CHESTER, PA - SEPTEMBER 17: Sebastien Le Toux #9 of the Philadelphia Union reacts after scoring a goal against the Columbus Crew during an MLS soccer game, September 17, 2011 at PPL Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

Major League Soccer, Week 27: As Playoff Race Heats Up, Five Teams Get Big Wins

Week 27 of the MLS season features a number of games between potential playoff teams

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LA Galaxy Vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 2011 MLS: Galaxy Cruise To Expected Win

What happens when the best team in MLS plays the worst team? 3-0. The Los Angeles Galaxy smacked the Vancouver Whitecaps around on Saturday night, extending their lead atop the league to seven points with just five minutes remaining as they close in on a second consecutive Supporters Shield. Two goals came courtesy of Mike Magee, while Robbie Keane added one of his own in a rout at the Home Depot Center.

The Galaxy started things off with a Magee goal as he did well to turn a Keane cross on goal with his left foot, leaving Joe Cannon without a chance and the home side with a lead. In the second half it was Bryan Jordan getting up from his right back spot. Starting in place of the injured Sean Franklin, Jordan twice got up the right flank and crossed well to set up goals. The first time it was Keane who snapped home the header for the goal and the second time it was Magee who was able to nod the ball just inside the far post to stretch the LA lead to 3-0.

Just before full time, Jordan almost added to his great night with a goal, but he was whistled for offside and the goal was waved off. The goal wouldn't have done much though. The Galaxy had already made their statement. They are in cruise control, dominating teams and making it 13 points from their last five MLS matches as they look to wrap up the league's best record.


Mauro Rosales Injures Knee, Will At Least Miss CONCACAF Champions League Match

Toward the end of what should have been a feel-good 3-0 win for the Seattle Sounders over DC United, Mauro Rosales went down with an injury and did not return. After the game Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said it was a MCL sprain, a report the team did not officially confirm. Schmid said that Rosales would miss at least Tuesday's CONCACAF Champions League match against Herediano. Regardless of the injury's seriousness, Schmid was not happy with the way it happened:

"We have a talented player in this league: He’s a good player, a player who fans want to come out and watch him play, and then we let people – thugs – hit him and we don’t protect him enough, and I think that’s something that’s got to happen with the referees. So I’m very disappointed. The last game before this one, the first three times he touched the ball he got fouled and nothing got called. Today early on he got dumped quite a few times. A lot of times he’s not getting calls. I’d like to see the referee – Kevin Stott – stand there and let Brandon McDonald run into his back and see if he could stay on his feet. I’m very disappointed in that."

Up until his injury, Rosales had been enjoying another stellar game. He assisted on two goals. He now has 12 on the season, just one fewer than league-leader Brad Davis.


Seattle Sounders Vs. DC United, 2011 MLS: Sounders Roll To 3-0 Win

As the season winds down, the Seattle Sounders are playing their best and that has the supporters up in the Emerald City smiling. Fresh off of a win at Herediano in CONCACAF Champions League play, Seattle hosted DC United in MLS play and looked every bit as good as they have looked in the last few months. Alvaro Fernandez led the way with a brace and Mike Fucito added a goal of his own as the Sounders cruised to a win in a match that was all Seattle from the very first minute to the very last minute.

United defense was dreadful from the beginning. They allowed Fernandez to get to the back post completely unmarked and the only thing that kept him from putting the Sounders up early was about six inches as he just missed getting to the cross in time. It didn't matter much though because in the 35th minute Fucito was able to turn his defender and get into a foot race. It was a race that Fucito was always going to win so he was in behind the DC defendse and all alone for a simple finish and 1-0 lead.

Just before halftime the Sounders doubled their lead thanks to some great interplay between Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales and Fernandez. Montero got on the ball and bought some time before playing the ball into Rosales, who played a great ball in behind the DC defense with his first touch. It was right to a streaking Fernandez, who cooly slid the ball across the goal and just inside the far post for the goal.

The match was put to bed at the hour mark and it was Montero, Rosales and Fernandez getting the job done again. Rosales got space on the right and crossed to the far post for Montero. The Colombian headed the ball down well and forced a good save from Joe Willis, but Fernandez was there to hammer home the rebound. It was 3-0 Sounders and that's how it would finish as the men in rave green just keep on rolling.


Real Salt Lake Vs. Sporting Kansas City, 2011 MLS: Nat Borchers Nods Real To 1-0 Win

Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave have developed a reputation in MLS for being one of the best centerback pairings in the league and it is not just for their defending. They're a threat on set pieces and on Saturday it was Borchers getting in on the offensive action, nodding home the only goal of the match while pairing with Olave to shut down Sporting Kansas City in a big 1-0 win for Real Salt Lake.

The lone goal of the match came on a free kick played in by Kyle Beckerman. The midfielder hit the dead ball from about 40 yards away and with Kansas City stepping forward to try and draw Salt Lake offside, Borcher slipped in behind and was unmarked from eight yards. Someone has good with his head as Borchers isn't going to miss from there and he did, heading home what would prove to be the winner.

It was the strongest of defensive performances for Salt Lake though. Yes, they kept the cleansheet, but that was due more to spectacular keeping by Nick RImando than good defending by Real. Sporting had more than double the shots of Salt Lake and they forced Rimando to make five saves, several of which were tremendous. He was up to everything Kansas City threw at him though and as easily the Man of the Match for a surging Salt Lake team.

The loss cost Sporting a chance to move to the top of the Eastern Conference and instead they remain a point behind the Crew for first place. Salt Lake remains third in the Western Conference, but are only three points behind Seattle now with two matches still in hand as they battle for that vital second leg at home in the first round of the playoffs.


Houston Dynamo Vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 2011 MLS: Dynamo Come Back To Nab Important Win

In the middle of a heated playoff race and trailing 1-0 at home to a dreadful San Jose Earthquakes side, it would have been easy for the Houston Dynamo to panic and wonder just what was going on. Were they really going to put a dent in their own playoff hopes by losing this game at home? In one word, no. The Dynamo came back from a goal down to defeat the Earthquakes 2-1 at Robertson Stadium, moving them back into a wild card spot with just four matches left on their schedule.

Khari Stephenson put the Dynamo in a hole with a very good volleyed finish just before halftime. Steven Beitashour crossed for Stephenson, who got to the ball 15 yards from goal and did well to volley a waist-high ball past a helpless Tally Hall. The Quakes took that lead into the halftime and the Dynamo faithful sent them to the locker room with not so much a boo, but an audible grumble.

Houston came out flying in the second half and only two minutes in they had themselves an equalizer. Brad Davis went down in the first half appealing for a penalty only to be denied, but when he went down in the second half the referee agreed with him, whistling the foul on Bobby Burling and pointing to the spot. Davis took the penalty and took it well, leveling the match at one. 

With 11 minutes remaining, Will Bruin got Houston a winner. The cross from the right was a beauty by Luiz Mamargo, but the finish by Bruin was even better. The rookie hit the ball first time on the volley, putting the ball past Jon Busch to seal up all three points for the Dynamo.


Philadelphia Union Vs. Columbus Crew, 2011 MLS: Le Toux Goal Leads Philly To Big Win

All it took was one goal by Sebastien Le Toux. Who would have guessed that the Philadelphia Union defense would stand up an hold a one-goal lead? Nobody, but they did. The much maligned Union defense kept the Columbus Crew at bay to make Le Toux's goal stand up as they picked up a vital 1-0 victory over the first place Crew. The win moved the Union up to third place in the Eastern Conference, the final guaranteed playoff spot, and they sit just two points behind the Crew for the top spot in the conference with a match in hand.

The Union's goal came from a pretty simple play, but one which was very well done. The Crew defense was playing a high line so Le Toux just took off on a run from the midfield circle. Roger Torres spotted it, playing a ball in over the top and Le Toux finished to put Philly in front. There wasn't anything fancy in it, just a good straight run, a good ball in and a good finish, but when you do three things well you'll get a lot of goals even if it's not fancy.

After that, it was just good defending. It's strange to hear that about the Union considering their play at the back of late, but they were just flat out good at the back. Not only did they keep a cleansheet, but they kept the Crew from generating many chances at all as they stayed organized and timed nearly every tackle well.

Making the Union's win all the more impressive is that they did it with such a young squad. The Farfan brothers both started, as did Zac MacMath in goal and while plenty experienced, Freddy Adu and Torres are still youngsters. Add in Zach Pfeffer, the 16-year-old who made his debut tonight and played well for about an hour before being subbed off, and you have a bunch of bright, young players for the Union who all put in good shifts in a good win for the team on Saturday night at PPL Park.


FC Dallas Vs. New York Red Bulls: New York Gets First Win Since July

The easiest way to put it has to be that it wasn't pretty. But for the New York Red Bulls they will take this 1-0 win over FC Dallas any day considering they hadn't seen a victory since early July. Luke Rodgers hammered home a late first half goal from Juan Agudelo to give the Red Bulls the 1-0 win. 

New York sat back for the majority of the game and let Dallas take it to them with possession and chances. The Toros just couldn't put it together up top without Brek Shea or Marvin Chavez. Brazilian forward Maicon Santos had around a dozen or so decent chances on Frank Rost's goal but none were ever good enough to test the veteran keeper. 

Rost made several good saves in his return to the starting eleven for New York. With the make-shift back four for the Red Bulls, they really kept Dallas at bay.

Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman tried several different attempts in the second half to inject some life into the offense by bringing on Fabian Castillo and Maykel Galindo. Neither move ended up helping out as Galindo was called offside a handful of times and Castillo failed to get anything going. 

The long winless streak for the Red Bulls finally came to an end at the right time for them as they are now back in the playoff hunt with 36 points. 

Dallas continues their slump however with the loss. Should other results stand on the night, Dallas will be in forth place in the standings and out of the automatic playoff berth range. 


Chicago Fire Vs. Chivas USA, 2011 MLS: Dominic Oduro Wins It For 10-Man Fire

The Chicago Fire are the kings of draw. They've already set a MLS record for draws in a season so nobody draws quite like they do. That's why when they went ahead 2-0 on Chivas USA, it wasn't a surprise at all to see Corey Gibbs get a red card and give the Goats a way back in the match. It went exactly to plan with Chivas scoring twice to level the match at 2-2, but as good as Chicago is at drawing, Chivas is probably better at being terrible so Dominic Oduro managed to score five minutes from full time to give the 10-man Fire a 3-2 win on Saturday afternoon.

It was actually Gibbs who got Chicago off the mark, heading home a corner kick to make it 1-0 Fire just two minutes into the match. Juan Pablo Angel then following it up with some of his deadliest finishing, putting the ball in his own net to double the Fire lead. After that, Gibbs decided that going in on a stupid, hard challenge on Michael Lahoud was the best way for the Fire to draw so he did and was red carded for it.

Now a man up, Chivas went to work getting back in the match. First, Angel confused which goal he was shooting at and managed to score from six yards out. Nick LaBrocca equalized just two minues later and Chicago were in trouble.

Somehow, against a 10-man Chicago side Chivas managed to lose control of the match once they equalized. They were made to pay for it in the 85th minute. Patrick Nyarko gathered a ball from Diego Chaves and crossed perfectly for Oduro, who only had to tap the ball in for the winner.


Toronto FC Vs. Colorado Rapids, 2011 MLS: Time For Burgundy Worry?

In a season of full fits and starts, the Colorado Rapids are suddenly in danger of finding themselves in a fight for their post-season lives. The defending MLS Cup champions are still securely in fifth place overall, but their 2-1 loss Toronto FC on Saturday was their third straight loss and their fourth straight game without a victory. Depending on how the rest of Saturday's results go, they could find themselves as few as five points ahead of the No. 11 overall spot with at least one less game to play than every other team vying for the last few playoff spots.

Equally distressing is the quality of teams the Rapids are losing to. Toronto FC had entered the game with the second fewest points in all of MLS. In the last four games, they've also tied Chivas USA and lost to the Chicago Fire, two other teams currently in the league's bottom third.

Of course, part of the problem is that the Rapids are making their opponents look a lot better than the standings suggest they should. On this day, they made Danny Koevermans look like one of the top strikers in MLS -- and who knows, maybe he really is? The Reds' recently signed Designated Player added two more goals to his tally, giving him six in just seven MLS appearances. 

Koevermans' first goal came off a nice cross from Ashtone Morgan, who sent in a cross through the penalty area that found the striker a step behind the closest defender. Koevermans' second goal came off an assist from Nick Soolsma, this time finishing the cross with a header.

The Rapids were able to pull within a goal on Sanna Nyassi's fifth of the season. They nearly tied it toward the end of regular time, but Drew Moor's attempt was cleared off the line by Richard Eckersley.


Portland Timbers Vs. New England Revolution, 2011 MLS: Timbers Roll Past Revs And Into Playoff Spot

The Portland Timbers weren't expected to do much more than impress observers with an electric atmosphere at Jeld-Wen Field this season. The stadium and the atmosphere were supposed to steal headlines, not the team itself. Well the stadium and atmosphere lived up to expectations on Friday night, but it was the team that made the real mark. A dominating 3-0 win over the New England Revolution showed off some of the best of the Timbers, but most importantly, it moved Portland into 10th place in MLS, the final playoff spot.

Just nine minutes into the match Portland was ahead and it came through Diego Chara and with a lot of help from some dreadful New England defending. Chara was able to slip through three New England defenders and finish just inside the post, a good finish for the Colombian to put the home side ahead. It was only possible because of Shalrie Joseph in particular, but really the entire Revolution team watching Chara get in on goal without ever bothering to attempt at stopping him.

Just after the half-hour match, Portland doubled their lead. Mike Chabala did the hard hard, getting to a ball just before it went out of touch and ripping a cross into Kenny Cooper. Cooper didn't really shoot the ball, but more let the ball hit him and redirect into the goal. However it was done, Portland had a goal, a two-goal lead and Jeld-Wen Field was exploding.

After the break, Darlington Nagbe got in on the action with a very good header. The rookie for on the end of a Kalif Alhassan cross and jumping from a stand still, rose and perfectly headed the ball just inside the post to make it 3-0 Timbers. It was the second goal of the season for Nagbe and sent the Timbers onto a dominating victory.

There wasn't a minute where Portland weren't the better team. New England's best chance came not from good Revolution team play, but a good individual play from Milton Caraglio. The Argentine did well to force a good save from Troy Perkins after turning and firing from 18 yards. Besides that, it was all Timbers, who worked around the Revolution's strength in the center of the midfield by playing through the flanks all match.

With just six matches left in their very first season, Portland are right in the mix for a playoff spot. While it is easy to use that as an example of bad playoff system, there is the positive of a possible playoff game at Jeld-Wen Field, which would surely be spectacle. They'll have to play as well as they did against the Revolution the rest of the way to sneak into that final playoff spot though.

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