Major League Soccer 2012, Week 23: What We Learned

CARSON, CA - AUGUST 26: Todd Dunivant #2 of Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates his second half goal during the MLS match against FC Dallas at The Home Depot Center on August 26, 2012 in Carson, California. The Galaxy won 2-0. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Getty Images)

Goals were easy to come by in Week 23 as teams racked up a total of 30 goals on the weekend.

If you like goals, then Week 23 in Major League Soccer will be something you'll want to play catch up on.

Western Conference teams dominated in the goal-scoring department as San Jose netted four, Seattle put in six of their own and LA scored an easy two. In the eight weekend games played, 30 goals were scored.

The playoff race for both conferences continues to get more interesting by the week. The Eastern side has seven clubs firmly in the mix for the five playoff spots while out West the top five are still in control of their own destiny.

LA cools off Dallas

The 2011 MLS Cup Champions are beginning to play just like that. The LA Galaxy cooled off red hot FC Dallas on Sunday afternoon thanks to goals from Juninho and Todd Dunivant. For the second time this season, LA found a way to quiet David Ferreira and frustrate a Dallas attack that had been playing very well over the last few weeks.

The explanation for why LA is playing better these days is simple: Their defense is healthy. Dunivant, Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza and most importantly Omar Gonzalez are finally on the field at the same time and for the last three games have pitched two shutouts as a group.

LA manager Bruce Arena was happy with the result but had to be frustrated with the lack of quality play on the afternoon. The first half was a simple back and forth affair that really saw few chances from either side. The second half, however, felt more like an All-Star match with just tons of open passes down the pitch, sloppy play in the midfield and some easy goals.

LA now sits two points back of third place in the Western Conference. With Real Salt Lake slipping at the moment, LA has a good shot at moving up. On the other side of things, FC Dallas is still five points back of fifth-place Vancouver with just six games left. Schellas Hyndman's side will need a run of the table in their final six games and hope that the Whitecaps continue to fall.

San Jose adds to Colorado's misery

Just two years removed from winning their franchise's first MLS Cup, the Colorado Rapids now sit in an unfamiliar place in the Western Conference and in the league for that matter - atop the list of the most losses in the league with 16.

In some ways the Rapids and their fans can rest easy knowing there are clubs worse off in this league right now points wise and probably talent wise but losing this many games in a season at this stage is never an easy pill to swallow.

Saturday night's loss at San Jose was just another example of how bad this season has been for the Rapids and their fans. The San Jose Earthquakes and mainly Simon Dawkins dominated the Rapids on a wild evening that saw a 4-1 win to the league leaders.

It is crazy to see how just two years ago the Quakes and Rapids were battling it out for a spot at the MLS Cup. Now one is the top of the table and the other has slipped far enough that they are in danger of reaching the bottom.

Since June 5, the Rapids are 2-11-1. They lost three in a row, then belted Portland, 3-0, then lost six more before managing a 1-0 defeat of Rocky Mountain Cup rival Real Salt Lake.

No matter which way you spin it for Oscar Pareja and his club, they have a ton of work to do to get back to the top of the MLS mountain.

Crew continue riding their new offense

In some ways it was a simple matter of economics. The Columbus Crew rode the power of their defense for weeks and even months. With the likes of Chad Marshall leading the defense and keeper Andy Gruenebaum guiding the team from his post between the pipes, they were doing just enough to keep the Crew afloat in the Eastern Conference. But something was missing for sure, as the offense had no spark.

That isn't the case anymore. Columbus did the wise thing and scouted Central and South America heavily for a couple players that could turn their season on a dime. Enter Designated Player Federico Higuain and his strike partner Jairo Arrieta.

Both had massive nights against the New England Revolution. Arrieta scored a brace and Higuain added two of his own to lead the Crew to a wild 4-3 win over the Revs.

Since Higuain and Arrieta arrived in Columbus, the two have combined for eight goals and four assists. The Crew are are only four points back of fifth place D.C. United with 10 games left to go. As long as these two continue to shine and the defense plays better than they did on Saturday against the Revs, the crew could easily sneak into the playoffs and make some serious noise.

Montero's big day

If there was ever a time to start scoring in big ways it would be now - right before the league heads into the final two months of the season. Seattle Sounders FC forward Fredy Montero made sure he got his team headed in the right direction on Saturday as his hat trick guided the Sounders to an impressive 6-2 win over Chivas USA in Los Angeles.

The victory, Seattle's fourth in their last five matches, lifted the Sounders into second place in the West, tied on points with Real Salt Lake, with two games in hand.

Mauro Rosales provided the boost the Sounders needed and gave the right passes to Montero on his goals. Rosales had three assists on the night but it was all about Montero whose three goals and one assist stole the show.

Just like LA, the Sounders are hitting their stride at the right moment in the season. Both have Champions League games to deal with as well but are proving to have the right depth on their roster to handle it.

Portland leading Cascadia Cup

For all the bad that the Portland Timbers have had to deal with this season, there could be some good in the end. After the Timbers' 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps, they are in pole position in the Cascadia Cup mini-tournament.

The win on Saturday was the first in the rough era under interim manager Gavin Wilkinson. It was the Timbers' first victory since July 3 - which ended an eight-game winless streak - seven of those coming after former head coach John Spencer was dismissed.

Yes, the lowly Portland Timbers lead the Sounders and Whitecaps for their region's cup this morning. Portland has a 2-1-0 record after three games with their rivals, good for seven points - which is oddly enough almost a third of their season points total as well.

There is still a lot to play for as each side still has a couple games to play against one another left on the schedule.

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