Dwayne De Rosario celebrates his goal against Chicago with Ali Gerba.
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East notes: TFC's road woes eased with draw

later accompanied by Chad Barrett's sliding 46th-minute strike against his old team -- didn't allow the Reds to go home satisfied despite ending the drought. TFC head coach Chris Cummins wasn't pleased that his side let two leads slip away through poor defending.

"I'm disappointed," Cummins told MLSnet.com. "We had a real go (against Chicago). We scored two decent goals. But I'm disappointed in the goals we conceded. I guess it was a fair result."

That result might not have satiated Cummins and the Reds on Saturday night, but the point gained could prove considerably more satisfactory if TFC takes care of business in its three remaining matches and leaps into the playoffs. After a bye week this week, Toronto hosts Western Conference strugglers San Jose and Real Salt Lake (combined road record in 2009: 3-18-5) before concluding the season at New York.

"We are making it interesting," De Rosario said after the Chicago draw. "Now we need to win our two home games coming up and see what happens from there."

Ralston's injury places Revs in familiar spot: For the second consecutive season, New England captain Steve Ralston will have to watch the Revolution's playoff push from the sidelines.

Ralston, 35, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee after falling awkwardly in the 19th minute of Saturday night's 2-1 win over Seattle. Ralston also suffered a season-ending broken right fibula on Oct. 11, 2008 to conclude last season prematurely.

Several Revolution players said they rallied around their fallen playmaker to mount a second-half comeback against Sounders FC, but they are now faced with the rather more difficult task of trying to replace him for the remainder of the campaign.

"Ralston, without question, is our best player in terms of skills," New England defender Jay Heaps said.

Those skills manifest in the attacking third. Ralston facilitates the Revolution attack with his vision and creativity, two qualities that can't simply be replaced by plugging in another body.

"I spoke after the (Seattle) game and said that when we lost him, we lacked a little bit of imagination," Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. "As much as we were pushing the game, when Ralston isn't playing, we lose that wee bit of imagination."

With Taylor Twellman (concussion) long since ruled out for the remainder of the campaign and Edgaras Jankauskas (groin) perpetually hobbled, Ralston's loss constrains the top-end attacking options even further. Kheli Dube and Shalrie Joseph partnered at the tail-end of the Seattle game, perhaps foreshadowing how the Revs will approach things until Jankauskas returns.

Given the Revs' precarious playoff placing, New England goalkeeper Matt Reis said his team can't afford to stumble through Wednesday's visit to FC Dallas and Saturday's trip to Colorado as it figures out how to play without Ralston.

"We're getting down to the vital games and the nitty-gritty," Reis said. "The long season is starting to take its toll on all of the players. This road trip is definitely going to be a challenge. We're going to have to deal with the loss of Ralston and move forward."

Crew reverse Champions League rotation plan: In the brief two-year history of the CONCACAF Champions League, MLS teams have often chosen to employ a rotation system while playing in the group stage in order to keep their players fresh. Crew coach Robert Warzycha even extolled the necessity of rotation in this space last week.

With few exceptions, MLS teams have preferred to rest players in Champions League play because the group stage matches fall at the business end of the MLS season. Warzycha opted for a different approach prior to Saturday night's 2-0 win against Los Angeles as he cast one eye on Tuesday night's Champions League clash with Deportivo Saprissa at Crew Stadium.

Warzycha rested four key starters for the match against the Galaxy and opted to hand first career MLS starts to Kevin Burns and Emilio Renteria in order to keep his front-line players rested for Saprissa's visit.

"We don't have a reserve team," Warzycha told MLSnet.com after the Galaxy match. "We have 23 guys. You saw that (on Saturday). Everybody on this team is contributing. We have a very deep squad. I can play anybody on this team."

The strategy nearly paid off in Tuesday night's 1-1 draw. With a victory, Columbus would have advanced to the quarterfinals with one group stage match remaining, a trip to Puerto Rico on Oct. 20. Robbie Rogers' early penalty kick held up until Saprissa's Alexander Robinson headed home in second-half stoppage time.

The draw means Columbus can advance to the quarterfinals with a draw or better in Puerto Rico or a Saprissa draw or loss against Cruz Azul.

Wicks injury hands United 'keeper quandary: If coughing up a one-goal lead at home to lose 2-1 San Jose wasn't bad enough, D.C. United suffered an even greater loss than the damaging blow to their playoff hopes. Starting goalkeeper Josh Wicks will miss the next 4-6 weeks after dislocating his left shoulder and spraining the medial collateral ligament in his right knee while attempting to clear a corner kick early in the second half.

Wicks' injury poses significant problems for a United side that carries just two 'keepers on its 24-man active roster. Milos Kocic took over in between the pipes for Wicks in the second half against the Earthquakes and will take over the No. 1 spot until Wicks returns. Since Kocic has already started twice for United this season, the club has at least some experience in reserve.

Finding a backup goalkeeper, however, is a bit more difficult. Recently signed goalkeeper Bill Hamid can provide cover in Champions League play, but he isn't eligible to play in MLS pursuant to the mechanism that facilitated his signature. United also can't sign a free-agent goalkeeper or loan a USL shot-stopper because the roster freeze date has already passed.

In its time of need, United will have to turn to MLS for the answer. United will have to loan one of the five available pool goalkeepers -- signed by MLS, but not members of any one team -- to backup Kocic in league play. Of those five goalkeepers, only Ben Dragavon (61 minutes with Seattle) has seen action during the campaign.

Kyle McCarthy covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSnet.com and serves as a contributing editor for Goal.com USA. Kyle can be reached at kyle.mccarthy@goal.com.

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