(Reuters) - Columbus Crew locked up a spot in the Major League Soccer playoffs, and vaulted into contention for a first-round bye, with a 2-0 away victory over Toronto FC on Saturday, while Montreal also booked their place after a 1-0 win at New England.
Columbus midfielder Ethan Finlay scored from close range in the 40th minute before Federico Higuain sealed the three points in second-half stoppage time.
Toronto had their chances, with a first-half header from Robbie Findley hitting the post, while the usually prolific Sebastian Giovinco could not add to his 22-goal haul.
The Italian striker’s goal-of-the-year contender earlier this week had secured Toronto a postseason spot when they beat New York Red Bulls 2-1.
The victory lifted Crew to second in the Eastern Conference on 50 points with one regular season game left. The New York Red Bulls are assured top spot but there is a fierce five-way battle for second.
New England Revolution squandered a chance to go second in the East when they were beaten 1-0 by visiting Montreal and defeat saw them slip to sixth on 47 points.
A 25-yard strike by midfielder Ignacio Piatti in the 55th minute won the game for the Impact and lifted the Canadian side to fourth place on 48 points.
In the West, FC Dallas increased their lead at the top of the standings to six points thanks to a 1-0 away win over Real Salt Lake.
Dallas created precious little until striker David Texeira scored in the 57th minute.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford