In the off-season, with LA Galaxy recently crowned champions on the back of a series of sterling defensive displays, few would have predicted their struggles this season, and fewer still would have predicted that the stalwart of that defense, Omar Gonzalez, would not suit up until the 4 July games. Yet last night Gonzalez, coming off an ACL injury picked up in that off-season, found himself coming back into a Galaxy side unrecognizable from the team that smothered and demoralized so many opponents last year. Gonzalez managed 45 minutes, but the abiding image of the game will not be the return of the talismanic defender, but the two inventive sucker punches conjured up by a Philadelphia team undergoing a recovery of their own.

In Friday's MLS previews, we asked if the Galaxy were back – three straight wins for the first time this season looked to have finally righted the ship. A wild 4-3 loss against San Jose that saw Beckham out of Wednesday's game followed, but the sense was that perhaps that could be treated as a standalone rivalry game rather than a reversion to type. Against Philadelphia though, familiar patterns re-emerged. The attack was profligate in front of goal, with Robbie Keane particularly culpable in the first half, while at the other end Philadelphia delivered a masterclass in opportunism, as first Jack McInerney scored a deft, Danny Welbeck-esque flick in first half stoppage time, and then, with LA pressing for a winner in second half stoppage time (following a Chad Barrett equalizer), they were punished with yet another backheel setting up the winner for Michael Farfan. Are the Galaxy back? Not yet.

Are Real Salt Lake back? Not yet. Nor, either, are Seattle Sounders – though both had the chance to deepen the troubles of rivals going through a rough patch when they met on Wednesday night. Saborio and Espindola looked much livelier together than in the last few games (and defeats) for RSL, with Espindola creating several chances in the box for his strike partner - who couldn't convert against a shaky Bryan Meredith. Beckerman's return boosted RSL's midfield – as did the debut of Kenny Mansally in a new look defense. Seattle missed Alonso in their midfield and looked generally anonymous, though almost stole the game on a late chance for Cato. As it is, with San Jose losing, they'll take 0-0 away to one of their main conference rivals.

San Jose losing? The midweek games actually kicked of on Tuesday night and immediately caused a stir, with Portland Timbers handing a rare defeat to the in-form Earthquakes. Rather than their season kickstarting, Portland had seemed to suffer a hangover from their recent rivalry victory over Seattle, in going down to a 3-0 defeat to Colorado last weekend – but on Tuesday night it was San Jose's turn to come down badly, in the wake of their own spectacular 4-3 win over Los Angeles Galaxy in front of 50,000 people. After that peak, the Earthquakes capitulated 2-1 to Portland, despite giving brief indicators of their customary late comeback, with a 74th minute Alan Gordon goal. Portland though, held out, and the fact that their goals came from recent signing Danny Mwanga and 2011 club MVP Jack Jewsbury (neither of whom had scored yet this season), is arguably just as significant for their hopes of a comeback in the second half of the season, as this win was.

The other Tuesday night game was a cagey 0-0 between Houston Dynamo and Chicago Fire, that both sides will be reasonably satisfied by. The Fire added a road point at the Dynamo to the three they took at Sporting KC at the weekend, while Houston will be glad to have finally got a clean sheet to settle their defense, which has looked uncharacteristically porous in recent games. Perhaps they will regret not closing the gap on the team just ahead of them in the Eastern play-off standings, but they'll get another chance to do that this weekend when they travel to Sporting KC. Chicago, meanwhile, will be heading home to try and heap further misery on LA at the weekend.

For their part, Sporting were the latest side to test themselves at Montreal's refurbished Saputo Stadium, in a game that saw the hosts come storming out and cause all sorts of problems with balls behind the Sporting line in the first half. New Montreal DP Marco di Vaio did everything but score as he combined inventively with Felipe in a very lively first half. He tired after the half, though, and was replaced by Nyassi, but by then Montreal had begun to let the game slip away from them, undone by their own indiscipline. They had taken the lead through Bernier in the 49th minute, but that was as good as it got – two needless penalties were compounded by stupid yellow cards for diving and dissent which will see Montreal lose the ever-present Felipe and Arnaud for the next game against Columbus. Finally a ricocheted shot on the break from Jacob Peterson sent the Impact to their third successive defeat and a worryingly tame setback at home.

Colorado also lost at home, as their "one step forward, two steps back" season continues. A Darren Mattocks goal from a defensive mix-up gave Vancouver the win – that, and a Rapids display that saw them knock the ball around well and fashion several chances, but not make the most of them. They still look like a team in flux: the sight of Conor Casey looking sharper and more direct every game, as he regains his fitness, actually looks strangely incongruous in the style of play Pareja is trying to introduce. The Whitecaps, with their DP Barry Robson still finding his feet, will play better this year, but a vital win on the road now sees them two points clear of Seattle in third, and with a game in hand.

Two teams who just can't seem to gain ground on the teams above them, namely Dallas and Toronto, faced off on Wednesday, with Toronto going down a goal within minutes for the second successive game and then coming back to tie the game with a goal by Danny Koevermans, also for the second successive game. Yet for coach Paul Mariner the most pertinent repetitive statistic will be the fact that Toronto are now unbeaten in five successive matches. While there have been dropped points from winning positions in that run, there have also been games where they have fought back, when heads might previously have dropped, such as this game and the previous one against New York.

As the game went on, both teams tired in the heat, after Zach Loyd had set Dallas off to their fastest scoring start of the season in the 5th minute, before Koevermans equalized on the half hour (the Dutchman has scored in every game of this unbeaten run). Dallas can't afford to fade against Saturday's opponents – late show specialists San Jose are in town. Meanwhile Toronto are at Philadelphia on Sunday, in our Guardian live game – a month ago you wouldn't have called that as a game between two teams who are suddenly tough to beat. But as Omar Gonzalez can tell you, sometimes things don't work out quite as expected …