Major League Soccer 2011, (Mid)Week 28: Red Bulls, United, Timbers All Fail To Bolster Playoff Hopes

There are three midweek games in MLS this week and all three have playoff implications. Oh goody!

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Portland Timbers Vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 2011 MLS: Late Equalizer Ruins Rose City's Day

It was all setting up perfectly for the Portland Timbers and their quest to make the playoffs in their first year. DC United blew a 2-0 lead a tied Chivas USA. The New York Red Bulls were thumped by the Real Salt Lake. A Timbers win over the San Jose Earthquakes would put them three points clear of their closest competition in the race for the final playoff spot.

Instead, the Timbers were forced to settle for a 1-1 tie on Wednesday after Khair Stephenson scored a 70th minute equalizer. The point still puts the Timbers in playoff position, but their standing there is much more precarious now. Of their five remaining games, four of them are on the road where the Timbers have claimed just seven points all season. The first of those five games will come on Saturday when the Timbers visit the Red Bulls in a game with enormous playoff implications. 

Holding onto their lead in this game would have definitely made the Timbers' lives much easier. Kenny Cooper scored a 9th minute goal off an assist from Darlington Nagbe.

Although the Timbers came close to expanding on their lead a couple times, Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch was able to keep it a one-goal game. His best save of the match came just a few minutes after Cooper's goal when he stopped a near-point blank attempt from Nagbe. Busch made six saves in the game.

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New York Red Bulls Vs. Real Salt Lake, 2011 MLS: RSL Moves Into 2nd In West With 3-1 Win

Real Salt Lake move into second place in the Western Conference after beating the New York Red Bulls 3-1 on Wednesday. The win gave RSL 51 points, the same number as the Seattle Sounders, but they have a game in hand as well as a three-goal lead in goal-difference.

RSL stormed out to a quick lead with a Alvaro Saborio goal in the 7th minute. Saborio was able to get on the end of a Andy Williams corner kick and headed it past Red Bulls goalkeeper Frank Rost. Just four minutes later, Fabian Espindola doubled the lead, stepping in front of a Tim Ream pass and easily scoring. Espindola scored again in the 21st minute, again on a defensive breakdown as he got behind Ream and Rafa Marquez, leaving him one-on-one with Rost.

The Red Bulls managed to make the match somewhat respectable with a strong second half that featured a goal by Joel Lindpere that came off a Rafa Marquez free kick in the 69th minute. But the Red Bulls were unable to mount much of a challenge after that.

Thanks to DC United's tie against Chivas USA and pending the Portland Timbers result later on Wednesday, the Red Bulls remain in the 10th playoff position.

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DC United Vs. Chivas USA, 2011 MLS: Chivas Come From Behind, Survive Late Penalty To Earn 2-2 Draw

2-2 draws don't come much more exciting than this. Chivas USA went 2-0 down at DC United thanks to a first half headed goal by Dwayne de Rosario and then a scrambled finish by defender Ethan White, his first in MLS play, but the hosts came roaring back to claw their way back into the match. A comeback never looked particularly likely with Chivas playing like lost souls for most of the first half, but one came nonetheless.

Juan Pablo Angel glanced in a header in the 57th minute to cut the lead to 2-1, and a sliding shot past Bill Hamid levelled the score fifteen minutes later. From then on, it was anyone's game, with both teams having chances to go ahead. None, however, was as good as what fell into DC United's lap in the very last minute of the match, when de Rosario dove over Angel's outstretched leg, but Dan Kennedy was equal to the Canadian's spot kick, guessing the right way to preserve the tie and earn Chivas a point. It wasn't pretty, but it was quite a lot of fun.

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