-1) It's a bit concerning that RSL can't hold a lead this year. Maybe it's the lingering aftereffects of their blown lead in the MLS Cup Final last year. But from top to bottom, RSL remains one of the more solid teams in the West, bucking predictions that the departure of Jason Kreis would cripple a promising squad.
4. Colorado Rapids (Defeated Portland Timbers 2-0) At some point the Rapids will have to score on the run of play. But for now the story is the team's unexpectedly solid defensive performance. Despite a Shane O'Neill and Marvell Wynne gaffe against the Red Bulls, the Rapids back line has made it mostly easy for unseasoned goalkeeper John Berner.
5. Vancouver Whitecaps (Tied New England Revolution 0-0) Shutting out the Revs is no great feat, but failing to register a goal of their own against the league's most disappointing team is a problem. After a hot start, the Whitecaps haven't been able to pick up three points in the last two weeks against lackluster opposition.
6. San Jose Earthquakes (Lost to Sporting Kansas City 1-0) The Quakes played mostly like they were happy to leave the Midwestern plains with a tie. And they should have gotten one. After surrendering a penalty kick, Chris Wondolowski found himself wide open in front of SKC's net with all the time in the world to bury the shot. But he misfired badly and cost his team a point.
7. Los Angeles Galaxy (Tied Real Salt Lake 1-1) The Galaxy battled back for a respectable draw against RSL, but there's still no one who stands out yet for this team. But it's a safe bet they'll get their act together and jump back into the crowded Western Conference race.
8. Portland Timbers (Lost to Colorado Rapids 2-0) Alarm bells are replacing the sound of Timber Joey's chainsaw this year in Portland. Caleb Porter got tons of media love last year but can't unearth a functional offense early in this season. And it's not like he doesn't have the guns to sport a fashionable offense.
9. Chivas USA (Lost to FC Dallas 3-1) Chivas looks a bit more motivated this year than last and seems to play more as a team. Maybe getting out from under the dysfunctional Jorge Vergara regime has put some life in their step, but it's still a bad team that won't threaten many teams.
1. Houston Dynamo (Idle) A bye week for the Dynamo still didn't produce a team in the East that's been as impressive as sourpuss Dominic Kinnear's squad. They'll have their hands full with a weekend trip to Vancouver.
2. Toronto FC (Defeated D.C. United 1-0) A one-goal margin against D.C. United doesn't much reflect how much better Toronto played (and looked in those sharp pewter kits). Toronto's ownership spent big money to bolster their promise of a playoff appearance, and the cash was well spent on Jermain Defoe's three goals in two games and Michael Bradley's midfield stewardship.
3. Columbus Crew (Defeated Philadelphia Union 2-1) The Crew were lucky to get out of their own stadium with a victory, seeing how they gave the game over to the Union late in last week's game. But the Crew are getting plenty of goals from different places (Bernardo Anor's brace sunk the Union) to stave off the effects of a shaky defense.
4. Sporting Kansas City (Defeated San Jose Earthquakes 1-0) It's tough to be too critical of SKC. They've played a ton of games in the last three weeks. But it's alarming that their top line of Dom Dwyer, C.J. Sapong, Claudio Bieler and the oddball insertion of Jacob Peterson into the lineup can't get a goal on the run of play. But their defense still looks sharp.
5. New York Red Bulls (Tied Chicago Fire 1-1) It's painful to put New York this high, but that reflects the weakness of the East so far. The Red Bulls should expect more production from their offense, but they're not getting much help outside of the yeoman work put forth by Thierry Henry.
6. Philadelphia Union (Lost to Columbus Crew 2-1) If a few things go this team's way through the first three games, they could be undefeated. The Union have never been the purveyors of good fortune and should be higher than their early season line in the standings reflect.
7. Chicago Fire (Tied New York Red Bulls 1-1) Maybe getting Mike Magee back will spark some excitement from this torpid Fire offense and take the pressure off their defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz to carry the goalscoring.
8. Montreal Impact (Lost to Seattle Sounder 2-0) Last year's early-season darlings are this year's dregs. They've given up an average of two goals a game while failing to average at least one score of their own so far. Could be a long year for these guys. Maybe getting rid of Jesse March wasn't such a great idea.
9. New England Revolution (Tied Vancouver Whitecaps 0-0) The Revs are already breaking records: No MLS team has gone the first three games of a season without a goal. Too bad, these guys were the exciting club last year and figured to only improve, but are looking at a long, painful season unless their luck changes.
10. D.C. United (Lost to Toronto FC 1-0) The only pressing question about the 2014 campaign is whether last year's U.S. Open Cup victory is enough to buy coach Ben Olsen a full season this year.
Montreal Impact at Philadelphia Union - Philadelphia victory
Chicago Fire at D.C. United - Draw
Sporting Kansas City at Colorado Rapids - Draw
Houston Dynamo at Vancouver Whitecaps - Houston victory
Portland Timbers at FC Dallas - FC Dallas victory
Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake - Real Salt Lake victory
Columbus Crew at Seattle Sounders - Draw
New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes - San Jose victory
Chivas USA at New York Red Bulls - New York victory