Photo credit: Sporting Kansas City / @SportingKC

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

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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.

MLS 3 Things: Resurgent Zardes, Toronto up, New England down

AP Photo/Andres Kudacki
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A busy Saturday in Major League Soccer sees three interesting results bolstering the story lines of the final few months of the season.

[ MORE: Unstoppable Josef | Zlatan, too ]

1) Imagine a world with the reigning champs as your reward for finishing first.

With 14 matches to play, Toronto FC has Jozy Altidore back in the fold and has pulled to within eight points of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot after a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Sebastian Giovinco looks like Sebastian Giovinco in scoring another outstanding goal, just his fifth of the season, while Jonathan Osorio also scored in the win.

Before you watch Seba’s goal, picture you’ve won the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now picture TFC as your semifinal reward.

2) New England is well and truly slumping

Brad Friedel‘s Revs are slipping after losing a third-straight league match, and New England has gained a solitary point since the calendar turned to July following a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena.

Fourth through ninth in the East are separated by nine points, and New England is very much in that mix now. Friedel is certainly at the most trying time of his tenure.

Second half goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer did the trick for RBNY, who have claimed 15 of the last 18 points available to them (The lone blemish is the Hudson River Derby).

The Red Bulls are now 8-1-1 at home this season, while New England is 1-4-4 away from Foxboro.

3) Gyasi Zardes’ return to form is surprising and wonderful

Columbus has its second win since May 19, and will be feeling much better about itself following a 3-2 comeback win over Orlando City which included a pair of equalizers.

One of those came in the 88th minute, as Gyasi Zardes completed his brace by converting a penalty won by new arrival Patrick Mullins.

The Crew won late via a rare Wil Trapp goal — the USMNT midfielder has just two in 161 matches — but let’s focus on Zardes.

Zardes’ 13th goal of the season continues an amazing turnaround under striker whisperer Gregg Berhalter. It’s Zardes’ second double-digit season, and his first since 2014. He is firmly in frame for another USMNT look, this time as a center forward, but first there’s plenty to like about the big man.

Lodeiro brace gives Seattle’s faint playoff hopes a lifeline

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In Major League Soccer’s forgiving playoff structure, there’s almost always a way back into the mix.

When your team has a talent like Nicolas Lodeiro, your chances get magnified quite a bit.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez bags 3 more ]

Lodeiro scored twice, once from the spot, and Seattle debuted its new Designated Player in a 2-0 Cascadia Cup win over Vancouver on Saturday.

Seattle is now eight points back of the West’s final playoff spot with 15 to play in its season. And the Sounders join Portland on three Cascadia Cup points, with the Timbers beating Seattle in the other cup match of the season.

Raul Ruidiaz came off the bench for the Sounders, and showed early glimpses of why Seattle wanted the World Cup participant from Peru.

The ‘Caps finished the match with 10 men thanks to a red card on Efrain Juarez, who saw yellow and then made contact with the referee.

The second goal took a vicious turn on its way to making goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic look capital-A awkward.