Robbie Keane scored twice in three minutes to lead the Los Angeles Galaxy to a 3-0 victory Saturday night in front of 24,064 at the StubHub Center.
Toronto (11-12-7) remains three points behind the Columbus Crew as both contend for fifth place, the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. New York moved into fourth place with a 2-1 win over Houston, and now leads TFC by four points.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles (17-5-9) took over first place in the Western Conference and the lead in the race for the Supporters' Shield, given to the team with the best regular-season record, by extending its unbeaten streak to 10 games.
Despite the loss, Toronto interim coach Greg Vanney praised his team's performance.
"For the first half, I thought we were well organized," Vanney said about TFC's defence. "In the second half, we were a lot more aggressive. I actually thought we were dictating the game throughout long stretches of the second half. They were having a hard time getting their midfielders on the ball and getting Robbie touches.
"We have a lot of good pieces. We showed against the best and hottest team in the league, in my opinion, that we can play with them."
TFC had a chance to take the lead in the sixth minute on Luke Moore's 20-yard shot. But Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo moved to his right to make his only save.
Keane gave Los Angeles a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute. Keane, the Irish national team's all-time leading scorer, fired a 13-yard shot underneath diving TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
Then in the 25th minute, Keane scored his 19th goal of the season. An unmarked Keane volleyed A.J. De La Garza's right-wing cross from 14 yards past Bendik, who did not move.
"He's still sharp," said TFC forward Jermain Defoe, who played with Keane at Tottenham Hotspur. "He's clever. When he gets chances, he makes them count."
Landon Donovan received an assist on Keane's second goal to set the MLS career record. Donovan now has 136 assists, 19 of them this year.
Alan Gordon finished the scoring with a 27-yard line drive in second-half stoppage time.
Defoe played his first match in six weeks when he replaced Daniel Lovitz in the 60th minute. Defoe took three shots, all of which were blocked.
"It was important for me to ease myself in slowly," said Defoe, who suffered from a lingering groin injury. "Twisting and turning were fine. Even striking the ball was fine, no pain. I'm happy about that."
Penedo finished with his fourth shutout in his past six games and his seventh of the season.