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The Money Shot: top clubs in this week’s MLS rankings

May 15, 2012, 2:30 PM EDT

Fabian Espindola, Paulo Junior AP

We like to avoid big jumps and general instability in our weekly rankings – but sometimes it can’t be helped. Real Salt Lake made the big leap after a big-leap kind of  week, a shakeup assisted by losses from others highly placers. Here are your top money-makers and heart-breakers in our weekly MLS Rankings countdown, Nos. 1-6:

6. Houston Dynamo – I know it looks strange to see the 7th place team in the East this high in the ProSoccerTalk rankings. But starting with seven on the road isn’t easy. And if the back line remains steady as she goes, with equally reliable backstopping from Tally Hall, there’s no reason to think the Orange (and there is a LOT of orange around the new Dynamo grounds) can’t begin a slow climb up the table.

5. New York Red Bulls – Yes, Hans Backe is holding the team together with Swedish duct tape and baling wire. (Probably the good stuff, not the dollar store variety.) But however the fashion, the Red Bulls are stitching together one impressive result after another. Four wins in a row have left Backe’s boys atop the East (albeit with a game in hand over Sporting Kansas City). Rafa Marquez’s return was a mix bag; but isn’t he always?

4. D.C. United – Ben Olsen’s team has lost two of three, but both Ls were on the road to quality teams (San Jose and Houston). So, no need to panic, although Perry Kitchen’s injury during Saturday’s loss to Houston is concerning. It doesn’t look long-term, at least. Bill Hamid’s solid play in goal Saturday was a check mark. He’ll need more of that as well-rested Colorado visits Wednesday.

3. Seattle Sounders – The Sigi Sounders navigated their difficult scheduling well enough until Saturday’s loss to Real Salt Lake. Seattle looked OK for a half, but the miles and minutes seemed to catch up after the break. Alvaro Fernandez is back in the lineup, but getting Brad Evans healthy will be important for all the little things he does. Midfielder Andy Rose: “It’s been a tough five games and to come out of it with a good amount of points and near the top of the table is good. It hurts a little bit not to be on top, but we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”

2. San Jose Earthquakes – They huffed and puffed and finally blew one past Chivas USA’s Dan Kennedy to secure a 1-1 draw at home. (San Jose outshot the visitors, 24-5.) Draws at Buck Shaw aren’t what Frank Yallop wants, especially coming off a loss (at Vancouver). On the other hand, getting a goal from Alan Gordon says good things. If Gordon is past all his injury concerns, that’s one more offensive weapon for Yallop on a shelf that’s well stocked already.

1. Real Salt Lake – Who wouldn’t take a scoreless draw at Chicago and a win at Seattle over a four-day stretch? Jason Kreis’ team handled the rough patch with aplomb thanks to Fabian Espindola’s slick finish at CenturyLink.  (Espindola is pictured above) That makes in five in a row without a loss for RSL. And that leaves them atop the Western Conference standings – depending on how you like to add up the points. (RSL is on top but has played more matches than the field.)

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