Monday September 29th, 2014

Just one of the 10 Major League Soccer matches last week finished in a draw as teams fight for playoff spots and positioning. Seattle lost one and won one in a two-match week, while LA defeated New York emphatically to keep pace.

Only two matches for each stand between the two teams and their two-game showdown to finish the season. LA faces Toronto and Dallas, while Seattle takes on Colorado and Vancouver, albeit with less rest between its matches than the Galaxy.

Two United States midfield partners played major roles for their individual league teams on Saturday. Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones both scored late winners, with Toronto completing a comeback to beat Portland, 3-2, and New England winning by the same score over Kansas City despite being up 2-0 at halftime.

The drama is almost to a boiling point with just a month left in the regular season. Here’s how everybody stands at this point:

MLS Power Rankings — Week 29

1. LA Galaxy (16-5-9)

Last ranking: 1

Last week’s results: 4-0 vs. New York

The Galaxy took advantage of Seattle’s midweek loss to tie (on points, but not total wins) the Sounders in the Supporters’ Shield standings. All three of LA’s big guns in attack, Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and Gyasi Zardes, scored against the Red Bulls in an emphatic home victory.

WAHL: Are Galaxy on course for all-time great season?

2. Seattle Sounders (18-9-3)

Last ranking: 2

Last week’s results: 1-3 at Dallas, 4-2 vs. Chivas USA

The Sounders slipped a bit in their quest to secure first place in the league and conference with a midweek loss to Dallas. A win three days later over Chivas USA restored order, and if nothing else, the results might serve to make the last two games of the season against LA that much more interesting.

3. FC Dallas (14-10-6)

Last ranking: 4

Last week’s results: 3-1 vs. Seattle

Óscar Pareja continues to be one of MLS’s most underrated coaches, and what he’s done to turn Dallas around has been remarkable. It’s not just about season-to-season change, as he’s on the verge of carrying the team into the playoffs for the first time since 2011; it’s also impressive how his team reversed an eight-game winless streak early in the summer to only losing three times in its last 15 games.

4. Real Salt Lake (13-7-10)

Last ranking: 3

Last week’s results: 1-2 at Vancouver

Most of the statistics favored RSL, but the team came out on the lesser end of three second-half goals in Vancouver, not helped by conceding two penalties in the match. Despite being just a point ahead of Dallas, RSL is positioned to win three or four of its last four matches, which come against Chivas twice, San Jose and Portland.

5. D.C. United (15-9-6)

Last ranking: 5

Last week’s results: 1-0 vs. Philadelphia

With three more points, D.C. stepped even closer to securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference just a year after bringing up the rear. Head coach Ben Olsen received a multi-year contract extension last week to reward him for the turnaround less than 12 months after he easily – and admittedly – could have been fired.

STRAUS: United shows long-term commitment to Olsen

6. New England Revolution (14-13-3)

Last ranking: 7

Last week’s results: 3-2 at Kansas City

Speaking of streak reversals, the Revs pulled off another good one by climbing back to second place in the East after an eight-game, zero-points run in midseason. Jones’ late winner — assisted by dark-horse MVP candidate Lee Nguyen — showed the team’s resilience to finish the job on the road after relinquishing a two-goal lead.

7. New York Red Bulls (10-9-11)

Last ranking: 6

Last week’s results: 0-4 at LA

The Red Bulls needed a win in LA to erase midweek Champions League elimination and ensure they got something out of a tough week of travel and matches. Instead, they conceded their ninth goal of the season in the first 15 minutes of games, which is second-worst in MLS, and continued that trend of leaking goals throughout the match.

ABNOS: NYCFC's Kreis plays down talk of Lampard loan extension

8. Columbus Crew (11-9-10)

Last ranking: 10

Last week’s results: 2-0 vs. Montreal

The Crew have lost just twice in the last 11 games, but they can’t afford to slip up in their last four games to stay in the playoff places. Three of those matches are against New York and Philadelphia, direct competitors for a spot in the postseason and a better seed, and the other is Saturday against high-flying New England.

9. Portland Timbers (9-9-12)

Last ranking: 8

Last week’s results: 2-3 at Toronto

After going up 2-0 with two early goals, the Timbers capitulated in the second half to concede three goals, including Bradley’s 89th-minute winner, and dropped out of the playoff race again when the Whitecaps won later on Saturday. Spare a thought for captain Will Johnson, who broke his leg in a challenge just seconds after the match kicked off.

10. Philadelphia Union (9-10-11)

Last ranking: 9

Last week’s results: 0-1 at D.C.

The Union haven’t won in three games, making their playoff possibilities slimmer by the week. Philly is still just three points behind fifth-placed New York, but Toronto is even closer at two points ahead of the Union.

STRAUS: Coach Curtin "interim" in title only for Union

11. Houston Dynamo (10-13-6)

Last ranking: 12

Last week’s results: 2-0 vs. Chicago

Every year, despite any difficulties he faces, Dominic Kinnear seems to find a way to get Houston into the playoffs. That magic seems to have expired in 2014, and after team president Chris Canetti responded with “no comment” this week on whether Kinnear could leave the team at the end of the season, uncertainty is the new status quo for what has been a perennial playoff power.

12. Vancouver Whitecaps (9-8-13)

Last ranking: 13

Last week’s results: 2-1 vs. Salt Lake

After seeing his team going down a goal early in the second half, Pedro Morales scored twice after missing a penalty to claw back a vital home win over RSL. Vancouver’s forwards have scored just twice in the last 10 games (one from Erik Hurtado and one from Darren Mattocks), but Morales has three in that span from his midfield position.

13. Sporting Kansas City (13-11-6)

Last ranking: 11

Last week’s results: 2-3 vs. New England

Kansas City has won just twice in the last nine matches, which sees Sporting slip to third in the East. It would take a minor miracle at this point to miss out on the playoffs, but SKC’s late-season lack of momentum doesn’t bode well for another deep run toward winning the MLS Cup.

14. Toronto FC (11-11-7)

Last ranking: 14

Last week’s results: 3-2 vs. Portland

Greg Vanney’s team showed some life against the Timbers, battling back from an early 2-0 deficit to win. It’s the first time TFC has displayed that much character in a long time, spurred on by Bradley, who personifies resilience and never-ending fight.

15. Chicago Fire (5-8-16)

Last ranking: 15

Last week’s results: 0-2 at Houston

The Fire are in the midst of another four-game winless streak, its fourth stretch of four or more games without a win this season. Now 10 points behind the playoff places, Chicago is all but eliminated from the postseason, which would be just the second time in franchise history it hasn’t made the playoffs in two consecutive years.

16. San Jose Earthquakes (6-12-11)

Last ranking: 18

Last week’s results: 1-1 at Colorado

Even if San Jose doesn’t make the playoffs, it may still have a say in the rest of the playoff field. Saturday’s last-gasp equalizer from Atiba Harris effectively ended Colorado’s hopes, and the Earthquakes still have to play Portland twice, in upcoming back-to-back games, and Vancouver once.

17. Colorado Rapids (8-14-8)

Last ranking: 16

Last week’s results: 1-1 vs. San Jose

Conceding in stoppage time against San Jose pretty much killed off any remaining playoff hopes the Rapids had. A 1-0 win would have left them six points adrift with four games left, but the draw means they need help from several other teams to make up eight points in that time span.

18. Montreal Impact (6-18-6)

Last ranking: 17

Last week’s results: 0-2 at Columbus

It must be difficult to find inspiration in league play for the Impact, with Champions League going so well and a playoff spot well out of reach. With Chivas USA on a long losing streak, Montreal still has a chance to climb off the foot of the MLS overall table and not finish in last place after making the playoffs in 2013.

STRAUS: Chivas USA may go on hiatus after sale, amid rebranding

19. Chivas USA (6-18-6)

Last ranking: 19

Last week’s results: 2-4 at Seattle

The losing streak for the Goats is now at seven games, and the unbeaten run has stretched to 12. Mexico call-up Erick Torres finally scored again in a loss to the Sounders, his first since July 20 for the team, but he’s been the lone bright spot on a dour final year in the league for the Goats.

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