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Football Americana 29: Galaxy, Dynamo make the playoffs

Major League Soccer is now some distance beyond meaningless matches in 2009 - apart from one, which I'm sure you'll identify - and the playoff spots are starting to become occupied. One or two teams have slipped badly in recent weeks and they need to pick up their form quickly to avoid their season becoming a disaster.

The week's action began at the Cotton Bowl last Wednesday. Desperate for points, New England Revolution faced FC Dallas, a side now content to spoil the fun for others. They certainly gave the Revs a depressing evening, picking up a 1-0 win to keep New England's playoff hopes in doubt.

Jeff Cunningham scored the game's only goal - his 16th of the season, no less - a superb diving header with 20 minutes left on the clock. The teams exchanged red cards in stoppage time, Andre Rocha and Wells Thompson dismissed after an unsavoury incident right in front of the assistant referee.

On Friday, LA Galaxy secured their playoff spot with a 1-0 win over Chicago Fire. Landon Donovan scored his 11th of the season in the 42nd minute, racing clear onto a long ball by Chris Klein and lobbing the goalkeeper beautifully from the edge of the box. LA played some lovely neat, fast football but ultimately had goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to thank for keeping the Fire down to zero.

Saturday's game at RFK saw DC United fail miserably to capitalise on the Revs' defeat, going down 2-0 to Chivas USA, who now look a decent bet to keep their spot. Goalkeeper Milos Kocic has been credited with an own goal for the first, the ball hitting the post and bouncing in off the stranded stopper's back.

Jesus Padilla took advantage of Marc Burch's confusion to make it 2-0 and throw DC into disarray and legendary midfielder Ben Olsen reacted like a particularly pathetic rookie, blasting the ball at an opponent after being fouled on the touchline.

Seattle Sounders look set to make the playoffs too, picking up a vital maximum at Crew Stadium. They defeated Columbus Crew 1-0 thanks to a poacher's goal from Roger Levesque, in for suspended striker Nate Jaqua. Guillermo Barros Schelotto missed a penalty and the Crew were beaten at home in MLS for the first time in 23 attempts.

The Revs almost took full advantage of DC's latest slip. They took the lead away at Colorado Rapids with a Kheli Dube header. But New England had to settle for a point after Colorado were awarded yet another penalty, this one - as has been the case often this season - converted by Conor Casey.

It was an unconvincing penalty call by the referee but an emphatic finish from Casey, who joins Cunningham on 16 for the season. Julien Baudet was sent off slightly harshly for Colorado for raising his arm, though it certainly wasn't excessively violent.

And it was another penalty which settled matters at the bottom on Saturday. New York Red Bulls are now ten points adrift after losing 1-0 at San Jose Earthquakes. Ryan Johnson converted the spot kick at Buck Shaw.

The last game of the weekend took place at Robertson Stadium on Sunday and ten-man Houston Dynamo held firm to secure their place in the forthcoming post-season. Designated player Luis Angel Landin stole in at the far post to put the Dynamo ahead despite the early dismissal of Cam Weaver for an idiotic challenge. Kansas City Wizards equalised through ZOLTAN! (that's how his name's written, as far as I'm concerned) Hercegfalvi.

The point was enough for Dynamo and they join Columbus and LA in the playoffs. In second place (East) behind Columbus are Chicago, who currently hold the fourth automatic spot. The next four regardless of conference are Seattle, Chivas, Colorado and New England. It's all to play for over the next few weeks, with Toronto perhaps likeliest to rock the boat.

Full results and standings here.

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

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