MLS Five Points: Orlando City creates lifeline with win over Sporting KC

Sep 13, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando City FC midfielder Adrian Winter (32) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first half of an MLS soccer game against the Sporting KC at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 13, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando City FC midfielder Adrian Winter (32) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first half of an MLS soccer game against the Sporting KC at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Energy and pace throw Orlando City a lifeline against Sporting Kansas City

Desperation prompted the sort of start Orlando City craved for weeks. The application and the intent placed Sporting Kansas City under duress from the outset. Their mobility led to the opening goal by Adrian Winter and masked the potential pitfalls of playing without injured Kaka. Sporting -- sapped by a four-game road trip and stuck between wanting to play high pressure and actually exerting it -- buckled in response.

It took the introduction of Bryan Róchez (finally finding his footing after a dreadful start) and Brek Shea (finally back from injury to boost the playoff push) to seal the 3-1 victory, but Orlando City cinched it through sheer will and a considerable improvement at the back. The state of play reduced Dom Dwyer to lashing out in the late stages and sent Sporting back into a spiral again after the gritty 0-0 draw at Portland in midweek. Orlando City must carry this sentiment through the remainder of the campaign to overhaul Montréal (tied on points in the sixth and final playoff spot, but the Impact hold four games in hand) and reach the postseason.

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Kamara hits 20-goal mark as Crew SC places emphasis on quality and variety

Kei Kamara is more than just a target man, but he needs supply nevertheless. His success with Columbus this season stems from Crew SC's ability to provide it through several different means. The principle rose to the fore again as Philadelphia flailed when placed under inquisition by crosses from the right in Crew SC's 2-1 victory at PPL Park on Saturday.

The development underscored the marked improvement in that area in recent weeks. Crew SC struggled to replace short-timer Hernán Grana after he returned to Argentina in May. Ghana defender Harrison Afful arrived before the close of the summer transfer window and plugged the gap tidily with his blend of ambition and pace. His delivery opens another line of inquiry and stretches the field horizontally. The utility of those efforts showed when Afful played a part in both Kamara goals in the 2-1 victory on Saturday.

Kamara deserves considerable plaudits for his intelligent work in the buildup and his ruthlessness inside the penalty area. His teammates -- and this is a category encompassing more than All-Star winger Ethan Finlay -- warrant the same praise when Crew SC reaches top gear. If Crew SC expects to hit the desired heights in the postseason, then all parties must contribute accordingly to keep fueling this potent attack.

Imprecision at both ends sends Toronto FC sliding to defeat

New England established impeccable credentials in defiance on the climb out of the summer swoon. The organization at the back paved the way for opportunities to knife through opponents when they lost sight of their own principles. Toronto FC found out the potency of the threat on Sunday. TFC dominated in possession, fired from all directions and pinned the Revs back for long stretches. Their work established them as superior on the scoresheet and more likely to win based on expected goals. And yet their inability to convert in front of goal or sort out situations inside their own penalty area left the Reds to lament their luck in the 3-1 defeat. The first issue likely sorts itself out with Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore in tow, but the second concern -- accentuated by the peculiar three-man defense on Sunday and the poor management of the space around it -- remains TFC's potential undoing as the sharp end of the season arrives.

Montréal stakes claim as best of the rest in the Eastern Conference

The bar is set staggeringly low in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The path to the sixth postseason berth requires no more than a base level of competency with the sputtering likes of Chicago (chucking a two-goal lead away in a 3-2 defeat at New York Red Bulls), New York City FC (floundering to integrate three expensive stars into a modest supporting cast) and Philadelphia (slogging through a 2-1 home defeat to Columbus Crew SC in a must-win game) supposedly in the mix.

Montréal met and exceeded that standard in the 0-0 draw at LA Galaxy on Saturday. The visiting Impact missed chances to procure all three points against the oddly subdued Galaxy (Didier Drogba's late miss is worth remembering if things turn sour), yet Mauro Biello's side returned to Quebec with a precious point and a fresh injection of conviction. With four games in hand on Orlando City, Montréal is in the perfect spot to pull away from this motley pack and seal a playoff berth with few complications.

Drastic measures still leave NYCFC at a loss

One by one, the New York City FC Designated Players marched off in Frisco. David Villa exited at halftime after NYCFC shipped two goals in the dying embers of the first half. Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo followed halfway through the second half as NYCFC coach Jason Kreis turned to more youthful options to provide a spark. The replacements -- and Patrick Mullins, in particular -- repaid the faith, but they did not prevent NYCFC from slipping to a 2-1 defeat to surging FC Dallas on Saturday. It is left to Kreis to wonder how and where he turns next as NYCFC attempts to keep touch in this increasingly futile quest for the postseason.