Saturday surprises jumble Eastern Conference playoff look

[MLS: Saturday] Perhaps Houston’s contentious and surprising win in Kansas City Friday carried over to Saturday’s action. Three other Eastern Conference teams struggling to make the playoffs -- New England, Chicago, and Montreal -- all pulled off victories. In the Western Conference, the Portland Timbers, seventh when the day began, jumped into the top five with a 3-0 win at Vancouver.

Montreal 2 Columbus 0.
Chicago 1 FC Dallas 0.
Toronto FC 0 New England 3.
Seattle 1 Colorado 0.
San Jose 1 Real Salt Lake 1.
Vancouver 0 Portland 3.

So tight is the scrap behind D.C. United and Sporting KC in the top two Eastern Conference spots that three teams are tied for third place with 33 points, yet all could be passed by New York if the Red Bulls beat D.C. United Sunday. And only five points separate seven teams bidding for the final three playoff spots.

In the other conference, the Timbers are now a point ahead of Vancouver, while Supporters’ Shield leader Seattle added to its lead -- and to Colorado’s misery -- by posting a 1-0 victory that extended Colorado’s losing streak to six games.

REVS ROMP. Head coach Jay Heaps said USA midfielder Jermaine Jones has been an inspiration since he first stepped on the training field with the Revs. That sounds like classic coachspeak, yet in their game at Toronto, New England dominated and led, 3-0, before Jones got on the field.

Lee Nguyen took the game to Toronto, exploiting some slack midfield play to score a goal and help set up two others. Nguyen stunned the BMO Field crowd by scoring his team-high 10th goal of the season in the second minute after a bad ball from Mark Bloom, and Nguyen’s pass to Kelyn Rowe led to a spectacular blast from nearly 30 yards that doubled the lead.

TFC’s increasing offensive pressure left it wide open at the back, and when a through ball from Nguyen sent Charlie Davies free down the left side, nobody was there to mark Teal Bunbury on the right. He tapped into an open net. Jones entered the match shortly thereafter and played 25 minutes to close out a vital victory that pushed the Revs into that three-team logjam in third.

FIRED UP. Former TFC forward Robert Earnshaw didn’t generate Piatti-sized headlines when he signed with Chicago, but his impact -- pun intended -- has been significant. His second goal in as many games earned Chicago a 1-0 victory that snapped FCD’s unbeaten streak at 10 games.

The teams were locked at 0-0 until the 83rd minute when captain Jeff Larentowicz swerved an inswinging cross from the left flank that Earnshaw met with a well-timed leap and precise header that cleanly beat keeper Raul Fernandez. Earnshaw, who had come on as a sub in the 63rd minute, squandered a pair of good chances late in the match -- including a one-on-one attempt he skied over the crossbar -- but Chicago’s tamped down the high-powered FCD attack to register its sixth shutout.

SOLID IMPACT. The signing of Ignacio Piatti by Montreal earlier this month was welcomed by fans but a sense of “too late” overshadowed the acquisition. Yet all he and the last-place Impact can do at this point is take one game at a time, and boosted by a pair of goals by the Argentine DP, Montreal got all three points for just the fifth time in 25 games.

Stationed on the left side of midfield in his second MLS start, Piatti put all of his four shots on goal. He opened the scoring in the 40th minute by running onto a ball from Felipe Martins and shooting inside the far post. The goal signaled a turn in game’s momentum, as the Crew had applied early pressure but were eventually pushed back. Piatti scored 10 minutes after being denied by keeper Steve Clark.

Columbus came out aggressively for the second half but Impact keeper Evan Bush, whose sharp play has moved Troy Perkins to the backup role, saved from Federico Higuain and substitute Aaron Schoenfeld. Bush finished with five saves and when Piatti struck again in the fifth minute of stoppage time Montreal had won for the second time in the last three games.

RUEFUL RAPIDS. A masterful Clint Dempsey volley from Marco Pappa’s corner kick was enough for Seattle to beat the Rapids, 1-0, and extend their losing streak to six games.

Colorado keeper Joe Nasco -- the former Georgia police officer making his MLS debut at the age of 30 -- rose to the occasion by stoning the Sounders several times, but he had no chance when Dempsey escaped the marking of Marc Burch to hook a shot from 12 yards into the top corner. The USA international leads Seattle with 11 goals and the first-place Sounders opened up a five-point lead over the Galaxy, which plays its derby rival Chivas USA Sunday night, and Real Salt Lake, which could only manage a 1-1 tie at San Jose.

TIMBERS REFRESHED. After watching his team get embarrassed at home by Seattle, 4-2, a week ago, the Timbers coach Caleb Porter made five lineups changes for another Cascadia Cup clash, and they paid off as Jamaican Alvas Powell and Costa Rican Alvas Powell both scored. Maximiliano Urruti came off the bench to add the third goal as the Timbers broke open the scoreless deadlock at the half with three second-half goals.

The 'Caps, who have one win in their last eight games, still have a game in hand on the Timbers, but they will have do better than did Saturday night at B.C. Place, where their attack sputtered all night.

-- Javier Morales, back in the lineup after sitting out two games with a hip injury, countered a penalty kick to cancel out Sam Cronin's early goal and give Real Salt Lake a share of the points at San Jose. The Quakes have 10 games to play -- the most of any team -- but they trail Portland and Vancouver by seven points and Colorado by five in the battle for the fifth playoff spot.

MLS WEEK 25: Results:
Saturday, August 30
Montreal 2 Columbus 0.
MTL: Ignacio Piatti (Felipe Martins) 40
MTL: Ignacio Piatti 90+5
Att.: 15,995.

Chicago 1 FC Dallas 0.
CHI: Robert Earnshaw (Jeff Larentowicz) 83
Att.: 16,824.

Toronto FC 0 New England 3.
NE: Lee Nguyen 2
NE: Kelyn Rowe (Lee Nguyen) 21
NE: Teal Bunbury (Charlie Davies, Lee Nguyen) 58
Att.: 22,591.

Seattle 1 Colorado 0.
SEA: Clint Dempsey (Marco Pappa) 52
Att.: 38,934.

San Jose 1 Real Salt Lake 1.
SJ: Sam Cronin (Chris Wondolowski) 14
RSL: Javier Morales (pen.) 35
Att.: 10,525.

Vancouver 0 Portland 3.
POR: Alvas Powell (Diego Valeri), 51
POR: Maximiliano Urruti (Michael Harrington) 75
POR: Rodney Wallace (Darlington Nagbe) 79
Att.: 21,000.

Friday, August 29
Sporting KC 1 Houston 3.
HOU: Will Bruin 35
SKC: Dom Dwyer (Benny Feilhaber) 54
HOU: David Horst (Brad Davis) 62
HOU: Ricardo Clark (Brad Davis) 67
Att.: 20,332.

Wednesday, August 27
LA Galaxy 4 D.C. United 1.
LA: Alan Gordon 2
LA: Omar Gonzalez (Landon Donovan) 24
LA: Baggio Husidic (A.J. DeLaGarza, Landon Donovan) 45+1
DC: own goal 58
LA: Landon Donovan pen. 75
Att.: 16,044.

MLS WEEK 25: Schedule:
Sunday, August 31
2:30 p.m. ET
D.C. United vs. New York, NBCSN
8 p.m. ET
Chivas USA vs. LA Galaxy, UDN

MLS Standings:



43 D.C. United 13-8-4 40/30
42 Sporting KC
12-8-6 37/29
33 New England 10-12-3 34/36
33 Toronto FC 9-9-6 35/39
33 Columbus
8-9-9 35/34
31 New York 7-7-10 39/36
30 Philadelphia 7-9-9 40/41
29 Chicago
5-6-14 32/37
28 Houston 8-13-4 28/46
20 Montreal 5-15-5 27/45

48 Seattle 15-7-3 44/33
43 LA Galaxy 12-5-7 45/27
43 Real Salt Lake 11-5-10 40/31
42 FC Dallas 12-8-6 45/34
34 Portland 8-8-10 44/43
33 Vancouver 7-6-12 33/34
30 Colorado 8-12-6 37/40
26 San Jose 6-10-8 29/33
24 Chivas USA 6-12-6 21/37
MLS: Leading Scorers
20 Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York
17 Dom Dwyer, Sporting KC
14 Erick Torres, Chivas USA
13 Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy
11 Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC
11 Clint Dempsey, Seattle
11 Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia
11 Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake
10 Will Bruin, Houston
10 Obafemi Martins, Seattle
10 Lee Nguyen, New England
10 Gyasi Zardes, LA Galaxy
10 Chris Wondolowski, San Jos



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