Kofi Opare scored his first career goal midway through the second half and the Los Angeles Galaxy pulled out a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night to climb into third place in the Western Conference.
Opare, a rookie defender, spun and chipped the ball into the net from a scramble in the Montreal box following a corner kick in the 68th minute.
The Galaxy (15-11-6) are just two points behind Western Conference-leading lead Portland with two games to play.
The two-time defending MLS Cup champions can clinch a playoff berth with a win or tie Sunday against San Jose. Montreal remained in a three-way tie for fourth in the East. The top five teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs.
Montreal (13-12-7), which is fourth in the East, suffered its third successive 1-0 defeat and had its winless streak hit six games.
"A great win. Maybe not a great game, but a great win ..." Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena said. "We know we can be better than we were tonight."
Opare scored after Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush, making his first appearance of the season, leapt to deny Leonardo's header off a corner kick. Laurent Courtois pushed the ball back for Jose Villarreal, and his blast ricocheted off Gyasi Zardes. Opare knocked the loose ball into the net.
Los Angeles, playing without injured forward Landon Donovan and defender Omar Gonzalez, was in command throughout and easily could have scored more. Marcelo Sarvas struck the crossbar in the 80th minute, and Robbie Keane — a 60th-minute substitute a day after playing in a World Cup qualifier for Ireland in Dublin — chipped off the crossbar in the 85th.
Montreal also was missing key players. Defender Matteo Ferrari and midfielder Davy Arnaud were suspended, Impact coach Marco Schallibaum opted to leave defender Alessandro Nesta, midfielder Justin Mapp and goalkeeper Troy Perkins home in advance of Saturday's critical showdown with Philadelphia, and star midfielders Patrice Bernier and Felipe Martins were on the bench.
"At the end of the day, nobody's going to care who played for us who played for them," Arena said. "The only thing they're looking at is the score line."
Montreal had few opportunities. Andrew Wenger failed to handle Marco Di Vaio's feed into the goalmouth in the 12th minute, Di Vaio fired well wide with a clear shot in the 23rd, and Wandrille Lefevre headed over the crossbar in the 55th.