The Western Conference is regarded as the stronger, yet late-season surges by three Eastern Conference teams earned them spots in the top six slots.
he New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew
SC finished second and third in the Power Rankings. and the Montreal Impact chalked up enough victories to nudge into the top six.
1. FC DALLAS (18-10-6), 1. Down 1-0 at home to San Jose, FCD rallied through the efforts of Fabian Castillo, among others, to finish the season with a 2-1 victory and set a club record for wins. Castillo tore past Marvell Wynne to center a ball that Mauro Diaz turned into the equalizer, then played a return pass to Victor Ulloa that the young American midfielder drove home for the winner. A strong closing kick -- four wins and a tie in the last five games -- and formidable home record (13-2-2) are two reasons FCD should be might tough in the playoffs.
2. NEW YORK (18-10-6), 2. Goals by Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan punctuated a strong first half at Chicago, and the Red Bulls rode out a rather tepid second half to prevail, 2-1, and capture a second Supporters’ Shield in the past three seasons. Several excellent saves by Luis Robles were required to nail down a victory in which defender Matt Miazga returned to the lineup after representing the U.S. U-23s and sitting out because of a red card against Orlando City.
3. COLUMBUS (15-11-8), 3. The Crew posted its second straight shutout and rang up five goals -- two by Ethan Finlay -- in the absence of Federico Higuain and Kei Kamara while overpowering D.C. United. Sometime the stats mislead, but by controlling nearly 61 percent of possession Columbus showed it isn’t overly dependent on one or two players. By winning, it avoids the knockout round and starts the playoffs Sunday on the road, where it is 2-3-2 against playoff teams this season.
4. PORTLAND (15-11-8), 7. The Timbers rolled over the Rapids, 4-1, to win their third straight game and secure third place. Darlington Nagbe scored twice and single goals by Fanendo Adi and Jorge Villafana were more than enough even though Portland took just nine shots. Only a goal that deflected off defender Liam Ridgewell denied keeper Adam Kwarasey a shutout; he nonetheless tied for the league lead with 13.
5. SEATTLE (15-13-6), 6. Stuck in a rut of three straight ties, the Sounders jumped on top of RSL early and took away the suspense. Obafemi Martins set up one of Clint Dempsey’s two goals directly with a pass and also drilled a shot that produced a rebound Dempsey converted. Seattle finished the season unbeaten in eight games (4-0-4) in front of a huge crowd 55,435); how many show up Wednesday for a knockout game against the Galaxy is a good measure of just how deeply rooted in the city is this team.
6. MONTREAL (15-13-6), 8. Add Montreal to your list of strong finishers. The Impact rallied to beat Toronto FC on a pair of devious goals by Didier Drogba, who upped his MLS take to 11 goals in 11 games. Ignacio Piatti highlighted another good game by assisting on Drogba’s winner. With three straight victories and six in the last eight games, Montreal has generated enough momentum to pose a serious postseason threat; it has also sold out five of the last six home games and should draw a raucous house for the playoff rematch with TFC on Thursday.
7. TORONTO FC (15-15-4), 4. TFC stumbled to its second straight loss, 2-1, at Montreal after taking an early lead when Sebastian Giovinco’s cross was headed home by Jozy Altidore. Giovinco also threatened with a point-blank shot that was saved yet still finished as co-league leader with 22 goals and top assist man with 16. TFC scored 58 goals -- only the Red Bulls tallied more -- but also conceded 58, the highest number of any playoff team.
8. LA GALAXY (14-11-9), 5. Several Galaxy players seemed to have gone flat at the worse possible time. Gyasi Zardes, Sebastian Lletget, Steven Gerrard and Juninho were all off-form in a 2-1 loss at Sporting Kansas City that was LA’s fourth defeat in the last seven games. Robbie Keane’s immaculate dink earned him his 20th goal of the season. The weak finish forces the Galaxy into a knockout game against Seattle, which fell to L.A. in last year’s playoffs on the away goals rule.
9. VANCOUVER (16-13-5), 9. The ‘Caps shook off a five-game winless hangover to down Houston, 3-0. Kekuta Manneh broke a 0-0 deadlock near the hour mark with a nice strike from distance and goals by Kendall Waston and Robert Earnshaw gave Vancouver its first three-goal game in two and a half months. With the shutout, Vancouver ended the season tied with Seattle for the fewest goals allowed (36).
10. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (14-11-9), 10. With no more margin for error after failing to clinch several times, including a 2-0 home loss to Colorado on Wednesday, SKC got it done against the Galaxy. Benny Feilhaber came off the bench for the second half and slalomed through several players to set up Dom Dwyer’s winner. A late-season skid yielded sixth place and a road trip to Portland; even a strong playoff run won’t answer all the questions that cropped up in 2015.
11. NEW ENGLAND (14-12-8), 12. Here’s another team that didn’t seem to live up to its talent and experience, but the Revs did take control early to overpower NYCFC, 3-1. Lee Nguyen scored his seventh goal in the second minute to get the Revs rolling. Charlie Davies and Kelyn Rowe also tallied. In failing to win any of its previous four games, it fell twice to Montreal, and that head-to-head hiccup is why the Impact his hosting a knockout game, and the Revs are heading to RFK despite a margin of just one point.
12. SAN JOSE (13-13-8), 11. The Quakes were desperately close to the playoffs after taking a 1-0 lead on FCD when Quincy Amarikwa banged through a pair of challenges to drive home a low shot -- his sixth of the season -- but lost playmaker Matias Perez Garcia to a red card in the 67th minute and surrendered the winner 10 minutes later.
13. D.C UNITED (15-13-6), 13. The only solace for United fans from a 5-0 shellacking in Columbus is that D.C. can’t play any worse. At least it gets its knockout game at home but drastic improvement is essential to revive a team that hasn’t beaten a playoff qualifier since early August -- and that was Montreal without Drogba. Six losses in the last nine games? Not good.
14. ORLANDO CITY SC (12-14-8), 14. The Lions’ faint hopes vanished early when they fell behind in Philly and New England jumped on top in its game, but the five-game winning streak that preceded the finale and consistently solid crowds bodes well for the future. Cyle Larin, assuming the team can keep him, is poised for a prolific stay in Florida. There are a few weak spots that need shoring up.
15. REAL SALT LAKE (11-15-8), 15. A dismal finish -- four losses in the last five games -- on top of management and roster changes casts uncertainty on the future. Does head coach Jeff Cassar have a plan that will appeal to owner Dell Loy Hansen? Does the exodus of older players continue and which younger ones should be retained? Has Luis Gil run out of opportunities in Utah?
16. PHILADELPHIA (10-17-7), 17. Sebastien Le Toux’s penalty kick and Andre Blake’s second shutout downed the Lions as Philly reached double digits in victories for the third time since joining MLS. Former U.S. international Earnie Stewart has been hired as sporting director, so the holidays will be nervous times for many individuals.
17. HOUSTON (11-14-9), 16. The first MLS season for head coach Owen Coyle ended without a playoff appearance and only sporadically in a 3-0 defeat at Vancouver did the Dynamo generate much energy. There’s age showing on this roster and addressing that issue is one of several crucial offseason topics.
18. NEW YORK CITY FC (10-17-7), 18. Well, the fans showed up even if the players didn’t; the season finale at Yankee Stadium yielded a crowd of 34,150 and a stoppage-time penalty kick by David Villa that averted a shutout. NYCFC tied for the most goals conceded (58) and was the only Eastern Conference team to finish under .500 (6-7-4) at home.
19. COLORADO (9-15-10), 19. A 4-1 loss in Portland closed down the season four days after Colorado’s counterattack produced goals from Dillon Serna and Marcelo Sarvas that temporarily crimped SKC’s playoff fate. Colorado lost seven of its last nine and hasn’t made the playoffs in three of the last five years since winning the title in 2010. Where does it go from here?
20. CHICAGO (8-20-6), 20. Not many teams have finished a season as badly; the Fire lost seven of its last eight games and fell 19 points short of a playoff spot. Gilberto’s goal gave him five in 10 appearances since joining the team in late August and four in the last five games. He did a pretty good job, which can’t be said about a lot of players over the course of 34 games that produced 20 defeats. Job one is a coaching hire.