By Ridge Mahoney
Chicago and Dallas are officially in the postseason (joining D.C. United, so far) and Los Angeles is on the brink of elimination at the hands of its local rival, which moved all the way up to second place in the Western Conference by doing what the Gals haven't been able to do since Sept. 2: win a "must-win" game.
Francisco Mendoza, 21, who had been the target of two Mexican clubs last season, juked through the Colorado backline and scored his third goal of 2006 as Chivas USA downed Colorado, 1-0, to leap over the Rapids and Dynamo into second place with 42 points.
Los Angeles fell, 2-1, in Chicago to the Fire; the loss, coupled with a 2-1 loss to Houston and 0-0 tie with Colorado in its last two games -- both at home -- gives Los Angeles one point in its last three crucial matches. Landon Donovanraced through the middle to score the goal that matched Chris Rolfe's sixth of the season just 38 seconds into the match, but Tyrone Marshall fouled Andy Herron with six minutes left and Herron himself put away the PK for the winning goal.
L.A. is six points behind fourth-place Colorado with three games to play. Even if it beats Chivas USA Saturday it needs lots of points from its final two games, home and away against Dallas, to prevent missing the playoffs for the first time in club history.
Dallas nailed down its own playoff spot and seriously dented Salt Lake's hopes with a 2-1 win. Goalscorers supreme Carlos Ruiz, Kenny Cooper and league leader Jeff Cunningham (his 16th) all hit the net. Salt Lake trails fourth-place Colorado by three points.
The New York Red Bulls kept rallying against D.C. but could only catch up once, at 1-1, and fell at RFK, 4-3. New England's 1-1 tie with Kansas City (goals by Clint Dempsey and Scott Sealy) left the Wizards in fourth place and only two points up on Red Bull.
Dwayne DeRosarioand Jason Garey traded second-half goals as Houston tied the Crew, 1-1, in Columbus. The last-place Crew must sweep its final three games to have any chance of catching Kansas City, which it trails by seven; the third-place Dynamo still needs two more points to clinch.
MLS, WEEK 26 RESULTS
Columbus 1 Houston 1
D.C. United 4 New York 3
New England 1 Kansas City 1
FC Dallas 2 Real Salt Lake 1
Chicago 2 Los Angeles 1
Chivas USA 1 Colorado 0
(Click here for scorers, lineups, cards, & attendance.)