MLS playoff hunt: Teams looking for domino effect

Though all didn't play to big rivalry games, four MLS teams won matches on Saturday that greatly improved their chances of making the expanded playoffs.

Eastern Conference. The most important win came in Toronto, where Toronto FC, bidding to return to the playoffs after missing out in 2018, came from behind to beat Montreal, 2-1, in Wilmer Cabrera's debut as Impact head coach.

The win on second-half goals by veterans Marky Delgado and Justin Morrow moved the Reds back to .500 with a 10-10-7 record but more important edged them past Montreal and Orlando City (which lost to Atlanta United, 1-0, at home on Friday night) into seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They not only have a three-point advantage but a game in hand.

Saturday, August 24
NYCFC 2 NY Red Bulls 1. (Moralez pen. 43, Heber 53; Muyl 10. Att.: 28,895.)
New England 2 Chicago 1. (Zahibo 17, Bou 86; Calvo 41. Att.: 16,236.)
Philadelphia 3 D.C. United 1. (Przybylko 5, Aaronson 16, Ilsinho 36; Acosta 56. Att.: 18,781.)
Toronto FC 2 Montreal 1. (Delgado 63, Morrow 81; Bojan 49. Att.: 28,989.)

Head coach Greg Vanney hopes the win will give TFC some momentum. It started the season with three straight wins and a 4-1-1 record in its first six games, but it has won as many as two straight games only once since then.

"You hope tonight was one of those domino games," Vanney said. "You get the group together, you get some energy in the group, and you build from it. You get into the playoffs by getting the results. Now we sort have tipped that momentum — domino over — and we start to really go for it."

The game marked the first time summer acquisitions Erickson Gallardo (in his MLS debut) and Nicolas Benezet started on the wings in TFC's 4-3-3 formation.

Another mid-season signing won the New England-Chicago game late. Argentine Gustavo Bou scored his fifth goal in seven games for the Revs in the 86th minute to give them a 2-1 win. New England remained in sixth place but with a four-point cushion in the race for the final two playoff spots.

For the Fire, the defeat could be a crushing blow. It dropped four points below the red line but with two extra games played.

Eastern Conference:
1. Atlanta United, 48 points (27)
2. Philadelphia, 48 points (28)
3. NYCFC, 47 points (26)
4. NY Red Bulls, 41 points (28)
5. D.C. United, 39 points (29)
6. New England, 38 points (27)
7. (+2) Toronto FC, 37 points (27)
8. (-1) Montreal, 34 points (28)
9. (-1) Orlando City, 34 points (28)
10. Chicago, 33 points (29)
11. Columbus, 27 points (28)
12. FC Cincinnati, 18 points (26)
Note: In parentheses are games played.

Western Conference. The playoff picture is a little more straightforward, and form held.

Saturday, August 24
Real Salt Lake 2 Colorado 0. (Plata pen. 90+6, Savarino 90+9. Att.: 20,384.)
San Jose 3 Vancouver 1. (Judson 7, Wondolowski 34, Rios 73; Nerwinski 6. Att.: 17,458.)

Real Salt Lake won its fourth-straight Rocky Mountain Cup, saving it late to dispose of Colorado, 2-0, with goals by Joao Plata and Jefferson Savarino deep in stoppage time.

San Jose broke MLS records with 43 shots and 19 shots on goal in its 3-1 win over last-place Vancouver. Whitecaps keeper Maxime Crepeau broke Tony Meola's MLS record of 15 saves with the MetroStars in 1997 by stopping 16 shots.

The victories assured RSL and the Quakes of finishing the weekend with six- and four-point cushions in the playoff race.

Western Conference:
1. *LAFC, 61 points (26)
2. (+3) Real Salt Lake, 43 points (27)
3. (-1) Seattle, 43 points (27)
4. (-1) Minnesota United, 42 points (27)
5. (-1) LA Galaxy 41 points (26)
6. San Jose, 41 points (27)
7. Portland, 37 points (26)
8. FC Dallas, 37 points (27)
9. Sporting KC, 34 points (27)
10. Houston, 31 points (26)
11. Colorado, 27 points (27)
12. Vancouver, 27 points (28)
Note: In parentheses are games played.
*Clinched playoff berth.

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