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Things we learned from Week 31

Nope - Garber vs Klinsmann was a week 32 matter, and this is a late look at the events of week 31...

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

1. The playoffs have begun

Seattle and LA had the good grace to match each other's results in week 31: both lost. This sends them into their last two games level on points (though Seattle holds the tiebreaker edge). Since those games are against each other, fans will be treated to the rare spectacle of a playoff for the Supporters' Shield - albeit one which could be settled very quickly, as Seattle can clinch the title with a win in week 32.

Further down the table, the New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew will meet in week 32 in a game which could decide which of those teams has home advantage for the Eastern Conference post-season play-in match. A win for RBNY will guarantee at least the fourth seed in the East, and therefore home advantage should the Red Bulls finish no higher than fourth. A win for Columbus would give the Crew the edge in the battle for home advantage in what is still the most likely fourth vs. fifth pairing in the Eastern Conference.

And every game in week 32 will have some impact on the post-season hopes or seedings for at least one of the team's involved. The playoffs are here.

2. Chivas USA is not the worst team in MLS

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Chivas USA is not a good team, and hasn't been good for quite some time. But it is neither the most consistently poor in MLS (this will be the fifth consecutive year it misses the playoffs; Toronto FC has missed seven straight, and is really close to missing out on the post-season for the eighth year in a row), nor has Chivas been the absolute worst team in the league since 2005 - its first year in existence.

Beating Colorado in week 31 served as a reminder that the Goats may be bad, but they are not that bad. They have now won two in a row.

They could yet finish dead last this season - they're just one point ahead of bottom-of-the-West San Jose and four points up on bottom-of-the-table Montreal. But Chivas has a pretty good record of not finishing last during this five year spell of mediocrity for which the team is likely to pay with its life.

Chivas last made the playoffs in 2009, and has been a terrible team ever since. But not the most terrible. Twice, it has finished second-last to D.C. United (19th-placed in 2010 and 2013); in 2011, the Goats were better than Vancouver, New England, and Toronto; in 2012, TFC beat Chivas to the wooden spoon.

This week's win suggests the Goats may once again escape the ignominy of the league's absolute worst record, though it does not appear likely to win them a shot at another season.

3. Only one team has scored 50 or more goals per season in MLS since 2011: RBNY

The New York Red Bulls put three goals past Toronto FC in week 31, lifting their scoring tally for the season to 52. Those goals make RBNY the only MLS team to have scored 50 or more in each of the last four seasons: 50 in 2011, 57 in 2012, 58 in 2013, and whatever total is reached this year.

It is a modest achievement, to be sure, but a significant one in the context of a team that had broken the 50-goals-in-a-season mark only three times in its history prior to 2011 (19982000 and 2005).

The defense hasn't really been good since 2010 (when RBNY managed to win the Eastern Conference by scoring just 38 goals, but conceding only 29), but the team's attack has been arguably the most consistent in the league since 2011.

Pair that with the fact RBNY is one of just five teams to make the playoffs every year since 2010 (KC, LA, Seattle and RSL are the other four) and one might come to a surprising conclusion: if goals and generally positive results are a measure of entertainment in soccer, RBNY has been one of the most entertaining teams in MLS for the last five years.

4. The 'Caps won't quit

Back in week 28, this column suggested the Western Conference playoffs would be contested by the teams capable of getting a minimum of 46 points. Nope.

After week 31, Vancouver has 46 points and Portland is on 45: both will likely end the season north of 46, but only one will make the playoffs.

The surprise is that the 'Caps made it to 46 points ahead of the Timbers. Portland beat San Jose in week 31, just as it had done in week 30. But Vancouver had to tangle with the Sounders in Seattle, and the 'Caps hadn't got a point on the road since visiting Chivas on August 16, and hadn't won away from home since beating Portland on June 1.

The win over Seattle didn't just punch Vancouver back over the red line for another week, it suggested this team (which has to visit San Jose in week 32) might have the necessary fortitude to make the playoffs.

The Whitecaps have now won three in a row - not bad for a team that only managed three wins in 15 gamesbetween June 7 and September 10.

Portland's problems in 2014 have been modified by the team's never-quit mentality. We've known this about the Timbers for some time. What we didn't know was that Vancouver has quietly cultivated a similar spirit - and that should see the fight for the fifth playoff spot in the West go down to the wire.

5. FC Dallas is the team to avoid in the West

FCD's win over LA clinched its place in the post-season. It also completed an unusual set: at the end of week 31, Dallas had beaten each of the other teams in the top five of the Western Conference (Seattle, LA, RSL and Vancouver) over the course of its last four home games.

Road form has been dreadful - four losses in the last four away games - which is why it took FC Dallas this long to clinch its playoff berth. But the team has proven it can beat any playoff-caliber team in its conference (FCD also beat Portland way back in March, and will host the Timbers again in the last week of the season) at just about the time in the season when that is a meaningful statement.

It has long been apparent that the best teams in the league this season are in the Western Conference - but it may be time to add FC Dallas to the list.