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Kansas City surges toward playoffs
by Ridge Mahoney, August 18th, 2011 1:43AM
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[MLS PLAYOFF WATCH] Sporting Kansas City was the big winner of the four MLS teams that played league matches Wednesday. By beating Portland, 3-1, SKC jumped into third place in the Eastern Conference ahead of Houston, which scored late to salvage a 1-1 tie at New England.

Current and former Dynamo defenders took center stage as the Revs and Houston played a 1-1 tie Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium that hurt New England’s playoff hopes a lot more than it helped the visitor’s.

There was nothing ambiguous about Sporting Kansas City’s performance against Portland at Livestrong Sporting Park. By thrashing the Timbers, 3-1, SKC jumped past Houston in the standings and into third place in the Eastern Conference, a spot that guarantees a place in the eight-team, home-and-home playoff round.

Ex-Dynamo backliner Ryan Cochrane scored to give the Revs a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute, but their failure to follow up this early good fortune with a second goal cost them critically. Counterpart and former teammate Bobby Boswell knocked home a rebound in the 90th minute to secure a 1-1 tie and all but snuff out New England’s dimming postseason prospects.

Substitute Carlo Costly, making just his second MLS appearance, headed down Brad Davis' corner kick and though Reis pushed the ball out, Boswell got enough of the rebound to prod it home.

Aside from a goalmouth clearance by defender Kevin Alston, Reis did the most to bolster his team’s early lead. Solid saves on Je-Vaughn Watson and Adam Moffat thwarted one Houston attacking sequence, and he denied Geoff Cameron early in the second half to preserve the 1-0 lead. But a desperately needed win escaped the Revs’ grasp when Boswell struck.

Houston’s point did move it ahead of New York in the standings. Houston sits fourth, yet fell out of the top three when SKC thumped Portland, 3-1, after building a 3-0 lead when Graham Zusi scored twice 15 minutes apart in the first half and rookie Soony Saad blocked a clearance over keeper Troy Perkins and into the net with 18 minutes to play.

Portland’s bid to reach the playoffs in its expansion season took another hit with the defeat. Bright Dike scored his first MLS goal in the 81st minute, but the Timbers’ road mark fell to 1-8-3 and they are eight points out of the playoff places.

After Wednesday’s league matches, the playoff chase looks like this:


WESTERN CONFERENCE (top three qualify automatically)
W1. Los Angeles (13-3-9) 48 pts.; W2. FC Dallas (12-6-7) 43 pts.; W3. Seattle (11-5-9) 42 pts.

EASTERN CONFERENCE (top three qualify automatically)
E1. Columbus (10-7-7) 37 pts.; E2. Philadelphia (8-5-10) 34 pts.; E3. Sporting Kansas City (8-7-9) 33 pts.

WILD CARDS (top four ranked by points)
7. Colorado (10-6-10) 40 pts.; 8. Real Salt Lake (10-6-6) 36pts.; 9. Houston (7-7-11) 32 pts.; 10. New York (6-6-13) 31 pts.

ON THE BUBBLE:
T11. D.C. United (7-6-9) 30 pts; T11. Chivas USA (7-8-9) 30 pts; 13. Portland (7-12-5) 26 pts.; 14. San Jose (5-9-10) 25 pts.

OUT OF THE PICTURE.
15. Toronto FC (4-11-11), 23 pts; 16. New England (4-11-10), 22 pts.; 17. Chicago (2-7-14), 20 pts.; 18. Vancouver (3-12-9), 18 pts.

***

Aug. 17 GAMES
New England 1, Houston 1.
Goals: Cochrane 4; Boswell 91+.
New England -- Reis, Alston, Barnes, Cochrane (Phelan, 76), Soares, Boggs, Joseph, Feilhaber, Tierney (Schilawski, 62), Mansally, Caraglio (McCarthy, 79).
Houston -- Hall, Freeman (Carr, 80), Boswell, Hainault, Taylor, Watson (Dixon, 62), Moffat, Cameron, Davis, Ching (Costly, 71), Weaver.
Referee: Michael Kennedy.
Att: 10,963.

Aug. 17
Sporting Kansas City 3, Portland 1.
Goals: Zusi 25, 40, Saad 72; Dike (Wallace, Jewsbury) 81.
SKC -- Nielsen, Myers, Besler, Julio Cesar, Sinovic (Harrington 75), Kamara, Zusi, Stojcev (Saad, 63), Espinoza, Sapong, Bunbury (Aiyegbusi, 89).
Portland -- Perkins, Chabala, Brunner, Horst, Wallace, Zizzo (Alhassan, 46), Jewsbury, Chara, Nagbe (Umony, 60), Cooper (Dike, 66), Perlaza.
Referee: Elias Bazakos.
Att:
15,271.



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