(Reuters) - Sebastian Giovinco celebrated his call-up to the Italian national squad by scoring his 21st goal of the Major League Soccer season as Toronto FC beat the Philadelphia Union 3-1 on Saturday.
The result moved Toronto closer to a playoff berth and officially eliminated the Union from contention.
In wet and windy conditions in Toronto, Giovinco put the home side ahead from a free kick in the 28th minute, though there was a large element of luck as the ball struck a defender’s head and took a wicked deflection into the net.
Giovinco has impressed enough for Toronto this season to earn selection in the Italian squad for European Championship qualifiers against Azerbaijan next Saturday and Norway on Oct. 13.
Jozy Altidore added a typical poacher’s goal in the 63rd minute to put Toronto 2-0 up, before Philadelphia pegged one back through a header by Toronto native Steven Vitoria.
An own goal in the 91st minute sealed the Union’s fate.
Toronto remain fifth in the Eastern Conference, on 46 points with three regular season games left. The top six teams in each conference qualify for the postseason.
Seventh-placed Orlando City (41 points) kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 2-1 home win over sixth-placed Montreal Impact (42 points).
English defender Seb Hines volleyed home the winner in the 80th minute and Orlando won despite losing two players early in the first half, after team mates Tommy Redding and Rafael Ramos clashed heads and had to be substituted.
Orlando still have a mountain to climb. They are only one point behind Montreal with two games left, while the Impact have four matches remaining.
The New York Red Bulls stayed top of the East when they beat the Columbus Crew 2-1, with all the goals coming early. Englishmen Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips scored for the Red Bulls after midfielder Justin Meram had put the Crew ahead.
In the West, Sporting Kansas took a massive stride towards securing a playoff spot when they beat the Portland Timbers 1-0 thanks to a magnificent goal by Hungarian striker Krisztian Nemeth in the 83rd minute.
Nemeth collected the ball in his own half, and dribbled some 50 yards past several defenders before drilling the ball past the keeper for a goal-of-the-season contender.
The win lifts Kansas from fifth to third, with 48 points from 31 games.
But the result was a disaster for Portland, which drops from sixth to seventh, overtaken by the San Jose Earthquakes, who drew 1-1 with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
San Jose and Portland both have 44 points. San Jose have a better goal difference but Portland have a game in hand.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Amlan Chakraborty