5 Things We Learned from MLS Week of August 29-31

John D. Halloran@JohnDHalloranContributor IISeptember 1, 2014

5 Things We Learned from MLS Week of August 29-31

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    It was another wild week in Major League Soccer, as the playoff pictures in both the East and the West were flipped around again and the battle for the league’s Supporters’ Shield raged on.

    Toronto FC will also have a new coach next week after Ryan Nelsen was fired, and Jermaine Jones made his MLS debut.

    There are also a number of brilliant goals to take a look at.

    Check it all out in this week’s MLS wrap.

Somehow the Dynamo Are Still Alive

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Despite an overall record of 8-13-4, the Houston Dynamo are, shockingly, still alive in the 2014 MLS playoff hunt. On Friday night, they beat defending champion Sporting KC 3-1 in Kansas City and, with nine games left to go, they are only five points out of a playoff spot.

    For their part, Sporting are struggling. After a terrific run of form in June and July where they picked up 19 points from seven games, Kansas City has been on a slide and lost three of its last four matches, including twice in a row at home.

Toronto FC Are Self-Destructing

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    USA TODAY Sports

    On Saturday, Toronto FC lost 3-0 to the New England Revolution at home. By Sunday night, head coach Ryan Nelsen was looking for a new job and, according to a report by Sportsnet’s John Malinaro, star striker Jermain Defoe was being shopped around the transfer market.

    Toronto is still in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, tied for third on points with the Revolution and the Columbus Crew, but they’ve struggled to impress this season. While they’ve shown they can beat up on the league’s weaker teams, they’ve been terrible against the top dogs.

    In their last seven matches, Toronto has lost to D.C. United, Sporting KC (twice) and New England, while beating Montreal and Columbus and tying Chicago. Now Toronto will head into the last 10 games of the season with a new coach, a listless Michael Bradley and possibly missing their top goalscorer.

The Timbers Inch Ahead; the Red Bulls Fall Behind

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    USA TODAY Sports

    In the Western Conference, the battle for the last playoff spot is currently between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Portland Timbers. On Saturday, the Timbers made a big statement in that race, beating the Whitecaps 3-0 in Vancouver. The win pushed Portland into fifth place while Vancouver dropped to sixth.

    In the Eastern Conference, things are as tight as ever with nine of the division’s 10 teams still in the hunt. But with a 2-0 loss to D.C. United on Sunday, the New York Red Bulls have dropped below the “red line” and are currently sitting out of a playoff spot.

    With a roster featuring some of the biggest names in MLS and some absolutely brilliant play from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry up top, it would be a shame for the league if the Red Bulls can’t finish off the season strong and extend their 2014 campaign into the playoffs.

Picking the Supporters Shield Winner Is Proving Impossible

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    There are currently six teams in the fight for MLS’ Supporters Shield, and picking a winner in this race is proving impossible. The Seattle Sounders are currently on top after picking up a 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids, while the LA Galaxy and D.C. United both picked up wins to stay only two points behind.

    Real Salt Lake only managed a point in their 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes and are now five points back.

    Sporting KC and FC Dallas both lost with the loss from Dallas their first since May 21, ending their 12-match unbeaten streak. Both Sporting and Dallas are six points behind Seattle.

If You’re Not Watching MLS, You’re Missing out

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    For years, MLS has been the subject of derision, and insults that it is a “retirement league” have been commonplace.

    But fans who have remained in that outdated mindset are missing some terrific play and perhaps the best season the league has ever had.

    This week, there were terrific goals by Clint Dempsey, Kelyn Rowe and Robbie Keane to highlight the action.

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