Major League Soccer – Round 29

by Michael Orr

The month of October means the introduction of wonderful weather across North America, as well as the final weeks of the Major League Soccer regular season. With Round 29 commencing October 1, the league is down to just two more weekends before the playoffs begin in earnest. For some clubs, the playoffs have already started, in a sense, as ten teams are within eight points between positions four and twelve on the table. This weekend’s ties saw several such clubs playing each other as every point is now magnified.

Saturday October 1:
Houston Dynamo 1 – Chicago Fire 1
After winning just twice before mid-August, Chicago had won five of six to climb back into contention for the final playoff position. Coming off of a stunning 3-0 win over Real Salt Lake, prompted by Marco Pappa’s hat-trick mid-week, the Fire could have reached twelfth place and within touching distance of New York and Portland. Instead, Chicago went behind on Colin Clark’s 33rd minute goal for Houston and could only manage Dominic Oduro’s 43rd minute equalizer at Robertson Stadium. The home draw for the Dynamo was a disappointing result, even against a club as hot as Chicago. The shared points allowed other results to push Houston further down the table and into ninth place. The Fire got only as high as thirteenth place and will have to win games the rest of the way in order to have a chance at post-season qualification. Meanwhile, Chicago travel across the country to Seattle to play for the US Open Cup final this week, a game that might have been a distraction during this weekend’s fixture.

Toronto FC 1 – Red Bull New York 1
Danny Koevermans scored his seventh goal in his ten games at Toronto FC but the Reds were denied a third win in four when Thierry Henry scored a wonderful leveler in the 88th minute at BMO Field. New York’s kept ahead of Portland Timbers on their head-to-head tie breaker as a result of Henry’s thirteenth goal, his first since August 13. Toronto are not in the playoff chase, so to drop points at this stage of the season is a difficult one for Red Bull. They’ll host LA Galaxy in a make-up game from Hurricane Irene back in August mid-week and could see their chances slip further if they cannot pick up all three points against the league’s top team.

New England Revolution 1 – Seattle Sounders 2
Seattle Sounders all but assured themselves of finishing second in the league with a nice away win against the league’s second worst side at Gillette Stadium. 16-year old Uruguayan Diego Fagundez opened scoring for the Revolution but a Fredy Montero brace brought the visiting Sounders all three points and a six-point cushion over Real Salt Lake. Seattle will host the US Open Cup final on Tuesday as they aim for a third consecutive crown. New England are only better than Vancouver Whitecaps at this point and seem likely to sack long-time manager Steve Nicol after his decade at the club.

Colorado Rapids 1 – FC Dallas 0
Dallas lost their fourth in a row and are now just one point clear of both Sporting KC and their adversaries on Saturday, Colorado Rapids, for fourth place in the league. In fact, the Hoops have lost six of their last eight and have one just one in that period, dating to August 6, to complete a 180-degree difference from their performance at this time last season. The three points for the Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which were provided by Drew Moor’s 25th minute goal, were much needed in their attempts to ward off challengers below. Colorado are now sixth, two points clear of Houston for the second wild card position. Dallas remain in the top spot among wild card contenders but are in their worst form of the season. Manager Schellas Hyndman has given the team the whole week off, with an international break coming this weekend, in the hopes that it will restore his side to their former quality.

Los Angeles Galaxy 2 – Real Salt Lake 1
If they can keep churning out results, LA Galaxy could be playing a home game for the MLS Cup in late November. A 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake at the Home Depot Center again saw the Galaxy finding a way to win, this time coming from behind with Chad Barrett scoring from a David Beckham assist and a Nat Borchers own-goal sealing the visitors’ fate. RSL have lost two in a row to fall of the pace for second place while LA keep seven points clear of Seattle for the league’s top spot and a second consecutive Supporters’ Shield. A mid-week make-up at Red Bull New York could guarantee the Supporters’ Shield, though they will be without Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan. Salt Lake are still five points clear of sinking Dallas for the third automatic playoff spot in the West.

San Jose Earthquakes 1 – Sporting KC 1
Sporting KC were unable to extend their lead atop the Eastern Conference after Teal Bunbury could only answer Chris Wondolowski’s goal at Buck Shaw Stadium. The goals came a minute apart in the 85th and 86th minutes in a disappointing result for the visitors. Though they are in first place in their conference, Sporting are only a point ahead of Philadelphia Union and Columbus Crew, so the missing two points could prove to be quite significant. The third straight 1-1 draw for the Earthquakes is probably now enough to keep them out of the playoffs, despite losing only once in their last six. Wondolowski’s goal was his twelfth of 2011, leaving him just two shy of Dwayne De Rosario for the Golden Boot, an award San Jose’s striker won last season.

Sunday October 2:
Columbus Crew 2 – DC United 1
At Columbus Crew Stadium, the home side pulled out a come-from-behind victory over conference rivals DC United to move into third place in the East and an automatic playoff spot. Eddie Gaven scored on a diving header on his return from injury to give the Crew all three points and keep DC from catching up on the table. The loss was the second straight for United against competition for playoff positions, leaving them two points shy of tenth place but with a game in hand. De Rosario, who leads the league in goals, was kept off the score sheet and made life much more difficult for United.

Vancouver Whitecaps 0 – Portland Timbers 1
At the re-opening of BC Place, Portland took all three points from Vancouver in the final Cascadia Cup match of the season. With the Timbers hanging just outside the playoff positions, three points were a necessity from the league’s worst side. Though the stadium opening was grand and the amenities plush, the home side only rarely bothered what was a stout Portland defense. In the end, Kenny Cooper’s fantastic strike from a Diego Chará assist was enough to catch back up to New York. Though the Whitecaps answered the challenge of soon-to-be former manager Tom Soehn, they could not find the goal and are almost guaranted to take the league’s wooden spoon for worst record. Portland next host Houston in a match holding the height of playoff implications.

Chivas USA 1 – Philadelphia Union 1
And the weekend’s finale saw Philadelphia Union unable to hold a lead in a sharing of points with Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center. Justin Mapp’s goal just before the hour was cancelled out by a Juan Pablo Ángel header in the 90th minute to prevent the Union from taking over first place in the Eastern Conference. Chivas are only four points out of the final playoff position and but will be grateful for a point against one of the East’s better sides, even if it came at home.

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