It's been a fantastic season in the US in 2009. Major League Soccer has done itself proud, providing some superb entertainment and more than enough controversy. And now there's just one game to go and the competition for the final playoff spots is at fever pitch. Here's your roundup from Week 31.
Outside shot Real Salt Lake got off to a great start to the week, defeating New York Red Bulls on Wednesday. Despite playing well and creating a lot of chances, it took an 80th minute Andy Williams strike to put RSL in front. Fabian Espindola sealed the win in the 90th minute with a beautifully curled shot beyond Danny Cepero.
But RSL's playoff hopes were dashed on Saturday by Toronto FC, who picked up a much-needed and very exciting 1-0 win at BMO Field. TFC currently occupy the eighth playoff position thanks to Jim Brennan's winner, a clever finish into the bottom corner in the 48th minute.
Joining Toronto on 39 points are DC United. In a tough match on a waterlogged RFK pitch, United picked up a gutsy victory over Columbus Crew, who have clinched home advantage in the playoffs regardless. Boyzzz Khumalo cleverly played Luciano Emilio through on goal in the 17th minute and the DC DP lifted a lovely shot over the oncoming goalkeeper, squeezing it over the line before it was cleared. Emilio Renteria was sent off late on for the Crew, somewhat harshly.
The fight for the second spot in the East is still alive after Chicago Fire failed to clinch it ahead of TFC and DC. The Fire travelled to New England Revolution, currently one place outside the top eight. Chicago's Chris Rolfe was yellow carded in the 62nd minute for a dive - it was a nailed-on penalty and a terrible decision which could cost Chicago dear.
The fourth team on 39 points is FC Dallas, winning once again at Pizza Hut Park on Saturday. Colorado Rapids suddenly look very vulnerable after defeat in a testy game in Frisco. George John headed in Dave van den Bergh's free kick to put FCD ahead in the 4th minute and over an hour later Ugo Ihemelu buried his old team prodding home after another free kick went loose. Pat Noonan pulled one back with 20 minutes to go.
Seattle Sounders rediscovered some of their swagger with a comeback win over Kansas City Wizards. Tyrone Marshall slammed home a rebound to put the Sounders in front but Zoltan Hercegfalvi (ZOLTAN!) made them pay for twice hitting the woodwork by equalising in the 50th minute. Josh Wolff capitalised on a defensive miscue to make it 2-1 just a couple of minutes later. Roger Levesque drew Seattle level with a header, and Nate Jaqua's tap-in secured both the win and the Sounders' playoff place.
Chivas USA and San Jose Earthquakes shared the points at HDC, the point enough to put Chivas at the top of the West. Maykel Galindo was allowed to put Chivas ahead far too easily, but the Quakes turned the game on its head with goals from Brandon McDonald and Ryan Johnson. Not to be undone, Quakes-killer Justin Braun earned a point for Chivas with a well-taken header.
Finally, Houston Dynamo and LA Galaxy could only hold one another to a goalless draw on Sunday, but there was plenty of drama. Geoff Cameron cleared off the line with a superb bicycle kick and David Beckham did little to endear himself to American fans, putting in a nasty challenge on Rico Clark and becoming involved in the resulting altercation, which saw Dynamo striker Brian Ching dismissed.
With most teams up to 29 games, the playoff picture is becoming clearer. Columbus, LA, Houston, Chivas and Seattle are in. Chicago should join them, but Colorado and Toronto will be targeted by New England, DC United and FCD in Week 32.
Full results and standings here.
For more great writing by Chris Nee, visit TwoFootedTackle.com.