The Kick Off: Eastern Conference a three-way race as leaders push out in front

Kick Off Sept. 9

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USA TODAY Sports

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

1. MONTREAL IMPACT DUMP REVS, LEAD RACE ATOP THE EAST

There's a three-way race to rule the Eastern Conference on this Monday, and no one is in a better position than the Montreal Impact. An early red card to Matt Reis set the story Sunday as the Impact topped the New England Revolution, 4-2 (watch highlights here), and keep pace with both Sporting Kansas City and New York. The difference? The Impact have two games on hand on their opponents. “Our destiny is in our own hands,” says assistant coach Mauro Biello.

2. RED BULLS ROLL ON THE ROAD

The New York Red Bulls powered past the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Stadium on Sunday to record a 4-1 victory (watch highlights here) and keep pace just fine themselves. It was New York’s first win at BBVA and a strong enough performance that midfielder Jonny Steele was telling the media that the Supporters' Shield could be in their sights. Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear, meanwhile, was ejected late in the game and knows his team has work to do just to make the playoffs.

3. NO PROBLEMS FOR KANSAS CITY

Sporting Kansas City, missing a number of players due to internationals and cup finals, put in a commanding performance Saturday to beat the Columbus Crew 3-0 (watch highlights here). After a good display against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, the Crew’s interim manager Brian Bliss had talked about punching the bully on the nose during Saturday’s game, but SKC goalscorer Sonny Saad insisted, “We prefer to do our talking on the pitch."

4. WONDER GOALS HELP DALLAS BEAT VANCOUVER

Did FC Dallas clearly decide they would only score golazos in their match against the Vancouver Whitecaps? Despite Vancouver taking the the lead on Saturday, Dallas proceeded to score three stunning strikes to come away with a 3-1 victory (watch highlights here). Two of the goals directly involved Mauro Diaz, who Eric Hassli refers to as a “little genius." And while Je-Vaughn Watson may have also scored a wonder goal, he could have been having a very different weekend had he not turned down an international call-up.

5. SOUNDERS GET HELP PAST CHICAGO

On a night when the Seattle Sounders were missing two of their biggest players, the team still came up with an important 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire (watch highlights here). The game marked the 100th appearance of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado for the Sounders, who managed to win thanks to an own goal, even after Sean Johnson saved an Osvaldo Alonso penalty. The penalty was conceded from a Bakary Soumare handball and, it’s safe to say, Soumare disagreed with the Fire communication team's online assessment of the incident.

6. BUDDLE HAS A GOOD NIGHT BACK IN LA

Missing their two most dangerous strikers, the LA Galaxy fell 1-0 to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday (watch highlights here), and Rapids hero Edson Buddle got the game-winner. The former Galaxy striker came back to haunt his former team with a 75th-minute goal in his old home and admitted, “I always liked playing here.” Bruce Arena, meanwhile, was left perplexed by the scheduling of his team's fixtures.

7. PORTLAND TAKE DOWN TORONTO

Toronto FC may have made another change off the field on Friday, but the results on it stayed very much the same Saturday as Toronto fell to a 4-0 defeat against the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field (watch highlights here). The Timbers will take the three points and the good news that Will Johnson and Diego Chara are back on the field once again. The good news for TFC? They may have a new GM before too long.

8. D.C. UNITED FIRST TEAM OUT

D.C. United became the first team mathematically eliminated from the playoff race after a 1-0 loss to Chivas USA at the StubHub Center on Sunday night (watch highlights here). Meanwhile in San Jose, the Earthquakes got a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union (watch highlights here) in what John Hackworth labeled an “unacceptable” performance from his Union team. Strangely, despite it being Steven Lenhart Chia pet night, Lenhart started on the bench.

9. BUMP ON THE ROAD FOR US IN COSTA RICA

When Michael Bradley injured himself in the pregame warm-up, you probably knew it was going to be one of those evenings. Sure enough, the US national team ended up losing 3-1 on Friday night to Costa Rica, who move to the top of the Hex. It was a night to forget for the majority of US players, who almost uniformly picked up poor player ratings. Worse still though, and far more important, was that yellow cards now mean vital players will miss Tuesday's match, including Jozy Altidore, who picked up a completely needless card in extra time.

10. NEXT UP, COLUMBUS

The USA can now turn their attention to Mexico on Tuesday night and while injuries and suspensions have forced changes in the US squad, none of them are as big a change as the one Mexico made. Following a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Honduras, in which Jerry Bengtson scored a goal, Mexico have finally parted ways with Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre. El Tri replaced him, for now, with Olympic gold winning-coach Luis Fernando Tena. Meanwhile, Jamaica and their large MLS contingent escaped Panama with a 0-0 draw after experiencing a very different kind of gamesmanship.

11. CANADA START NEW ERA, STILL CAN’T SCORE

It’s been an interesting week for Canadian soccer and on Sunday, the Benito Floro era got off to an uninspiring start following a 0-0 draw with Mauritania in a friendly in Spain. While it’s been almost a year since Canada last won a game, the Canadians have also only scored one goal in nine games since the start of 2013. Still, there were reasons to be optimistic for the future as several rookies made promising debuts. “We are learning how to play collectively” stated Floro.

12. ORLANDO CITY TAKE USL PRO TITLE

While Kansas City were enjoying a successful night at Sporting Park on Saturday, a couple of SKC players were having an even better time as Orlando City picked up the USL PRO trophy in front of near 21,000 fans in the Citrus Bowl. Dom Dwyer scored four goals as Orlando City beat the Charlotte Eagles 7-4, but was it really fair that Dwyer was playing?

13. MORE EXPANSION TALK

Following Orlando’s success on Saturday night, will other clubs try and duplicate their model? SacramentoPress.com already sees a number of similarities between the two cities. In another part of Florida, another new franchise seems to have a lot of work to do. And there is a new hire for New York City FC.

14. TV FACTS AND FIGURES

Who has the edge in the ratings battle between new soccer-specific shows on Fox and ESPN? It appears there's a clear winner so far, according to the latest numbers.

15. EDDIE JOHNSON, STYLE ICON

If Eddie Johnson doesn’t get that pay rise he’s been after he may have just found a new way to make some extra money. The Sounders front man is a fashion forward. And if that doesn’t work he could always try his hand on the motivational speaker circuit.

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