October 2011: Eastern Conference remains a tight race

Sometimes mediocrity makes for some great drama.

Take, for example, what is happening in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference.

As the playoff races enters its final three weeks, five points separate the top five teams in what has been a rather ordinary conference. The top three teams in each conference qualify, as do the next four teams, regardless of where they are situated.

So, not surprisingly, there is a scramble for the wildcard berths.

At the top is Sporting Kansas City with 45 points, followed closely by the Philadelphia Union and Columbus Crew (both 44 points), Houston Dynamo (43) and the New York Red Bulls (40). Also in contention are D.C. United (38) and the Chicago Fire (37), but D.C have two games in hand.

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Eddie Gaven #12 of the Columbus Crew controls the ball against D.C. United. (Photo: Getty Images)


Kansas City enjoyed as good a week as it earned four points and climbed into first place on the strength of a 2-1 mid-week win over Columbus and a 1-1 draw at the San Jose Earthquakes over the weekend. In the first encounter, Columbus defender Julius James headed the ball over his own goalkeeper, Will Hesmer, to break a 1-1 deadlock after Kei Kamara converted a penalty kick for the winners and Emilio Renteria tallied for the Crew. On Saturday, Teal Bunbury tallied for KC, while Chris Wondolowski found the back of the net for San Jose.

The Union took advantage of the Crew's slip-up by moving into second place behind a four-point week. On Wednesday Philadelphia dispatched D.C. United, 3-2, on Sebastien Le Toux's two goals and Michael Farfan's game-winning tally. United was sparked by Honduran Andy Najar and Dwayne De Rosario, whose 14 goals lead the league. The Union then registered a point in Carson, California behind a 1-1 draw with Chivas USA and Justin Mapp's goal. The visitors were only seconds away from a win and three points, but Colombian Juan Pablo struck in the 90th minute, his seventh goal in as many games for Chivas.

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Goalkeeper Bill Hamid #28 of the D.C. United is unable to make a save on a shot by Sebastien Le Toux #9 of the Philadelphia Union. Union beat DC 3-2. (Photo: Getty Images)


Columbus snapped a six-game winless streak with a 2-1 comeback win over D.C. United on Saturday. Eddie Gaven's diving header broke a 1-1 draw. Defender Daniel Woolard's first goal, off Dwayne De Rosario's free kick, had given the visitors the lead. Woolard, however, scored one for the Crew, setting up Gaven's heroics.

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The Fire also enjoyed a four-point week. Chicago stunned Real Salt Lake, 3-0, on the road behind Guatemalan international midfielder Marco Pappa's hat-trick in a mid-week encounter. On Saturday, the Fire tied the Dynamo in Houston, 1-1, as the visitors rallied behind Dominic Oduro's goal. Colin Clark scored for Houston.

The Red Bulls kept afloat with an 88th-minute goal by former French international Thierry Henry, which lifted them to a 1-1 tie at Toronto FC. Dutchman Danny Koevermans scored for the hosts, who were knwn out of post-season contention by the draw.

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Andy Williams #77 of Real Salt Lake and Marco Pappa #16 of the Chicago Fire fight for the ball. Chicago beat Salt Lake 3-0. (Photo: Getty Images)

Western Conference clubs leading the way

The LA Galaxy, who are set to clinch the Supporters Shield as the regular season’s best team if they defeat New York at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday night, edged reeling RSL, 2-1. Real struck first on Argentine Fabian Espindola's header. But Chad Barrett equalized on David Beckham's league-leading 15th assist of the season before Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers scored an own goal to give LA the win.

Seattle Sounders FC eliminated the New England Revolution from the playoffs with a 2-1 away win at Foxborough on Saturday. Colombia Fredy Montero struck twice for the winners, Diego Fagundez once for the Revolution. Seattle remain second in the West on 57 points, seven points behind LA and six ahead of third place Salt Lake.

The expansion Portland Timbers kept their hopes up for a wildcard post-season berth alive behind a 1-0 triumph over the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the debut match at renovated BC Place Stadium. Kenny Cooper scored the lone goal, eliminating the Whitecaps from playoff contention and putting Portland level with the Red Bulls on points. However the Red Bulls would go through in the tenth and final playoff spot if the teams remain equal on points at the end of the regular season. The two teams drew 3-3 and New York won 2-0 during the regular season to own the tie-breaker advantage.

Defender Drew Moor scored against his former team to lift the Colorado Rapids to a 1-0 home win over FC Dallas. In spite of the loss, Dallas remains a point ahead of Colorado, who are fifth in the Western Conference on 45 points, the same as Eastern Conference leaders Houston.