Next summer, Major League Soccer will break for the group stages of World Cup 2010 in South Africa. It doesn't sound much, but it's a start. In Week 30 the league was down to just four matches as the football world focused on World Cup qualifying. Well done to the US national team who clinched their World Cup spot with a hard-fought victory in Honduras, and to Chivas USA who qualified for the 2010 post-season on Saturday.
The LA club hosted Kansas City Wizards at HDC and clinched their playoff position thanks to two goals in two second half minutes. Justin Braun put Preki's boys ahead in the 72nd minute, turning in a loose ball before Sacha Kljestan doubled the lead at the end of a lovely solo run in the 74th. The Wizards will be unhappy with their defending on both occasions.
FC Dallas gave themselves a fighting chance of qualification with a win on Wednesday. They defeated San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw and are now ahead of DC United and Toronto FC. David Ferreira opened the scoring in the 49th minute after rounding Joe Cannon. Quincy Amarikwa finished from a tight angle to level matters with 18 minutes left, but Jeff Cunningham tapped in the winner ten minutes later. FCD can thank goalkeeper Dario Sala for keeping them in the game with a string of impressive saves.
The Quakes were in action again on Saturday, travelling to playoff hopefuls Toronto FC. TFC led early in the second half thanks to Nana Attakora's great run to the back post for a simple finish, but Cornell Glen dented their playoff hopes with a scrappy finish two minutes into stoppage time.
Columbus Crew are home and dry, and returned to winning ways with a victory over New England Revolution, themselves struggling for playoff qualification. Gino Padula scored the only goal of the game in Foxboro, winning it for the Crew with a free kick from a good 45 yards out. It floated into the middle of the goal and eluded Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis whose error was unforgivable. The official MLS site described the shot as "sneaky", which is altogether too generous. Emmanuel Ekpo was wrongly sent off for an elbow with 25 minutes left on the clock.
With that, Columbus stay atop their conference ahead of Chicago Fire. LA and Houston have guaranteed their playoff spots and are currently the top two in the West. Chivas USA are through and lead the wildcard spots ahead of Seattle Sounders, Colorado Rapids and New England. The Revs are just two points ahead of FCD, DC United and TFC, and four ahead of Real Salt Lake who have a game in hand.
In short, it's tight and it's beginning to get very exciting.
Full results and standings here.
For more great writing by Chris Nee, visit TwoFootedTackle.com.