September 2, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Alan Gordon (16) and forward Chris Wondolowski (8) celebrate with midfielder/forward Simon Dawkins (10) after a goal against the Chivas USA during the first half at Buck Shaw Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

MLS, Week 24: SJ Back Into Sole Possession Of First

The Quakes destroyed Chivas to move three points ahead of Sporting for the Supporters' Shield, while the Fire are back in a playoff spot after beating the Dynamo.

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Major League Soccer 2012, Week 24: What We Learned

The playoff race is heating up as Week 24 provided some late goals and plenty of drama.


San Jose Earthquakes Vs. Chivas USA, 2012 MLS: Dan Kennedy Good, Rest Of Goats Not

What does it say about a team when they lose 4-0 and the best player on their field was their goalkeeper? It says that they're very bad, which Chivas USA is, and that their goalkeeper is astonishingly good, which Dan Kennedy is.

It could also say that the team that won is very good, which the San Jose Earthquakes are. And with their win on Sunday the Quakes moved back into sole possession of first place in the Supporters' Shield race, three points clear of Kansas City as they try to win the trophy for the first time since 2005.

San Jose went in front after 11 minutes when Victor Bernardez hit a rocket of a free kick from 35 yards that skipped and found the back of the net. Kennedy was initially screened by his own wall and by the time he picked up the ball, he couldn't do more than get a finger to it before it was by him.

They doubled their lead in the 39th minute when Chivas inexplicably gave the ball away in their own end. Then they allowed Chris Wondolowski to come right through the middle and feed Simon Dawkins, who was unmarked in the middle of the field, 15 yards from goal. He didn't make a mistake from there and left Kennedy no chance with a clinical finish.

In the second half, Kennedy put on a show. He denied Marvin Chavez, who had a clear look at goal with a wonderful save diving back across his body to push it wide of the goal. He also made a sprawling save of what appeared to be a a sure Steven Lenhart as part of his night, when he repeatedly hung out to dry.

Two free kicks got past Kennedy in the second half. The first was a brilliant strike by Ramiro Corrales in the 71st minutes and then another by Corrales 10 minutes later when Kennedy was setting up his wall and everyone except Corrales thought that they had to wait on the referee's whistle sealed it.

In the end, it was a very good San Jose team against a very bad Chivas team and the scoreline showed it. What it didn't show was that the gap between them could have been much larger if not for the one man to show up for the Goats, as he has all year -- Dan Kennedy.


Chicago Fire Vs. Houston Dynamo, 2012 MLS: Fire Back In A Playoff Spot

A day after being knocked out of a playoff spot, the Chicago Fire didn't just get it back with a 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo, but they moved all the way up to third place in the Eastern Conference. Goals by Patrick Nyarko, Daniel Paladini and Alex led the Fire by the red hot Dynamo and now they sit three spots clear of dreaded sixth place.

Nyarko put the Fire in front before even a minute when gone when he jumped on a bad giveaway by the Dynamo at midfield and dribbled straight ahead right through the Houston defense. Alone in on Tally Hall, the Ghanian slotted it between the goalkeeper's legs and Chicago was off to a dream start.

Another bad giveaway by Houston allowed Chicago to double their lead in the 19th minute. The Fire got the ball and ran right at the Dynamo defense, putting them on their heels. Alvaro Fernandez fed McDonald, who somewhat accidentally played it into the middle for Paladini to bury and Chicago was 2-0 up.

The Fire were hardly flawless, though. They had defensive breakdowns, but time after time Sean Johnson was there to keep them away. On one occasion he denied Bobby Boswell and a double save in the 90th minute kept the Dynamo scoreless.

Later that minute, Houston would finally breakthrough thanks to Brian Ching. The veteran got on the end of a corner kick and become the first man to get one past the seemingly impenetrable Johnson, but it wasn't enough and three minutes later the Fire would put the match to bed.

With their lead cut in half, Chicago could have been on edge, but Alex made sure that they would get three points when he got the ball on his left foot and hit an absolute rocket. His shot hit the inside of the post and then found the net to seal up a 3-1 win for the home side that has them back in a playoff spot.

Now that the Fire are in a playoff spot, someone has to fall out and it is D.C. who are the victims. Houston and Columbus are in a tie for fourth place, two points behind Chicago.


LA Galaxy Vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 2012 MLS: Same Ol' Galaxy

If last year's LA Galaxy aren't back, they are sure doing their best impression. Last year's Galaxy team wasn't exactly exciting and didn't create a ton of chances, but they found just enough goals and were absolutely tremendous defensively en route to a MLS Cup title. Now they are back to doing the same thing and they showed it on Saturday night in a 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The first half was an absolute bore except for one play. The Whitecaps were flummoxed by the Galaxy defense and had no idea how to break it down. The midfield closed them down quickly and when they did get past the middle, the Omar Gonzalez-led back line was able to clear the ball away without much effort. LA spent their fair chunk of the time on the ball, but the constant long balls found no success and they couldn't move the ball through the middle.

But the one moment of intrigue in the first half was a brilliant one. Juninho took a pass in the final third, used one touch to settle and then ripped a screamer from more than 25 yards that found the upper corner for a stunning goal. Not only did it give LA the lead, but it was the Brazilian's sixth goal in his last five matches as his hot streak matches LA's,

The second half looked much like the first. The Whitecaps failed to do anything and the Galaxy were content with the way the match was going now that they had their goal. They had their odd chance here and there, forcing a clearance off the line once, but they weren't particularly dynamic and that was fine for them.

Just like in the first half, they did find a goal, though, and it also came from distance. David Beckham stepped into a 25-yard free kick and hit it predictably perfect. He curled the ball up over the wall and then back down, freezing Brad Knighton to finish off a comfortable victory for the 2011 2012 Galaxy.


Real Salt Lake Vs. D.C. United, 2012 MLS: Will Johnson Scores Lone Goal In RSL Win

Real Salt Lake had not won a league match in more than a month and a lightning delay of more than an hour after just three minutes of play gave them a chance to think about that a little bit longer. But when they finally got back out on the field they began to find their old form and thanks to a Will Johnson goal after the break, finally got back on the smiling side of the scoreboard with a 1-0 win over D.C. United.

While there was only one goal in the match, there was plenty of action. Both teams had chances in the first half with Javier Morales almost scoring and then Chris Pontius doing the same. Dwayne De Rosario came closing, rattling the post from 30 yards, but none of them found the net and the teams went into halftime scoreless.

The match wouldn't be scoreless for much longer because Johnson brought through just after te break. A back-heel by Ned Grabavoy freed up Paulo Junior to cross for Johnson, who headed home for the eventual match-winner.

Down a goal, D.C. pressed and put pressure on Nick Rimando, but the RSL goalkeeper was up to the task. He stood tall and denied D.C. to end their winless streak and keep the visitors from their first away point since June 16.


Sporting Kansas City Vs. Toronto FC, 2012 MLS: SKC Storm Back To Win

Sporting Kansas City were supposed to easily beat Toronto FC on Saturday night at Livestrong Sporting Park and they won, but it certainly was not easy. After falling behind 1-0, Sporting came back to score twice, the second time in the 87th minute to win 2-1 and move into a tie for the Supporters' Shield lead with the Earthquakes.

The opening of the match was dominated by Sporting, but they didn't have anything to show for it. The Reds really had nothing going for them, struggling to string together passes and defensively depending on luck and poor Kansas City finishing to keep from falling behind.

Then out of nowhere, Toronto shocked Kansas City with a goal just before halftime. Robert Eckersley hit a ball over the top for Ryan Johnson, who snuck in behind the Sporting defense and took one touch before firing past Jimmy Nielsen for the opening tally.

A fortunate deflection got Kansas City level at the hour mark. A free kick was cleared out to Paulo Nagamura at the top of the box, which he struck well on the volley. It also took a deflection that sent it looping over Freddy Hall before dipping under the bar to equalize.

As the match went on, Toronto began to play better and even things out, but it was Kansas City who tallied late. Chance Myers took a pass from Nagamura down the right and cut it back for Oriol Rosell, who side-footed on the first touch for the far post. It was well-aimed and while Hall had a chance to get to it, he couldn't keep the winner out of the net.


Columbus Crew Vs. Montreal Impact, 2012 MLS: Crew Win It Late Again

Federico Higuain made his Columbus Crew debut less than two weeks ago, but it already feels as if he has been there for months and that the Crew are his team. He picked up another two assists on Saturday night, both in the last 10 minutes of the match as the Crew came from behind to pick up a gigantic 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact.

It took until the 73rd minute for either side to score. Both teams were tough in the middle and the referee allowed both teams to play physically, but the Impact finally broke the deadlock. Sanna Nyassi put the Crew defense on its heels with a good run down the left before finding Felipe at the top of the box. Felipe then moved it along to Marco Di Vaio on the right and after Milovan Mirosevic whiffed on intercepting the pass, Di Vaio had a simple finish to put Montreal in front.

Montreal's lead lasted seven minutes because when they gave away a free kick 35 yards from goal, Higuain made them pay. He whipped a great ball in that Chad Marshall got to and flicked over the head of Troy Perkins for the equalizer.

As 90 minutes passed and the match went to stoppage time, the match looked destined for a draw, but Higuain turned it again. He took a ball near midfield with a great first touch and opened himself down the left wing. He took it almost down to the endline before cutting back and hitting another good ball to the middle. This one found Emilio Renteria, who jus glanced it on goal and found the net to earn the Crew all three points.

With the win, the Crew are now on 42 points, which is good for a playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Impact's chances at the playoffs took a serious hit because while they are in the race with 39 points, they have played two, three or four more matches than the teams they are chasing.

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