COLUMBUS OH - SEPTEMBER 18: Frankie Hejduk #2 of the Columbus Crew blocks a kick by Steve Zakuani #11 of the Seattle Sounders as Brian Carroll #16 of the Columbus Crew defends on September 18 2010 at Crew Stadium in Columbus Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Major League Soccer, Weekend Review: Questions Cloud Columbus After Seattle Loss

Columbus still leads the East by three points, but coming off their second consecutive lop-sided loss, the Crew are surrounded by questions ahead of the season's final month.

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Major League Soccer, Weekend Review: Questions Cloud Columbus After Seattle Loss

After they lost 3-1 in Los Angeles last weekend, we took Columbus’s performance as evidence that the Crew had a relatively low ceiling. Against the elite of the league, they were lacking, though their week-in, week-out performance has kept them at the top of the league for the last three years. If one of the league’s more talented teams played near their potential, Columbus would have few answers.

That description may have given Columbus too much credit, as on Saturday against Seattle, the Crew had no answers. Blaise Nkufo scored his first three league goals, with Nathan Sturgis adding a penalty kick (the first converted in Sounders’ MLS history) to give Seattle a shock 4-0 win.

Beyond Nfuko's break-out performance, Columbus gave up goals when they were unable to deal with Steve Zakuni, Sanna Nyassi, and the other Sounders talents who emboldened the theories surrounding the Crew. If a team with the talent of Seattle, Los Angeles or Salt Lake approach their potential, does Columbus have a chance?

Unfortunately for Columbus, who lost to RSL in last year’s conference semifinals, they may have to face Seattle in the first round of the playoffs. Even if they luck into a San Jose match-up to open the postseason, they’ll get the Sounders in the U.S. Open Cup final. And even if they get silverware there, they will have to beat at least one of these talented teams come playoff time.

It’s unclear what Robert Warzycha can do to solve this problem. At some point, you just don’t have the talent; or, in this case, you don’t have the right type of talent. Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Chad Marshall have enough individual hardware to debunk most notions that they’re the problems, but when you see Frankie Hejduk and Danny O’Rourke get torn apart (and consider the lack of alternatives), the immediate future does not look bright for Columbus.

With consecutive losses, Columbus is only three points ahead of New York in the East.

Los Angeles, Real Salt Lake Stay Atop the West

The top of the Western Conference stays the same, though Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake went about their wins in different ways.

Los Angeles gave up the first goal to Andy Najar, giving D.C. United an early second half lead. Then United’s defense broke down, gifting a hard-working Landon Donovan an 81st minute equalizer. When the defense failed to deal with a cross from the right five minutes later, Donovan’s second goal sealed the Galaxy comeback. Had this game been played against another team, another defense, Los Angeles would only have a one point lead on RSL. Still, you have to play DC United sometime.

Real Salt Lake won by the same margin, beating Chicago 1-0 at Rio Tinto.  Wilman Conde’s 45th minute dismissal gifted Salt Lake a penalty kick, and although Alvaro Saborío’s conversion was the match’s only goal, Salt Lake dominated the match.

The only bright spot for the Fire continues to be rookie goalkeeper Sean Johnson, particularly effective in handling a number of hard shots from the likes of Andy Williams and Kyle Beckerman.

Toronto, Kansas City Keep Hope Alive

Can Dwayne De Rosario win MVP on a team that doesn’t make the playoffs? Steve Davis asks, but we all know the answer: not in this sports culture. Even after lifting the Reds to a 2-1 win over Dynamo on Saturday - blasting two indirect free kicks into the Houston net - Toronto’s place in the league hints De Rosario could be doing so much more. At least, that's the logic, even if that defies what we're seeing on the field.

Toronto’s second road win of the season gives TFC a playoff prayer. The Reds are now five points behind Seattle for eighth place, each club with five matches remaining.

Kansas City is one point back of Toronto after their 2-0 win at Chivas, but the Wizards have one notable advantage. Kansas City’s only played 23 matches, giving them two extra contests to reduce their six point gap from Seattle. At Home Depot Center on Sunday, Peter Vermes got second half goals from Kei Kamara (a goal of the year candidate) and Teal Bunbury to squelch any host Martín Vazquez held of guiding his Goats back to the playoffs.

Elsewhere, Colorado dominated New England in Commerce, getting goals from Omar Cummings, Conor Casey and Wells Thompson in a 3-0 victory.

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