October 2011: Los Angeles superior – New York struggling

Los Angeles Galaxy have strengthened their role of favourites to take the Major League Soccer (MLS) title. The team, centred around English superstar David Beckham, showed superior style to take top position in the overall classification after the so-called regular season of 34 matches. LA Galaxy were awarded the Supporters’ Shield for this success. However, the Major League Soccer season is only now entering its decisive stage. Firstly the lucky last two from the eight participants in the play-off matches will be determined in the wild card games, followed by further play-offs culminating in the final on November 20.

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Frankie Hejduk of LA Galaxy clears from Calen Carr of Houston Dynamo in the 34th match of the season, won 3-1 by Houston in front of 30,000 spectators. (Photo: Getty Images)


The qualification for the play-offs is determined by the rankings in the Conference Groups. The first three among the nine respective teams qualify directly. In the Western Conference LA Galaxy, without a home defeat at Home Depot Center, finished top with 67 points, followed by the Seattle Sounders (63) and Real Salt Lake (53). The points average was clearly lower in the Eastern Conference, with 51 points from 34 matches allowing Sporting Kansas City to take first place. Houston Dynamo finished second with 49, Philadelphia Union third with 48.

FC Dallas against the New York Red Bulls and title defenders Colorado Rapids versus the Columbus Crew will be the wild card games on the road to the play-offs.

Several teams with much higher expectations failed to make the play-offs. Chicago Fire finished only sixth in the Eastern Conference, ahead of D.C. United, Toronto FC and New England Revolution. The Portland Timbers (sixth), San Jose Earthquakes (seventh), Chivas USA (eighth) and Vancouver Whitecaps (ninth) failed in the Western Conference.

Donovan and Beckham shine with Galaxy

The New York Red Bulls, one of the firm favourites at the start of the season, struggled and just managed to make the wild card games and the chance to progress to the play-offs. Their 1-0 win over Philadelphia in the 34th match kept the Bulls in the competition. Dane Richards scored the winner. He and Thierry Henry, the former French World Cup and European champion, were missing when the Red Bulls defeated Dallas 1-0 away in September. On that occasion the Texans clearly dominated throughout, but a sudden counter-attack culminating in a Luke Rodgers goal decided in favour of New York. “This must not happen again”, said Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartmann, “we know what we have to do to improve.”

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Thierry Henry of New York Red Bulls celebrates the 1-0 win over Philadelphia and the chance of making the play-offs. (Photo: Getty Images)


Initially the play-offs will be held within the Conferences. Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders will meet home and away in the semi-finals of the Western Conference. One of the wild card games winners will play Sporting Kansas City. Philadelphia Union against Houston Dynamo, and a wild card winner versus LA Galaxy will be the semi-finals in the Eastern Conference.

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Dwayne de Rosario, who played with Toronto, New York and D.C. United this season, and Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) are joint top scorers with 16 goals. As their clubs failed to qualify for the play-offs, they could be overtaken by Thierry Henry (Red Bulls) with 14 goals so far, Andres Mendoza (Columbus Crew/13), Fredy Montero (Seattle/12) and Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy/12). US international Landon Donovan was injured but is expected to be fit for the play-offs.

Together with Beckham, Donovan makes up one of the best duos in the MLS. They are the shining stars with Galaxy. Beckham, the former superstar of Manchester United, has shown convincing performances but dominates in other areas.

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With 16 goals, Chris Wondolowski of San Jose Earthquakes was the regular season’s joint top scorer, together with Dwayne de Rosario (D.C. United). (Photo: Getty Images)

“Becks” holds second place in the assists with 15, behind Brad Davis of Houston Dynamo (16). But Beckham has also been shown 10 yellow cards, as has Aurelien Collin of Sporting Kansas City.