Team of the Week (Wk 3): The last shall be first
Who would have thought that in Week 3, we’d have more than half the Team of the Week made up of members from Chivas USA, New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes, three teams that failed to make the MLS Cup Playoffs last year?
The surprise results on the weekend trickled over into this week’s Best XI, which also gives a nod to solid – if unspectacaular – wins by the New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders.
GK Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA) – A shutout road win like the one Chivas USA earned in Salt Lake doesn't happen without Kennedy. Decisive and even a bit risky with his play off his line, the goalkeeper's clutch saves at key moments secured the result.
DF Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution) – Emergency center back carried over his ball-winning skills from midfield to the Revs backline, which he commanded with personality. Could he be the Revs’ best central defender?
DF Wilman Conde (New York Red Bulls) – Massive. That’s what Red Bulls manager Hans Backe called Conde on his Red Bulls debut. Strong in the back, while also contributing in attack with a majestic long ball on Henry’s second.
DF Raushawn McKenzie (Chivas USA) – McKenzie made sure to remind RSL of the defender they once had, clearing countless balls and making more than a defensive plays. His performance may be enough to keep the more experienced Colombian defender John Alexander Valencia on the bench.
MF Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution) – Is there a player who embodies the new Jay Heaps mentality better than Nguyen, who never hesitated to take players on and make things happen. Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and Benny Feilhaber will make for one of the most skillful midfields in MLS when all of them are on the field at the same time.
MF Marco Pappa (Chicago Fire) – Following his disappearing act in the team’s season opener in Montreal, the Guatemalan redeemed himself against Philadelphia. The dribbling sequence and cross on the winning goal were simply sublime.
MF Sam Cronin (San Jose Earthquakes) – What didn’t Cronin do against his ex-team in Toronto? Beautiful assist on Chris Wondolowski's first, followed by a perfect touch on the through ball that set up Wondo’s second. That's not to mention the ground Cronin covered and the defensive stops he made. One of best all-around games in a Quakes jersey.
MF Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders) – Houston may have enjoyed the better of the play in a 2-0 loss at Seattle, but they couldn’t translate it into goals, and the Cuban midfielder is the main reason why. He broke up countless Houston possessions once they reached midfield.
FW Kei Kamara (Sporting Kansas City) – Missed the mark on a couple of chances, including on a PK, but he stuck with it and willed Sporting forward until he scored the winner. Showing early potential for an MVP campaign.
FW Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls) – He was critical of his squad earlier in the week and then led the resurgence with a Henry-esque performance with plays that made the difference in the match against Colorado.
FW Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) – The most opportunistic striker in MLS continues to score even when he botches easy passes. Each goal makes him hungrier for the next and it shows in the runs he makes on the field.
Manager Robin Fraser (Chivas USA) – Real Salt Lake had only lost four MLS regular season matches at Rio Tinto Stadium before Fraser hatched the ultimate master plan to foil his former club in a shock 1-0 road win. And he was missing several of his most influential players: Juan Pablo Ángel, Alejandro Moreno, Michael Lahoud and Blair Gavin.
Honorable Mentions — Chris Albright (Philadelphia Union), Víctor Bernárdez (San Jose Earthquakes), Jay DeMerit (Vancouver Whitecaps), Shaun Francis (Columbus Crew), Ned Grabavoy (Real Salt Lake), Chance Myers (Sporting Kansas City), Dominic Oduro (Chicago Fire), Emilio Rentería (Columbus Crew), Donovan Ricketts (Montreal Impact), James Riley (Chivas USA), Paolo Tornaghi (Chicago Fire), Casey Townsend (Chivas USA), Ricardo Villar (FC Dallas)