Major League Soccer 2012, Week 24: What We Learned

September 2, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Ramiro Corrales (12) celebrates after his second goal of the night against Chivas USA during the second half at Buck Shaw Stadium. The San Jose Earthquakes defeated Chivas USA 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

The playoff race is heating up as Week 24 provided some late goals and plenty of drama.

The stretch run of the season is upon us and so far it is already proving to be an exciting race to the end. Both conferences have exciting playoff races going on at the moment and each will certainly be a photo finish.

Right now, the games are all about playoff positioning and even the Supporters' Shield is turning into a race between one club from each conference.

Week 24 had plenty of drama early and plenty of goals throughout.

San Jose pushes back out front

One amazing stat to throw out first is the amount of goals that Chris Wondowlowski (18), Steven Lenhart (8) and Alan Gordon (11) have combined to score this season. An impressive 37 goals between the three strikers and lately none of them have been scoring for the Earthquakes.

Sunday was no different as San Jose added more misery to the 2012 season for Chivas USA by downing the Goats 4-0. Goals once again came from everyone else but the main trio of scorers as Ramiro Corrales, Victor Bernardez, and Simon Dawkins all contributed on the night. Corrales himself had two goals on free kicks to cap off the night. Don't worry San Jose fans, Wondo was still contributing to the attack as he assisted on Dawkins' goal.

San Jose now owns a club-record 56 goals this season with seven games left to play. As long as the top trio gets back into scoring before the playoffs hit, this club will certainly push toward some history in the goals scoring department. As it stands, they've already scored as many goals as any team since D.C. United scored 58 in 2005.

The win pushed San Jose seven points clear of Real Salt Lake in the top of the Western Conference with 53 points and also three points clear of Sporting Kansas City for the Supporters' Shield race.

Kansas City pulling away in the East

And speaking of Sporting, the midwest club downed Toronto FC 2-1 on Saturday night thanks to a late game-winner from newcomer (and former Barcelona youth product) Oriol Rosell.

Sporting outshot Toronto 24-6 and dominated the possession game by owning 71.1 percent of the ball on the night but SKC were fortunate to get the full three points.

Kansas City had to rally from a goal down as Ryan Johnson gave Toronto the lead just after halftime. Kansas City pulled level at the hour mark from Pablo Nagamura.

SKC is now four points up on the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference after 27 games played. Kansas City is also hoping to hold off a slew of clubs in the standings after the Red Bulls as the East, is starting to become jam-packed up top.

Five-team race in East coming down to the wire

This week's results in the Eastern Conference clearly show that this conference will be more exciting to watch than the Western Conference when it comes to a playoff race. While the Western clubs are arguably better than most in the East, the excitement is clearly in favor of those clubs in the running from the East.

Five clubs are gunning for the final three playoff spots in the East. A week or so ago, it was merely just three teams going for the final playoff spot but that is all changing.

The biggest reason, is the emergence of the Columbus Crew. Robert Waryzcha's club has raced back into contention with four straight wins. Federico Higuain, Columbus' newest Designated Player, has given this club the lift offensively to get back in the playoff hunt. In five games, he has scored three goals and added six assists to get the Crew within a shot of the playoffs.

Columbus pulled off two big wins this week with game-winners coming in the final moments of the game. Eddie Gaven pulled off a late goal in Philadelphia on Wednesday and Emilio Renteria scored the game-winner on Saturday against Montreal.

The Crew aren't the only one on good form lately. The Chicago Fire are pushing their way into the third post in the East thanks to their win on Sunday over the Houston Dynamo.

The Fire have 44 points on the year with Houston (42), Columbus (42), D.C. United (41) and Montreal (39) all chasing them. Chicago could end up pulling the New York Red Bulls into this race as they are just two points back of them for second place. No matter which way you look at it these last few weeks will be exciting in the East.

Dallas stumbles in must-win game

With six games remaining on the season schedule, FC Dallas just needed to win. The one team they are chasing for the playoffs (Vancouver Whitecaps) did their part on Saturday to help Dallas by losing 2-0 against the LA Galaxy. All Dallas needed to do was win on Sunday against the Seattle Sounders and they'd be within two points of the Caps for the fifth and final playoff spot.

But soccer as always can be a cruel sport. Dallas stumbled and wasted chances all Sunday evening against the Sounders as the two sides played for a 1-1 draw in a hot night at that saw the temperatures reach 100 degrees.

Seattle got on the board early with the return of Steve Zakuani to the starting XI. Zakuani made his first start in 500 days since breaking his leg last spring in Colorado. His placement in the lineup by Sigi Schmid was the boost his club needed after being on the road in Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday. Zakuani helped break the deadlock early in the first half when he placed a perfect ball across the six-yard box to Mauro Rosales who tapped home the easy goal.

Dallas was quick to respond though with a similar goal from Jackson Goncalves. Julian de Guzman found Blas Perez (also making his return to the starting XI for Dallas for the first time since May), who then found Jackson for the goal.

The teams traded blows for the rest of the night while Dallas saw the bulk of the chances in the second half. Neither club could make anything of their chances though. Dallas wasted the opportunity to get closer to Vancouver in the standings but will still have it all to play for when the Whitecaps come to Dallas on September 15.

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