Sometimes in Major League Soccer you have to expect the unexpected. In Week 26, that was just the case. Results you should have expected didn't happen while upsets took place, the wild card race got tighter, as did the Golden Boot race, and one club finally clinched a berth into the postseason.
But the big story had to be the unexpected. Top clubs like the Seattle Sounders, FC Dallas, and the Columbus Crew all stumbled in games they were mostly expected to win. Then you had results like New York tying an expansion club at home, the Philadelphia Union extending their unless run against an expansion team at home and the San Jose Earthquakes snapping their long winless streak thanks to last year's Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski.
In all, it was a pretty wild week.
The course remains steady for LA
While everything else failed to meet most expectations this weekend, the Los Angeles Galaxy proved they weren't going to bet part of it or even start the trend on Friday. Landon Donovan added to his now league-leading goal scoring mark (he's tied in the Golden Boot standings with Thierry Henry), and the Galaxy did just enough to get three points away from the defending MLS Cup champions, the Colorado Rapids.
The win was a big one for LA, not only did it end up holding off the likes if Seattle and Dallas by the end of the weekend but it helped them become the first club to clinch a berth in this year's playoffs.
LA now sits alone in the standings at the top with 55 points, a clear seven points ahead of the Sounders. At this stage in the season with both clubs only having six matches left a piece, that seven point margin is massive. Naturally a lot will depend on how each team handles their remaining CONCACAF Champions League group stage games but I think it could be safe to say that we're looking at your regular season champions right now in the form of this Galaxy squad.
Is Real back?
Three wins in a row after losing four of five has many people, including myself, thinking that Real Salt Lake is back. A big win in Seattle over the weekend in a way proved it though sadly enough this game was overtaken by bad calls, red cards and penalty kicks.
Both teams were down to ten men at the end of the first half after Kasey Keller gifted RSL their first goal. Fredy Montero got the Sounders back in the game just before halftime and everything looked to be going the Sounders way into the second half. But sometimes soccer just doesn't work that way and on this day RSL found the three points.
With Dallas losing and this win over Seattle, RSL is now sitting just one point out of the automatic bid zone in the Western Conference. The confidence of this club has to be getting higher and higher and with a game-in-hand over these Sounders and Dallas, the chance to move further up the standings is there for the taking.
Salt Lake is a dangerous club but do they want to deal with the Western Conference playoff bracket? If you look at it right now, they would be the highest wild card in the playoffs and would host the first wild card game against the lowest seeded team, someone like a New York, Chivas, DC or even a Portland. Winning that game would mean they'd have to go on the road for sure but it would be to an Eastern Conference club like Kansas City or Columbus.
Given how those two teams have played RSL this season, it may be clear why Jason Kreis is staying away from that Eastern Conference bracket, though as well as they are playing right now they should be able to stream roll through it.
If there is one place any Dallas fan does not want to play in it would probably be New England. All-time record now against the Revolution at Foxborough is 5-12-1 with the last win coming in 2003. The 2-0 loss to the New England Revolution on Saturday just showed that soccer can go unexpected at times.
Brek Shea looked gassed in this one for Dallas and at the end really had Schellas Hyndman second guessing his call to start the MVP candidate. Shea was with the US National Team in Belgium earlier in the week and has been nearly around the world and back over these last two months.
The Dallas defense was jumbled at bit with the suspension of Ugo Ihemelu. In my mind the game would have been different defensively for Dallas with Ihemelu in the back with George John. The tandem of John and Andrew Jacobson just didn't click as much as some would have liked in this one.
Luckily for Dallas, all but one game the rest of the way in September sees them in Frisco. The lone road game is a CCL game in Panama later this month.
Kansas City keeps Houston at bay
We have a new(ish) leader in the Eastern Conference, Sporting Kansas City. Their 3-0 win over the Houston Dynamo was a fairly simple one to figure out. The Dynamo defense had no answer for Teal Bunbury, rookie CJ Sapong, Omar Bravo and Graham Zusi.
Sporting took the three points from the Dynamo, who still have yet to see a road win this season and went to the top of the standings in the Eastern Conference with the Columbus Crew at 40 points.
Houston shot themselves in the foot all afternoon in this one with bad misses, poor defense and an ejection of Carlos Costly. I won't make the obvious Costly joke there but the red card in the second half easily opened the field up for Sporting to find their final two goals from Bunbury and Sapong.
Zusi added his fifth and sixth assists on the season, proving he could be be in the MVP race before long with his production. His goals and assists have been timely this season and are one of the biggest reasons why this Sporting Kansas City club is in the hunt for the playoffs and the Eastern Conference crown.
Well hello there Charlie Davies
I've been wondering for about two months what happened to DC United striker Charlie Davies. We know how well he started the season with the Black-and-Red but towards summer he got banged up and just disappeared as the club went through the summer with some wins and draws. Had it not been for Dwayne De Rosario, United probably would not be in the playoff race as it is but Davies proved on Saturday against Chivas USA that he is ready to help lead this club.
The win pushed United up the standings to 35 points and into the 10th and final playoff spot. Davies hat trick also pushed him up the Golden Boot race to 11 goals, just one behind the Donovan and Henry for the league lead.
If anything this win for DC was about finally showing up. De Rosario and Davies helped cap a great game but the attention afterwards was probably on teammate Chris Pontius who fractured his leg during the game. DC now has some inspiration to play for to close out the season and with plenty of games-in-hand on everyone they have a shot at making some serious noise if DeRo and Davies have anything to say about it.
Goodbye New York
The 1-1 draw showed yet again that this New York side just doesn't have what it takes to do it this season and now they sit outside the playoff zone. Yes, one point outside the final wildcard spot, tied with another expansion team with 33 points on the season.
With games in Dallas, and ones at home against RSL and Portland coming up, the Red Bulls don't have many chances left to stay in contention here. Blame it on whatever you'd like, this club is soon going to be written off for good by everyone who picked them to win it all back at the beginning of the year. Hard to believe that this season was dubbed as a Supporter's Shield or bust by manager Hans Backe. Now it is just about getting into the post season dance.