Galaxy keeps playoff hopes alive; FC Dallas clinches

L.A. WINS FOURTH STRAIGHT. Blame for the Galaxy's scoring woes this season has been heaped upon many players, yet scalding is the word to describe some critiques of forwards Carlos Pavon and Gavin Glinton.

Coach Frank Yallop has stuck with both of them, and both of them scored Sunday as the Galaxy rallied to win its fourth straight game, 2-1, against Houston and remain six points back of eighth-place Chicago.

The Dynamo defense fell asleep in first-half stoppage time, when Landon Donovan collected a throw-in and pushed a ball Pavon slammed past Houston keeper Pat Onstad.

In the 77th minute, Cobi Jones headed back a Donovan corner kick and Glinton, who replaced Kyle Martino at halftime, nicked the ball into the net just before it went out of play.

Houston (14-8-6) had grabbed a 1-0 lead midway through the first half when Joseph Ngwenya's cross reached a wide-open Nate Jaqua at the far post and he tapped it into the net for his seventh goal of the season. Richard Mulrooney replaced the suspended Ricardo Clark in central midfield but the hungrier Galaxy players were usually first to knockdowns and second balls.

The Galaxy (8-13-6) managed to contain Jaqua, Ngwenya and Dwayne DeRosario for most of the match. Galaxy keeper Joe Cannon, a former teammate of several Houston players when they were in San Jose, needed to make just three saves.

By losing, Houston slipped three points behind conference leader Chivas USA, which has a game in hand. After failing to win on the road in 11 matches, the Galaxy has won three straight away games.

Added together, the goals scored this season by Glinton and Pavon would equal those of Jaqua, but more importantly, they added up to three points.

BANGING CHAD. Sometimes the goalposts giveth and sometimes they taketh away. The Fire is in a much better playoff position thanks in part to the latter.

Chris Rolfe and Chad Barrett scored to wipe out a 1-0 New England lead and two Revs shots rang off the frame in a 2-1 Fire (9-10-9) win that left it with a four-point cushion despite Colorado's victory.

Coach Juan Carlos Osorio, suspended after being ejected in last week's match against Chivas USA, watched from a Toyota Park luxury suite as assistant coach Denis Hamlett ran the show.

Cuauhtemoc Blanco drilled a free kick over the Revs wall but it skimmed off the top of the crossbar a few minutes after Revs' midfielder Jeff Larentowicz had fired high from 20 yards.

But with his next chance, resulting from a deflected Steve Ralston cross, Larentowicz belted a 25-yarder that Fire keeper Matt Pickens couldn't reach.

New England (14-7-7) blunted Chicago's thrusts but couldn't quite hold out long enough; in first-half stoppage time, Gonzalo Segares won the ball in midfield and sent Barrett down the left flank. He checked his dribble and played a pass along the ground that Rolfe stuck low just inside the post.

Barrett got the winning goal in the 60th minute after pushing a ball that Paulo Wanchope shot low and on frame. Keeper Matt Reis dived to save it but left the rebound on the doorstep for Barrett to slam into the net.

Then the woodwork took command. Ralston drilled a 30-yard drive that cleared Pickens but hit the bar, and Shalrie Joseph smashed a low shot that struck the upright.

COLORADO DREAMING. Just in time, the Rapids snapped out of their five-game winless funk to beat Toronto, 1-0, with a Jovan Kirovski penalty kick.

They have just two games to play and trail Chicago by four points, but they are still in the chase. Barely.

A crowd lured by playoff tension and an Oktoberfest celebration, but dampened by showers and 46-degree weather, saw plenty of suspense and drama.

Colorado (8-12-8) scored late in the first half while a man down, following Mehdi Ballouchy's straight red card in the 36th minute, and held out through the second half despite losing Pablo Mastroeni to a second caution in the final minutes.

TFC keeper Kenny Stamatopoulos saved from Kirovski and Conor Casey in the opening minutes, and a pair of raiding dribbles by Marvell Wynne produced a) a Mastroeni foul and his first caution, and b) a collision between Rapids goalie Bouna Coundoul and Toronto attacker Collin Samuel.

Ballouchy's studs-up tackle on Carl Robinson resulted in his red card but despite the disruption the Rapids earned a corner kick. Casey headed Terry Cooke's serve, it bounced to and fro, and just as Facundo Erpen wound up to strike, Chris Pozniak pulled him down. Kirovski went high to Stamatopoulos' right for his sixth goal (four penalties).

He nearly scored number seven in the 63rd minute from an Omar Cummings cross but Stamatopoulos denied him with a beauty of a kick save. TFC (6-16-6) pushed hard in the final minutes for an equalizer, and Coundoul thwarted good efforts by substitutes Miguel Canizalez and Tyler Hemmings.

CUNLIFFE COUP. When he drafted Englishman John Cunliffe out of Division II Ft. Lewis (Colo.) College last January, Chivas USA coach Preki downplayed comparisons between himself and the tricky, crafty product of the Manchester United and Blackburn systems.

In just his third start of the season and with Maykel Galindo suspended, Cunliffe scored his second and third goals to propel Chivas USA (15-6-6) past Real Salt Lake, 3-2, and atop the Western Conference.

Another 2007 addition, Laurent Merlin, assisted on Cunliffe's first goal. They were starting up top in place of Galindo and Ante Razov and though Chivas USA took only eight shots, the three goals and some excellent work by keeper Brad Guzan carried it to a sweep of three games against RSL this season and within two points of D.C. United for the overall points lead.

After Chris Brown equalized following great saves by Guzan on Fabian Espindola and Kyle Beckerman, Sacha Kljestan's through ball turned into his 11th assist of the season when Cunliffe shot low past Chris Seitz.

Paulo Nagamura nailed the winner four minutes later with a spectacular blast from nearly 35 yards out.

Though stunned, RSL (5-14-9) kept pressing and got a goal back in the 63rd minute on rookie Robbie Findley's back-post put-away of an Andy Williams cross. Substitute Yura Movsisyan also beat Guzan with a searing shot in the final minutes but it thudded against the crossbar.

CRUMBLING CREW. Playoff hopes in Columbus are scant following a 3-1 loss to Dallas that leaves it five points back of eighth-place Chicago.

FCD vaporized Eddie Gaven's goal and a 1-0 halftime lead with an Arturo Alvarez equalizer three minutes into the second half and two close-range Abe Thompson finishes in the final minutes.

Dallas keeper Ray Burse held off Columbus in the early going, saving superbly from Robbie Rogers and Andy Herron. Yet the Crew broke through in the 31st minute when Gaven's low shot as Herron raced through the middle escaped Burse and nestled inside the far post.

But as had happened last week against the Galaxy, Columbus couldn't hold the lead. Early in the second half Dominic Oduro raced down the right wing and held the ball long enough to lay it back to Alvarez, who bent a shot inside the post. Midway through the half Oduro ran onto a long ball and cut past charging keeper Will Hesmer but slid his shot wide.

Thompson put away his first goal in the 86th minute from an acute angle after Ricardinho's agility opened up space near the byline and Thompson nicked his low cross through Hesmer's lunge. A few minutes later the keeper couldn't smother a shot from Alvarez and Thompson knocked it in.

FC Dallas (13-11-4) clinched a playoff spot. Columbus (7-11-10) plays its final two games at New England and D.C. United and even winning both of them may not be enough to sneak into the playoff octet.

SEALY STRIKES. Despite missing suspended starters Jimmy Conrad and Davy Arnaud, Kansas City scraped out a point against D.C. United, 1-1, in its final home game of the season and failed to clinch a playoff spot. D.C. sat Jaime Moreno and Fred yet equaled Kansas City's output of 12 shots, five of which required saves by Kevin Hartman.

Scott Sealy scored for the Wizards (10-11-7) just before halftime but the lead disappeared early in the second half when Christian Gomez spun past defender Tyson Wahl - who was replacing Conrad - and shot low past Hartman.

Early D.C pressure required Hartman to block a fierce drive by Devon McTavish and close-range attempts by Gomez and Marc Burch. Sealy scored after Kerry Zavagnin played a ball wide for Eddie Johnson, and the U.S. forward laid it into Sealy's path for his fifth goal of the season.

Sealy nearly won the game for Kansas City with a late strike, but D.C. keeper Troy Perkins charged out to block his shot in the 78th minute and Perkins' teammates thwarted Sealy's efforts to put home the rebound. Sealy shot wide a few minutes later with Kansas City's final real chance at victory.

D.C. (16-6-6) holds a five-point lead over New England atop the Eastern Conference and leads Chivas USA by three points for the best overall record. Kansas City has won only one of its last seven games and plays at New York and Dallas to close the season.

Oct. 5 in Kansas City
Kansas City 1 D.C. United 1.
Goals: Sealy (Johnson, Zavagnin) 44; Gomez (Burch) 56.
Kansas City - Hartman, Jewsbury, Garcia, Wahl, Harrington, Morsink, Marinelli (Pore, 71), Zavagnin, Burciaga Jr. (Colombano, 66), Johnson, Sealy.
D.C. United - Perkins, Namoff, Boswell, Burch, Vanney, Olsen (Moreno, 73), McTavish, Simms (Mediate, 61), Carroll, Gomez (Dyachenko, 80), Emilio.
Yellow Cards: Kansas City - Zavagnin 53, Marinelli 68, Morsink 76; D.C. United - Boswell 63, Carroll 90.
Referee: Jair Marrufo.
Att.: 14,353.

Oct. 6 in Columbus
Columbus 1 FC Dallas 3.
Goals: Gaven (Moreno) 31; Alvarez (Oduro) 48, Thompson (Ricardinho) 86, Thompson 89.
Columbus - Hesmer, Hejduk, Gonzalez, Hendrickson, Ward, Miglioranzi, Rogers (Thomas, 84), Oughton (Schelotto, 83), Gaven, Herron (Kamara, 63), Moreno.
FC Dallas - Burse, Moor, Goodson (Rhine, 58), Pitchkolan, Wagenfuhr, Denilson (McCarty, 80), Serioux, Toja, Alvarez, Thompson, Oduro (Ricardinho, 70).
Yellow Cards: Columbus - Hendrickson 71; FC Dallas - Denilson 40, Pitchkolan 61.
Referee: Mark Geiger.
Att.: 19,517.

Oct. 6 in Bridgeview, Ill.
Chicago 2 New England 1.
Goals: Rolfe (Barrett, Gutierrez) 46+; Barrett 60; Larentowicz 24.
Chicago - Pickens, Robinson, Brown, Conde, Gutierrez, Segares, Rolfe (Carr, 87), Armas, Blanco, Barrett (Soumare, 66), Wanchope.
New England - Reis, Heaps, Ralston, Parkhurst, Riley, Thompson (Dorman, 74), Joseph, Larentowicz, Smith, Noonan (Mansally, 76), Twellman.
Yellow Cards: Chicago - Wanchope 57, Soumare 83;?New England - Twellman 34, Mansally 89.
Referee: Baldomero Toledo.
Att.: 20,014.

Oct. 6 in Salt Lake City
Real Salt Lake 2 Chivas USA 3.
Goals: Brown (Lancos) 52, Findley (Williams, Beckerman) 63; Cunliffe (Merlin) 22, Cunliffe (Kljestan) 54, Nagamura 58.
Real Salt Lake - Seitz, Lancos, Kotschau, Mantilla, Forko (Wingert, 68), Beckerman, Talley, Williams, Findley, Brown (Harris, 77), Espindola (Movsisyan, 61).
Chivas USA - Guzan, Zotinca (Perez, 82), Suarez, Thomas, Bornstein, Kljestan, Marsch, Nagamura, Mendoza, Merlin (Hernandez, 84), Cunliffe (Nunez, 70).
Yellow Cards: Chivas USA - Zotinca 9, Marsch 41.
Referee: Ricardo Salazar.
Att.: 12,111.

Oct. 7 in Houston
Houston 1 Los Angeles 2.
Goals: Jaqua (Ngwenya, Waibel) 21; Pavon (Donovan) 46+, Glinton (Jones, Donovan) 77.
Houston - Onstad, Waibel (Davis, 79), Cochrane, Robinson, Barrett, Jaqua, De Rosario, Mulrooney, Ashe (Holden, 61), Ngwenya (Wondolowski, 87).
Los Angeles - Cannon, Klein, Harden (Randolph, 26), Roberts, Jazic, Jones, Tudela, Vagenas (Harmse, 71), Martino (Glinton, 46), Donovan, Pavon.
Yellow Cards: Houston - Jaqua 59; Los Angeles - Tudela 84, Cannon 91+.
Referee: Abiodun Okulaja.
Att.: 30,588.

Oct. 7 in Commerce City, Colo.
Colorado 1 Toronto FC 0.
Goal: Kirovski pen. 44.
Colorado - Coundoul, Kimura, Erpen, Petke, Prideaux, Cooke, Ballouchy, Mastroeni, Clark, Casey (Cummings 57; Keel, 92+), Kirovski.
Toronto FC - Stamatopoulos, Braz (Hemming, 46), Marshall, Dunivant, Pozniak (Melo, 63), Edu, Robinson, Wynne, Gala (Canizalez, 46), Cunningham, Samuel.
Yellow Cards: Colorado - Mastroeni 17; Toronto FC - Braz 27, Robinson 85.
Red Cards: Colorado - Ballouchy 36, Mastroeni 88.
Referee: Kevin Stott.
Att.: 10,832.

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