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  • Four important results from around the league, all of them draws, could go a long way toward clarifying the playoff picture as the final few games of the season approach
By Alexander Abnos
September 19, 2016

In the immortal words of Jack Edwards: That’s why he’s here. The Galaxy coaxed Landon Donovan out of retirement for the explicit purpose of making big plays, and that’s exactly what Donovan did in the penultimate game of MLS' Week 28. Donovan's late strike gave the Galaxy a 2–2 draw at Sporting Kansas City, a result that keeps the Galaxy in the second spot out West—an especially important position to solidify, considering that the conference's top two seeds get a bye from the one-and-done knockout games that kick off the MLS Cup Playoffs. 

That wasn't the only draw that could have big playoff implications around the league. From the beginning to end, Week 28 in MLS featured multi-goal ties that could have a lasting impact on all sections of the league's playoff standings. 

The league's Week 28 slate started off with one such draw, as D.C. United battled back to force a 2–2 draw at the Chicago Fire in the league's Friday matchup. Both of D.C.'s goals came in bizarre circumstances, with Rob Vincent's strike happening thanks to the all-too-rare indirect free kick in the penalty box: 

Bobby Boswell later capped off a frantic move to score the tying goal in stoppage time, the second week in a row D.C. has come back from two goals down to earn a point away from home. Those two points may not seem like much, but in the ultra-tight Eastern Conference, they could turn out to be huge. D.C. United is now just two points out of a playoff spot, with a game in hand on the teams ahead of them. As for Chicago, whatever mini-run they may have made towards the playoffs is now over; it's time for coach Veljko Paunovic to start looking at which pieces of the Fire puzzle will be worth keeping around next year (if he hasn't already started doing that).    

The trend of important draws continued on Saturday in what should have been the league's marquee match of the week, with NYCFC hosting league-leading (and U.S. Open Cup champion) FC Dallas. But while Chicago will be disappointed it allowed a late game-tying goal, FC Dallas should come away feeling OK about a 2-2 draw in which Khriy Shelton scored a 78th-minute equalizer. The lost points could hurt in the race for the Supporters' Shield, but the tie is still enough to secure a spot in the playoffs for FC Dallas. 

Planet Futbol
Watch: Landon Donovan scores first goal since return from retirement

For NYCFC, the result leaves them in a dogfight with local rivals New York Red Bulls for second place in the East. One could argue that the rest and recovery that comes with a first-round playoff bye will mean even more to NYCFC, which relies on multiple veterans for the spine of their team (David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, the now-injured Frank Lampard, and goalkeeper Josh Saunders).

Week 28 wrapped up on Sunday with, you guessed it, another important draw, this time a 3–3 thriller between Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls. The draw gave the squad sole possession of first place in the East (with a game in hand on those below them). The playoffs don't start for a little over a month, but it's already clear that the road through the East goes through Toronto. 

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls will mourn their second consecutive draw that should have been a win. Jesse Marsch's side blew a 3–1 lead in this game, now making it a league-worst 18 points lost from leading positions this season (h/t to Matthew Doyle for the stat). 

Offensive player of the week: Kelyn Rowe, New England Revolution

In a Power Rankings edition that saw no movement in the top six, the Revolution are by far the biggest risers. Jay Heaps' team has now won three in a row against difficult competition, and the dynamic play of Rowe has been a big reason why. At his best, Rowe can be one of the league's top playmakers, equally adept at setting up teammates, providing important linking play, and finishing with aplomb. Rowe (and, in fact, the majority of the Revs) hasn't been up to form for most of 2016, but he was on fire this week, scoring twice and providing an assist in the Revs' win at Montreal. If Rowe keeps this up, there's reason to believe New England could complete a miracle run to the playoffs after an otherwise disappointing season. 

Defensive player of the week: Jake Gleeson, Portland Timbers

The Timbers' 2–1 win over Philadelphia may be remembered for Darren Mattocks' great performance on the offensive end, but it shouldn't be forgotten that Gleeson stood on his head at a few different points early in in this game to to set the table for Mattocks' impact. That includes this very nice kicksave, made not moments after taking a foot to the face while batting away a Fabian Herbers breakaway: 

Gleeson has been nothing short of fantastic since taking over the Timbers' starting role mid-season, and the defending champs stand a much, much greater chance of returning to the playoffs because of his play. 

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