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MLS roundup: DCU, Galaxy win big in quest for playoffs

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Saturday’s biggest winners in the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs race: D.C. United, Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy; and the losers: Montreal Impact, Los Angeles FC and New York City FC.

[ MORE: MLS to consider lowering maximum of DPs in 2019 ]

D.C. United 5-0 Montreal ImpactFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Let’s go back in time three months, when D.C. United were last in the Eastern Conference and more than a dozen points out of the sixth and final playoff place. Wayne Rooney made his MLS debut a few days later, Luciano Acosta morphed into perhaps the best no. 10 in all of MLS and Audi Field opened — all in the span of two whirlwind weeks.

Fast-forward to Saturday’s 5-0 hammering of sixth-place Montreal Impact, and now Ben Olsen’s side sits just two points out of a playoff place with five games left to play (two more than Montreal). Rooney and Acosta continue to terrorize opposition defenses on a regular basis (the duo has combined for an absurd 14 goals and 13 assists over the last 10 games) and the defense is suddenly solid enough (multiple goals conceded just once in the last five).

Rooney scored twice on Saturday and Acosta bagged a goal of his own — to go with two from Paul Arriola. Acosta tallied a hat trick of assists along with a single helper from Rooney. Montreal self-destructed, to be sure, but it was certainly a byproduct of United’s increasingly aggressive tactics which heaped worlds of pressure on them from the opening whistle. When Rooney’s playing passes like this — simple as it may seem, it’s so rarely the ball chosen in MLS — there’s not much you can do to limit his impact on the game.

Seattle Sounders 4-0 Colorado RapidsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Seattle won nine games in a row to drag themselves out of a D.C.-like hole dug in the spring and early summer. They followed that run up with a pair of disappointing defeats to Philadelphia Union and LA Galaxy. A visit from Colorado Rapids was exactly what the doctor ordered, though, as Raul Ruidiaz (times two), Nicolas Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez all got themselves a goal in their 4-0 triumph at CenturyLink Field.

It was enough to temporarily leapfrog Portland Timbers on tiebreakers for fourth in the West before Portland drew with FC Dallas later in the day to reclaim fourth.

Chicago Fire 3-1 Los Angeles FCFULL HIGHLIGHTS

LAFC had a golden opportunity to leapfrog Sporting Kansas City for second place in the Western Conference and apply some real pressure in the race for a knockout-round bye with a win against Chicago, who have already been eliminated from the playoffs.

Djordje Mihailovic scored a stunning volley for his first goal of the season (second of his career), but Diego Rossi did his best to upstage the 19-year-old for goal of the game/day.

LA Galaxy 3-0 Vancouver WhitecapsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

The 2018 season has been one to forget for the Galaxy — from their their own struggles due in large part to a disastrous series of transfer windows, to the dismissal of Sigi Schmid as head coach, to the arrival and successes of LAFC — but somehow they’re within a single point of the final playoff place in the West (though they have played one game more than RSL) following following Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Vancouver.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as has been the case for much of the season, willed the Galaxy to victory with a brace to bring his season tally to 20 goals (in just 24 appearances).

Elsewhere in MLS action

Columbus Crew SC 0-0 Philadelphia Union
Toronto FC 4-1 New England Revolution
Minnesota United 2-1 New York City FC
Houston Dynamo 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
Portland Timbers 0-0 FC Dallas

Sunday’s MLS schedule

New York Red Bulls vs. Atlanta United — 1 p.m. ET
Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake — 5 p.m. ET

MLS roundup: Sounders win again; FCD, LAFC pacing the West

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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September is here, which means the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs are less than two months away.

[ MORE: No Pulisic on USMNT roster for Brazil, Mexico ]

Points won in September and October count just the same as points won in March and April, but these are the advantageous positions — and predicaments — in which the 17 teams still realistically chasing a postseason berth now find themselves…

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Sporting Kansas CityHIGHLIGHTS

Seattle’s winning streak now stands at eight games after Brian Schmetzer’s side overcame an early deficit at home to knock off the similarly hot (four straight wins) Sporting KC on Saturday.

Diego Rubio scored his fifth goal in five games, after just two minutes, but the visitors’ lead was wiped away just 10 minutes later when Raul Ruidiaz tapped the ball into an empty net on the business end of Brad Smith‘s seeing-eye cross. 1-1 was the score at halftime, but it didn’t last much longer than that.

Harry Shipp’s cross deflected off of Graham Zusi and floated over the helpless head and hands of Tim Melia to make it 2-1 in the 52nd minute, and Sporting’s unraveling was complete four minutes later when Ike Opara played the ball with his upper arm. Nicolas Lodeiro stepped up to the penalty spot and converted with ease.

The win sends Seattle even further up the table, into fifth place in the Western Conference, after their torrid start to the season which saw the two-time defending West champions take just 12 points from their first 15 games. Since their current 11-game unbeaten streak began, the Sounders have won 29 of a possible 33 points.

Montreal Impact 3-0 New York Red BullsHIGHLIGHTS

Just about every week, MLS throws its viewers an unexpected curveball — a surprising result that not a single soul saw coming. This week, it was the Supporters’ Shield-leading New York Red Bulls going up to Stade Saputo and losing 3-0 to the Eastern Conference’s sixth-place side, Montreal Impact.

Rod Fanni (30th minute), Bacary Sagna (38th) and Ignacio Piatti (94rd) scored the goals for Remi Garde’s side which now sits six points clear of seventh place, though they have played three and two more games, respectively, than the seventh and eighth-place D.C. United and New England Revolution (both on 30 points).

FC Dallas 4-2 Houston DynamoHIGHLIGHTS

Back in the West, Dallas extended their lead to three points — over now-second-place Los Angeles FC — with a 4-2 home victory over Houston. It was 3-0 after 51 minutes, before Houston woke up and made a cursory effort to get back into the game.

Michael Barrios opened the scoring in the 10th minute, then Santiago Mosquera bagged a three-minute brace beginning in the 48th. Two minutes later, Mauro Manotas pulled a goal back for the visitors, but Reto Ziegler converted from the penalty spot just five minutes after that to restore the three-goal advantage. Alberth Elis’s 72nd-minute penalty conversion was as close as Houston would get as Wilmer Cabrera’s side fell to 13 points out of the West’s sixth and final playoff place.

Toronto FC 2-4 Los Angeles FCHIGHLIGHTS

LAFC’s 4-2 victory away to defending champions Toronto FC might appear equally perplexing to New York’s debacle in Montreal, but perhaps it shouldn’t anymore. After 27 games played, TFC have just 27 points and they trail the aforementioned Canadian side by nine points for a playoff place.

Like Houston, it was 3-0 — albeit on TFC’s home turf — before Greg Vanney’s Reds put up a fight. Carlos Vela (23rd minute), Diego Rossi (47th) and Lee Nguyen (49th) established the lead for Bob Bradley‘s expansion side before Jozy Altidore scored in the 74th and 93rd minutes to make things more than a little interesting. Vela sealed the three points with his second goal of the game just a minute later, though, and LAFC moved one point ahead of Sporting for second in the West.

Elsewhere in MLS action

D.C. United 3-1 Atlanta United
Columbus Crew SC 2-1 New York City FC
New England Revolution 1-1 Portland Timbers
Orlando City SC 2-2 Philadelphia Union
Real Salt Lake 6-2 LA Galaxy
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes

MLS roundup: SKC, VAN get huge road wins; RBNY trim the gap

Photo credit: Sporting Kansas City / @SportingKC
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Between now and the end of the regular season, with every game comes a bit of added pressure of consequence as the MLS playoff race is officially underway…

[ MORE: Austin MLS stadium vote delayed until next week ]

Los Angeles FC 0-2 Sporting Kansas CityFULL HIGHLIGHTS

“Six-pointers” don’t get much more obvious than Saturday’s matchup between LAFC and Sporting KC, two sides who entered the weekend in fourth and third place, respectively, with the same points total (36) and numbers of wins (10). Thanks to results elsewhere, the winner would climb into second place — just three points back of Western Conference leaders FC Dallas — and the loser would tumble to fifth place, suddenly just three points clear of the wrong side of the playoff cut line.

Sporting got goals from Gerso Fernandes and Ilie Sanchez (penalty kick) either side of halftime to hand the expansion side its first-ever loss at Banc of California Stadium. After fighting through an injury crisis for the better part of the last two months, Peter Vermes’ side is nearly 100 percent healthy at the right time of the season — Felipe Gutierrez and Johnny Russell returned from injuries; Roger Espinoza returned from suspension; and Krisztian Nemeth returned to KC in a trade this week. The West is far from over.

Portland Timbers 1-2 Vancouver WhitecapsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Speaking of the West being a jumbled mess, Portland’s home loss to Vancouver means the Timbers dropped from second to third, and just four points now separate third and sixth place. Most notably, their unbeaten run of 15 games is no more, and at the hands of a Cascadia rival. The Whitecaps, meanwhile, moved to within two points of sixth-place Real Salt Lake after extending their current run to three games without defeat (two wins).

Kei Kamara (14th minute) and Cristian Techera (43rd) gave the visitors a 2-0 halftime lead, and though Diego Valeri converted a penalty kick in the 71st minute, Carl Robinson’s side left Providence Park with all three points.

Chicago Fire 0-1 New York Red BullsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Bradley Wright-Phillips scored the only goal (the 101st of his MLS career) in a drab affair (13 total shots, 4 on target) at Toyota Park. A win is a win, though, and this particular win moves Chris Armas’s side to within one point of Atlanta United (48), leaders in the Supporters’ Shield race. The Red Bulls have a game in hand on the Five Stripes.

Elsewhere in MLS action

LA Galaxy 2-2 Minnesota United — HIGHLIGHTS
Columbus Crew SC 1-0 Houston Dynamo — HIGHLIGHTS
New England Revolution 2-3 Philadelphia Union — HIGHLIGHTS
Real Salt Lake 1-1 Montreal Impact — HIGHLIGHTS
Colorado Rapids 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes — HIGHLIGHTS

Zlatan nabs hat trick in wild comeback

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
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Don’t tell Zlatan Ibrahimovic that the MLS MVP Award is named after someone else.

While the big Swede isn’t likely to win it this year — Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez is on pace to murder the single season scoring record — the 36-year-old aerial ace is on a dominant run with the LA Galaxy.

[ VIDEO: USWNT equalizes in stoppage ]

Ibrahimovic scored three times and added another assist on Sunday against Orlando City SC, as the LA Galaxy won 4-3 at the StubHub Center.

Ibrahimovic assisted the Giovani dos Santos goal that made it 1-1, then scored equalizers at 2-2 and 3-3 before completing his hat trick with the 71st minute match-winner.

Cristian Higuita and Dom Dwyer joined a Michael Ciani own goal in putting Orlando on the board.

Orlando remains six points back of sixth place in the East, while the Galaxy moves third in the West (a point back of new rivals LAFC).

How prolific is the former Manchester United, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Inter Milan man? Allow me to quote myself:

Shipp leads Seattle to easy home win vs. NYCFC

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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Occasionally it’s as easy as this: Seattle and New York City FC both played midweek before meeting Sunday in Washington.

But Seattle played in San Jose, a two-hour flight from home, while NYCFC played one day later and was in Orlando.

[ MORE: Mitrovic in, Rondon out at NUFC ]

The less rest and long trek were evident in the legs of the visitors, who did — for what it’s worth — wind up out-shooting the hosts 19-14.

Harry Shipp had a goal and an assist, and Gustav Svensson and Cristian Roldan also scored as Seattle Sounders rolled New York City FC 3-1 at CenturyLink Field.

Jesus Medina scored NYCFC’s lone goal.

Seattle is now five points back of sixth place in the West, while NYCFC fails to keep pace with East No. 1 seed Atlanta United.