Playoff Picture: LA Galaxy still in striking distance of top spot in the Western Conference after 1-1 draw with Seattle

Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano breaks down the chase for the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs

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USA Today Sports

As we head into the stretch run of the 2013 MLS regular season, each week, LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano will break down the playoff chase from both conferences as we look ahead to the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs

CARSON, Calif. – The final stretch of the regular season has arrived.

The LA Galaxy have just five games remaining, which will determine whether or not they’ll have the opportunity to defend their MLS Cup title and win a record fifth championship or finish out of the postseason for the first time since 2008.

After earning a point from their 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders FC, the Galaxy sit in a tie with Colorado for fourth place in the Western Conference just five points behind the Sounders, the current Western Conference leaders, who have played one fewer game.  But as close as LA are to the top, they’re even closer to being out of the playoffs as they’re just four points clear of San Jose and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, who are tied for sixth place and on the outside of the playoff picture following the weekend.

Although a victory at home against the Sounders would have been ideal, thanks to some fortunate results around the West, LA remain in striking distance of the top spot in the West and the MLS Supporters’ Shield despite Saturday’s draw.

The most meaningful result came at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, where the San Jose Earthquakes shocked second place Real Salt Lake with a 2-1 victory. Steven Lenhart scored both goals for the Earthquakes while Ned Grabavoy provided the lone goal for Salt Lake. The win pulled San Jose level on points with Vancouver, though they have played one extra game than the Whitecaps.

In Portland, the Timbers were able to defeat the Colorado Rapids 1-0 on a goal from Diego Valeri that allowed them to move into third place in the West, just a point ahead of LA. The Galaxy will get a chance to move ahead of the Timbers in the standings this weekend when they face off at JELD-WEN Field on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile Vancouver and FC Dallas were exact opposites as the Whitecaps kept their postseason dreams alive with a  3-0 trouncing of the Montreal Impact on the road at Stade Saputo while FC Dallas fell 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls off an own goal at Red Bull Arena. With the result, Dallas is now five points back of the fifth spot while the Red Bulls took a one point lead over Seattle in the Supporters’ Shield chase.

While the margin from first to seventh in the West is just nine points, the Eastern Conference playoff chase is coming into focus as the Red Bulls remain at the top, three points ahead of Sporting Kansas City, who defeated Toronto FC 2-1, and six ahead of the third place Impact.  The last three positions are much more in flux as just five points separates the fourth place Houston Dynamo with the eighth place Columbus Crew.

If the season ended today:

 Western Conference Knockout round:  LA Galaxy (Fourth seed) vs. Colorado Rapids (Fifth seed).

Western Conference Semifinals:

Semifinal No. 1: Seattle Sounders FC (First Seed) vs. Knockout Round winner (Lower seed host first leg)

Semifinal No. 2: Real Salt Lake (Second Seed) vs. 3.  Portland Timbers (Third Seed)

Eastern Conference Knockout round: Houston Dynamo (Fourth seed) vs. New England Revolution (Fifth seed).

Eastern Conference Semifinals:

Semifinal No. 1: New York Red Bulls (First Seed) vs. Knockout Round winner (Lower seed host first leg)

Semifinal No. 2: Sporting Kansas City (Second Seed) vs. 3.  Montreal Impact (Third Seed)

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com