Major League Soccer 2012, Week 21: What We Learned

May 2, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart (24) celebrates after his goal during the second half against D.C. United at Buck Shaw Stadium. San Jose won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Sporting Kansas City secured their first trophy since 2004, the Eastern Conference continues to get tighter and San Jose is slowly pulling away from the rest of the pack in the Supporters' Shield race.

Drama, goals and all the usual complaining about officials filled a busy Week 21 in Major League Soccer.

Sporting Kansas City opened the week by winning their first trophy since 2004, as they downed the Seattle Sounders FC in the US Open Cup final.

The win didn't come without drama, though, and as the week progressed, the rest of the league slate provided even more excitement as clubs make their push towards the playoffs.

San Jose beginning to pull away

There are grumblings around MLS that this San Jose Earthquakes group could be a team of destiny. The Quakes won again on Saturday, pulling out their usual late game heroics to secure yet another three points, this time against Seattle Sounders FC.

Seattle's Fredy Montero scored a late goal to tie the game at one-all, but the never-say-die attitude of the Earthquakes helped them to victory again as Steven Lenhart found the back of the net in the dying seconds of the game.

Calling the Quakes a 'Team of destiny' may be a stretch, but considering how Frank Yallop has developed this club this season, as well as how he has gotten the most of out players few really gave a second thought to drafting (Steven Beithasour) or trading for (Alan Gordon), maybe it's not too much of a stretch.

San Jose is now a clear five points ahead of Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference. Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls both seem to be decent contenders for the Supporters' Shield, but San Jose appears to be pulling away from the pack by pulling out close games, like this weekend's contest against Seattle.

Galaxy too much for Chivas

Rivalry games always bring out a certain excitement in both clubs involved. Yesterday's SuperClasico between Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy only saw one club step up to the plate, as the Galaxy dominated their Home Depot Center co-tenants 4-0.

The big names were all over this game for the Galaxy. Robbie Keane scored, Juninho had two goals, and Landon Donovan added in four assists on the night.

Chivas may have four games in hand over the Galaxy, but the Galaxy showed that there's a bigger distance between the two clubs than the 10 points that separates them in the standings. Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy was probably the man of the match for either club on the night -- without him in goal, the scoreline would have likely been much higher in favor of the defending champions.

Top teams in the East swap spots

Sporting KC didn't have long to celebrate their USOC championship, as they hosted D.C. United on Saturday. Ben Olsen's club probably made it a little too easy at times for Sporting as Teal Bunbury and Graham Zusi found the back of the net in the 2-1 win. United looked good only in spurts while Sporting used the loud home crowd to overcome the crafty play of Honduran midfielder Andy Najar.

The win helped keep Kansas City at the top of the Eastern Conference, but only by two points over the New York Red Bulls, who ended the Houston Dynamo's strong run on Friday night.

New York got two assists from Tim Cahill and blanked the Dynamo 2-0, but not everyone was impressed, including Thierry Henry. Even though the margin of victory was the same as the Dynamo's 2-0 win over New York last week, the Red Bulls striker said the Dynamo's win was the more convincing of the two.

The Eastern Conference table is jammed at the top right now with five points separating first place and forth place. The Chicago Fire have a game in hand over the three clubs above them in the standings, while fifth-placed D.C. United sits seven points back of first with two games in hand over everyone.

Montreal gaining ground

The Montreal Impact gained some ground on the rest of the Eastern Conference with a surprisingly impressive performance this week. Road games haven't been too kind to the expansion club this season ,and they were without two of their better defenders Nelson Rivas (suspended for a head butt) and Alessandro Nesta (likely held out for playing on turf).

Montreal surprised the New England Revolution 1-0 on an impressive goal by Sanna Nyassi, one that will likely be a goal of the week candidate. The result sent the Revs tumbling down the standings; it was their fifth loss in their last six matches.

The Impact are gaining on the rest of their conference foes despite having played more games (25 played thus far). They're currently sixth in the East and just three points back of a playoff spot, something few expected to see out of this bunch in 2012.

New tiebreakers to make playoff race very interesting

With the playoff race heating up, the new tiebreaker rules have to be mentioned, and they will cause some heartache to some this fall once the playoffs hit.

Goals scored is now the first tiebreaker, with the league making the change to encourage more attacking play, and hopefully more exciting games.

At the moment teams like San Jose and New York have little to worry about -- they've scored plenty of goals this season to help their cause. The LA Galaxy also have a similar argument with their 43 goals scored, good for second best in the league. FC Dallas (29) and Chivas (14), two clubs chasing LA in the standings at the moment, don't even come close to the Galaxy's totals. Combined, they equal the Galaxy's goal tally.

The tiebreaker shouldn't affect the Western Conference too much, but it's going to come into play quite a bit in the Eastern Conference. Montreal and D.C. United are currently tied on goals scored with 36, while the Columbus Crew chase both of them in seventh place with just 20 scored this season.

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