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MLS Snapshot: RBNY trounce VAN, clinch East’s final playoff spot

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The game in 100 words (or less): Just when we were oh so sure the Vancouver Whitecaps had solidified themselves as the cream of the Western Conference crop, Carl Robinson’s side lands flat on its collective face in suffering a 3-0 defeat away to the New York Red Bulls a week later. A win would have put Vancouver seven points clear (for the time being) of everyone in the West. Instead, Sporting Kansas City feature in one of two games in hand later on Saturday with a chance to close the gap to one. New York, meanwhile, needed just three more points to clinch the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference, which they did thanks to another standout, two-assist performance by Sacha Kljestan. The 32-year-old set up goals scored by Daniel Royer and Felipe to take his average to 17 assists per season for the last three years. Bradley Wright-Phillips bagged the other goal (assisted by 18-year-old stud Tyler Adams).

[ MORE: USMNT routs Panama to boost WC dreams in a big way ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Kljestan feeds Royer to make it 1-0 — Kljestan tallied his 50th assist in just under three seasons since returning to MLS, which positions him among pristine company. Royer still has plenty of work to do after getting on the end of Kljestan’s ball.

58′ — BWP dinks it past Ousted for 2-0 Wright-Phillips should be lauded for the cheeky finish after carrying the ball 40 yards, but the real story here is the ball from Adams. Watch it and feel safe in knowing he’s ready for the call, USMNT fans.

72′ — Felipe hits a laser for 3-0 — Make that 51 assists for Kljestan, who still had lots of work to do once inside the penalty area. The ball back for Felipe looks simple enough after all he did to keep it in bounds and create a bit of separation for himself.

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Man of the match: Sacha Kljestan

Goalscorers: Royer (33′), Wright-Phillips (58′), Felipe (72′)

The show goes on: Three MLS matches this weekend

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All attention will be on the U.S. Men’s National Team and the rest of World Cup qualifying this weekend during the international “break,” but MLS plays on.

Three matches are on the docket in the U.S. on Saturday, all three of which have big playoff implications for the clubs involved.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Here’s a look at this weekend’s MLS fixtures and what kind of impact they have on this season’s MLS Cup playoffs.

New York Red Bulls vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 5 p.m. ET 

The New York Red Bulls have a game in hand over the four Eastern Conference teams chasing down the sixth seed, and a victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps would ensure Jesse Marsch and Co. are going back to the postseason.

The Whitecaps — on the other hand — have already booked their place in the MLS Cup playoffs, but can move a step closer to locking down the top seed out West with a win at Red Bull Arena.

Minnesota United vs. Sporting KC — 8 p.m. ET

The Loons haven’t been eliminated from postseason contention yet, and coming off of the team’s massive road win against Atlanta on Tuesday night Adrian Heath’s men should be hungry for another big performance.

For Sporting KC, they have the most games left of any team in MLS over these final few weeks (4), which means that Peter Vermes’ group can either really help or hurt themselves heading into the postseason. That stretch of matches includes three road trips if you’re counting Saturday’s visit to Minneapolis.

Colorado Rapids vs. FC Dallas — 9 p.m. ET

FC Dallas has reportedly dodged a huge bullet by not being docked points by MLS for fielding an ineligible player, and a win on Saturday could lift the Texas side from eighth to fifth.

The Rapids are simply looking to play spoiler at this point after a poor effort throughout the regular season, and while a loss for Dallas wouldn’t bury them in the playoff race, it would certainly apply more pressure than the club has felt in some time.

MLS Snapshot: TFC outlast RBNY, claim first Supporters’ Shield

Photo credit: Toronto FC / @torontofc
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The game in 100 words (or less): At long last — after eight years without ever qualifying for the playoffs, and 10 without a major MLS trophy to show for all their heartache — Toronto FC are 2017 Supporters’ Shield winners.

Greg Vanney’s side limped to the finish line this week and last, but they got there in the end, with two games to spare. The Reds completed one of the best regular seasons in league history on Saturday, narrowly outlasting the New York Red Bulls, 3-2, to win — and lift — the Shield in front of their home fans. They did so without the service of Sebastian Giovinco, who’s now missed four straight games with what the club has called “lower-body tightness.” Justin Morrow wound up the unlikeliest scorer of a hat trick to clinch a trophy, bagging goals five minutes apart not long before halftime, setting up MLS assist king (16) Victor Vazquez to score the game- and Shield-winning goal from the penalty spot just 10 minutes before full-time.

[ MORE: SKC, VAN face off for West supremacy; HOU still chasing playoffs ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

32′ — Morrow cleans up a mess in front of goal for 1-0 — Victor Vazquez played the long diagonal to Jozy Altidore, who headed the ball back across the face of goal and into the danger zone. No one in blue dealt with it, and Morrow was the quickest to react.

37′ — Morrow pokes another one home, and it’s 2-0 — Michael Bradley’s shot was blocked and deflected t0 — you guessed it — Morrow, with nothing in between him and goalkeeper Luis Robles. Decent composure in front of goal for a full back.

39′ — Veron hits right back, brings RBNY to 2-1 — slots past Bono after Tyler Adams’ inch-perfect ball plays him behind the backline.

77′ — Royer converts from the spot after Veron gets taken down — Drew Moor slid clear through Veron inside the penalty area to give away a largely needless penalty. Royer sent Bono one way and dinked the ball the other.

80′ — Vazquez converts one of his own after Altidore goes down — Aaron Long was all over Jozy Altidore who, big as he might be, had to go down under that much contact — penalty rightly given. Vazquez made it look easy.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Justin Morrow

Goalscorers: Morrow (32′, 37′, 90+1′), Veron (39′), Royer (77′ – PK), Vazquez (80′ – PK)

Five moments that mattered from five MLS midweek matches (video)

AP Photo/John Raoux
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Major League Soccer plays catch up Wednesday as a number of teams make up ground on their rivals as we rocket into the season’s home stretch.

[ MORE: U.S. teen extends Schalke deal ]

As opposed to posting five full MLS snapshots, we’ll give you the top moments from each match. They don’t all come from the winners.

New York Red Bulls 3-3 DC United

There are many among the nation of United States men’s national team supporters who are keeping a close eye on Tyler Adams, and the 18-year-old posted a fine first MLS goal on Wednesday. Oh, and then he posted a second.

Here’s the opener.

Atlanta United 3-0 Philadelphia Union

Josef Martinez nabbed his 18th goal of the season on an assist from Julian Gressel, who also scored as the Five Stripes built an early lead. Jacob Peterson added the third, from Hector Villalba.

Atlanta is the first MLS expansion team to make the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2009 (Seattle Sounders).

Orlando City 6-1 New England Revolution

The Lions cruised to a much-needed win over 10-man New England, with Kaka scoring twice, and we were tempted to use a Lee Nguyen free kick goal until Yoshimar Yotún added a goal to his two-assist day.

FC Dallas 2-0 Colorado Rapids

Once favorites to compete for every trophy in America, FCD showed the faintest signs of life against the lowly Rapids (especially in an early a four-minute run).

Montreal Impact 0-1 New York City FC

Advantage was played to give NYCFC an advantage through Jack Harrison.

Red Bulls must rally quickly, turn attention back to MLS playoff race

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For any Red Bulls supporter, Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup final was a grim reminder of how devastating any cup final can be for a team.

[ MORE: Sporting KC claims its fourth U.S. Open Cup title ]

The New York Red Bulls fell short against Sporting KC — who captured its fourth Open Cup victory in its club’s history — but Jesse Marsch’s side cannot dwell on the result because there is another big task at hand over the final weeks of the MLS regular season.

While that may be easier said than done, especially after the “heartbreaking” nature of Wednesday’s loss, Marsch believes that his side exhibits the qualities you’d want in any good team.

“The outcome is obviously heartbreaking, but the performance is what I think we’ll carry with us. In the moment, there’s no consolation prize,” Marsch said when asked about if there would be any hang over from the loss. “But the confidence that this group has, they way that they played and the way that they played for each other, this will continue to make us good.”

The biggest concern for the Red Bulls though isn’t necessarily even their current form, but instead the form of other clubs around them in the Eastern Conference. With six matches remaining, Marsch and Co. sit just three points above the Montreal Impact for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East.

Meanwhile, Atlanta United has surged up the table and still holds at least a game in hand over most of the field, making them quite the danger in addition leaders Toronto FC and second-place New York City FC.

The Red Bulls haven’t won a match since their 3-2 Open Cup semifinal victory against FC Cincinnati, which came over a month ago.

Marsch and his side do have the benefit of facing bottom-dwellers D.C. United twice over the last five weeks of the regular season, but also packed into into the Red Bulls schedule are matches against four current playoff teams, including Toronto and Atlanta.

Goalkeeper Ryan Meara stressed the importance of his side maintaining its focus, particularly after the Impact and Atlanta each picked up three points on Wednesday night.

“Yeah, that’s the thing, (our upcoming games) will make us move on from this,” Meara said. “We’ve got a big game in Columbus, we know the teams around us have been winning, Montreal won tonight and Atlanta won tonight, so I guess feel sorry for ourselves tonight, get up and dust ourselves off tomorrow and start looking forward to Saturday and Wednesday with D.C. United at home. The games are coming thick and fast and we’ve got to be ready for it.”