Kick Off: Playoff and Supporters' Shield races as tight as ever following Soccer Sunday results

Kick Off, standings

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USA Today Sports

Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today...

Before diving in, check out the updated MLS playoff and Supporters' Shield standings.

1. POINTS SHARED IN SEATTLE

The Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls shared the points on Sunday night following a 1-1 draw at CenturyLink Field (watch highlights here). It meant neither team was able to clinch a playoff space, but a point is a point and the result moves both teams closer to their overall goal. New York, without Thierry Henry and Jámison Olave in front of a hostile Seattle crowd, scored a late equalizer thanks to Tim Cahill and will come away the happiest of the two. The Sounders now have three games over an eight-day stretch, two of which are against teams challenging them for top playoff spots, as they start to make up their games in hand. Coach Sigi Schmid isn’t worried, though: “We’ve been in tough situations before… we just have to stand up and meet them again.”

2. TIMBERS MAKE A STATEMENT WITH ANOTHER WIN AGAINST DEFENDING CHAMPS

Playing in absolutely awful conditions, the Portland Timbers managed to secure a 1-0 win against the LA Galaxy (watch highlights here) and, in the process, secure themselves three huge point in the race to avoid the Knockout Round of the MLS Cup playoffs. It was new aquisition Maximiliano Urruti who scored the only goal of the game with a delightful flick from the outside of his boot. Like a broken record, the Galaxy are aware they need to defend better on set pieces. “Forget tactics … it’s about the desire and commitment to go and win the ball,” said Galaxy captain Robbie Keane, who had the ball in the Timbers' goal late on but was correctly ruled offside. The result now leaves Portland thinking they can accomplish something special.

3. BACKUPS DO THE JOB FOR RSL

Real Salt Lake showed just how much depth they have on Saturday night. With the US Open Cup final on Tuesday, Jason Kreis held back a number of the team’s first-choice players and yet they were still able to secure a 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps (watch highlights here). For the Whitecaps, it was a missed opportunity to close the gap on a playoff place and head coach Martin Rennie felt almost everyone, including himself, had a terrible game.

4. THE FEDERAL RESERVES

In contrast to RSL, D.C. United also fielded an under-strength team against Toronto FC. The difference was the result, as TFC eventually romped to a 4-1 victory (watch highlights here). A victory is a victory no matter who it’s against for Toronto, and it came with a promising sign for the future as Bright Dike scored his first goal for the club. For Ben Olsen, all the attention is focused on Tuesday's Open Cup final and he admitted as much after in regards to his lineup choices: “I set these guys up to fail today, it’s pretty simple.”

5. UNION BOUNCE BACK FROM SLIDE WITH VITAL ROAD WIN

In what could be the biggest surprise of the weekend, the Philadelphia Union managed to beat Sporting Kansas City, 1-0 (watch highlights here). The Union took the lead in a first half in which they dominated thanks to a Conor Casey goal then survived some nervy moments toward the end to move into the fifth and final playoff spot in the East. Sporting KC, meanwhile, lamented yet another match of  unfinished opportunities while the Union were glad to get their first goal in 346 minutes.

6. CHICAGO HOPES DENTED

On top of the race for a playoff spot, Saturday's contest between the Chicago Fire and Montreal Impact also featured a battle between two of the leading contenders for the Golden Boot. While the actual match may have finished 2-2 (watch highlights here), Mike Magee came out on top of Marco Di Vaio to the tune of two goals to one. Yet despite scoring twice, Magee put the blame for not winning on himself after failing to score a penalty with the score at 2-1: “I’ve got to bury that PK and then the game's over … so tonight’s on me.” Following Magee’s miss, Maxim Tissot scored an equalizer at the other end, the first-ever MLS goal from a Montreal Academy product, to give the Impact another vital point on the road.

7.  DYNAMO AND REVOLUTION SHARE POINTS

The 1-1 draw (watch highlights here) was a result that benefited the Houston Dynamo slightly more than the New England Revolution but keeps both teams on their toes heading into the final straight. The introduction of Juan Agudelo allowed New England to open the scoring, but some inspired reshuffling from Dominic Kinnear gave the Dynamo just what they needed to find an equalizer. As Kinnear said, "If you want to get something you have to go look for it.”

8. COLUMBUS CONTINUE TO RISE

The Columbus Crew continued their remarkable late run at the playoffs with a 4-2 win over FC Dallas (watch highlights here). The result leaves the Crew in sixth place, just one point behind the Philadelphia Union, although Columbus have played a game more. Dominic Oduro played a big part, scoring his 12th goal of the season, and noted, “We take pride in our offense.” At the final whistle, Dallas fans let the team know just what they thought of the late-season dip in form which has seen Dallas move from a playoff space all the way down to eighth. As head coach Schellas Hyndman put it: “I think our results are deserving [of the reaction].”

9. SAN JOSE KEEP HOPES ALIVE

A solitary goal from Chris Wondolowski was enough for the San Jose Earthquakes to defeat Chivas USA, 1-0 (watch highlights here), and move just one point outside the playoff spots. Never a team to make it easy on themselves, the Quakes left it until the 87th minute, playing a man down following a Steven Lenhart red card, to score the winner. Goalscorer and reigning MVP Wondolowski summed it up best: “You just have to stay the course and keep plugging away. I think that’s something we're pretty good at.”

10. INJURY CONCERN FOR USMNT

October’s qualifiers present a fantastic opportunity for Kyle Beckerman to really stake his claim as the US national team’s defensive midfield linchpin (if he hasn’t already). That's because the US could be without both Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones. The latter was ruled out on Saturday after news came down that Jones will miss up to six weeks following knee surgery. Or will he? Seems the player is as surprised as everyone else.

11.  IF YOU LOVE THEM, LET THEM GO

As the recent 24 Under 24 list showed, MLS has no shortage of young and extremely talented players. Clearly the league has no problem attracting those players to MLS, but as Jeff Carlisle at ESPNFC.com examines, keeping them in the league has been a whole different story. One which MLS has taken significant steps to address.

12. ORLANDO'S BIG PLANS

Orlando City's chances of becoming an MLS franchise rely in large part upon approval for their proposed stadium. That's no mystery. The Orlando Sentinel recently acquired a draft copy of the stadium proposal and revealed the majority of the details surrounding the deal.

13. HOLDEN AND THE FIFA PAYOUT

We all remember the sad scene from the Gold Cup final as Stuart Holden limped off the pitch. After losing the best part of two seasons to injury, it looked like the midfielder had finally completed his comeback when disaster struck again. What many of us might not know is what happened next.

14. WIL TRAPP AND THE LONG BALL

If the Columbus Crew are to complete their remarkable late run into the playoff picture, they’ll owe a lot of the thanks to Wil Trapp and his remarkable mastery of the long ball. Is that the main reason the 20-year-old has established himself so thoroughly in the first-team picture?

15. A TIMBERS EDUCATION

While the present looks pretty good for the Portland Timbers right now, Caleb Porter also has a plan for the future, and it involves the Timbers Academy. Porter believes in giving the academy products opportunities to work alongside the first team and see what their future could hold. Meanwhile, examining the Timbers revival under Porter highlights one of the reasons MLS’ parity is something to celebrate.

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