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Last Sunday, Minnesota United star playmaker Emanuel Reynoso took the ball from teammate Adrien Hunou, set it on the spot and made the 39th-minute penalty kick that stood as the winner in a clutch 2-1 home victory over Sporting Kansas City.

This Sunday, attacker Franco Fragapane took the ball himself after a L.A. Galaxy player was called for a hand ball on his close-range shot in the 89th minute.

He placed it on the spot, stuttered his way up and struck his penalty kick off the left post beside Galaxy keeper Jonathan Bond.

That kept the game tied 3-3 and left seven more nervous minutes before coach Adrian Heath's team closed out a draw that sent them to the MLS Cup playoffs and sent the Galaxy home.

After the game, Heath was asked who decided who'd take the kick.

"I don't know at this moment in time," Heath said. "But I'll find out. I don't know the reasons why Rey didn't take the penalty, but we'll ask the question for sure."

A staff member supplied Heath and his coaches with updates on other Western games that affected the playoff picture. That's how they knew Real Salt Lake won on a late goal that meant either the Loons or Galaxy were going home for the winter.

"When it was nil-nil for so long, I said, `Trust me, Salt Lake will have an opportunity and probably (Damir) Kreilach will score.' I said it on the bench: big players come up trumps when you need them."

On the big stage

Heath knew one thing about Sunday's game with so much at stake: No MLS game is too big for his Reynoso and Fragapane.

"The one thing about the Argentinian players when you bring them in, you know the pressure is never going to get to them," Heath said. "They probably play in the most intense football environment there is, at least one of them. Rey, he's the No. 10 for Boca Juniors. They come with a certain responsibility and pressure. He thrives in that type of environment. He thrives in big games."

Everybody now…

Sunday's "Decision Day" had all Eastern Conference teams start at 2:30 p.m. Central time and all Western Conference teams at 5 p.m. as 11 teams played for six available playoff spots.

"It's good for the league," Heath said. "Obviously, it puts everybody on the back foot a little bit, watching other results that do affect your end result. But it's a great advert for what the league is trying to be, a parity league."

International duty

The MLS Cup playoffs won't start until November 20th because of a two-week FIFA window in which Lod, Finland teammate Jukka Raitala, New Zealand's Michael Boxall and Madagascar's Romain Metanire will play World Cup qualifying games or friendlies.

"There are many players going to play national-team games," Lod said. "You just go to national team camp and focus on those games and then see how it goes. Then you come back and focus on the playoffs."


• Heath's only lineup change was starting Hassani Dotson in the midfielder for veteran captain Ozzie Alonso, who was suspended for the game for yellow cards.