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Football Americana Week 16: Happy Days for Cunningham

Another stunted week in Major League Soccer, and another week of surprising results and solid if unspectacular footballing goodness Stateside. The focus was very much on the Eastern Conference as DC, Chicago and Columbus were all in action looking to cement their playoff challenge.

Week 16 kicked off at the altitude of Rio Tinto on Friday. San Jose Earthquakes went ahead just after the hour with a brilliantly taken goal by Arturo Alvarez, darting through with the ball on a string to finish past Nick Rimando in the Real Salt Lake goal. Fabian Espindola had seen plenty of the ball for RSL and created a sackload of chances, but the frustration got to him more than anyone - he was dismissed for scything down Brandon McDonald with 14 minutes to go. RSL still bagged the point, Chris Leitch pinching the ball off Yura Movsisyan's toe but placing it beyond his goalkeeper Joe Cannon.

On Saturday, DC United took their lead in the East to Columbus Crew, for whom a win would be enough send them above United. Tommy Soehn's men took the lead thanks to Christian Gomez who pounced to sweep in a loose ball after 33 minutes. United had enough chances to be home and dry, but it was Crew who found the net, Alejandro Moreno equalising from close range.

With United and Crew sharing the spoils, Chicago Fire had a chance to close the gap. They led Colorado Rapids 2-0 after just 37 minutes. Marco Pappa got the first, bending it confidently into the corner from 12 yards. A towering Wilman Conde header converted a Cuauhtemoc Blanco corner for the second. Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch made a difficult save from a Conor Casey header in the 76th minute but was unable to make the ball safe, allowing Jacob Peterson to tap in the Rapids' consolation.

One goal was enough for Houston Dynamo at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Kei Kamara headed in a Mike Chabala cross to defeat Kansas City Wizards before whipping a white glove out of his shorts and paying tribute to deceased popstar Michael Jackson, chamone.

Pizza Hut Park hosted the Battle of Ineptitude between FC Dallas and New York Red Bulls, and FCD emerged victorious thanks to a lightning brace from Jeff Cunningham, playing up front to cover for USA Gold Cup pick Kenny Cooper. He got two goals in three minutes, the first a neat finish after a poor backpass by Luke Sassano and the second a tap-in from a pinpoint cross by Dave van den Bergh. Juan Pablo Angel almost missed from a yard, but the cross which he controlled towards the net just squeezed in for 2-1. He thought he'd levelled after half time but was ruled offside, a sight familiar to supporters of Aston Villa.

Alecko Eskandarian stole the headlines after moving to Los Angeles Galaxy from Chivas USA last week and scoring on debut against New England Revolution. The finish was simple but assured, Eskandarian turning a deep, diagonal cross into a gaping net to give the Galaxy all three points at HDC.

Results in the East leave DC United top from Chicago Fire, but both have 24 points. Houston Dynamo (31), Chivas USA (27) and Seattle Sounders (25) head up the West. Columbus Crew, Toronto FC and Colorado Rapids currently occupy the remaining playoff spots.

Full results and standings here.

For more great football writing by Chris Nee, visit TwoFootedTackle.com...

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