Team of the Week (Wk 21): Ticos terrorize MLS backlines
Given their contributions, it's no surprise that this week's Best XI is highlighted by a pair of Costa Ricans leading the line.
One, you may be familiar with. The other is a bit of an unknown quantity to MLS fans, but if he can consistently match what he did this weekend, it won't remain that way. Real Salt Lake's Álvaro Saborío continued to add to his impressive goalscoring record, while new Columbus Crew arrival Jairo Arrieta marked his first month in MLS with a top-notch brace to upset Sporting Kansas City, both making them shoo-ins for selection.
However, all the players on the defensive end of things put in heroic performances to match or even better some of the league's best forwards in Week 21, none more so than Sean Johnson, whose virtuoso performance against San Jose nearly earned him a Player of the Week award. Stick the defensive honorees in front of them, and you would have a nigh-unbeatable MLS defense.
Who else made this week's selection? Read on to find out...
GK: Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire) – For more than 90 minutes, Johnson frustrated the Earthquakes at every turn with some breathtaking saves. Though San Jose eventually snatched a point, it shouldn't diminish one of the best goalkeeping performances of the season so far.
DF: Hernán Pertúz (FC Dallas) – The Colombian newcomer acquitted himself well despite Dallas’ loss, doing everything he could to keep Robbie Keane and the Galaxy off the board. Though they were ultimately undone, Pertúz’s performance bodes well for the future of FCD’s backline.
DF: Carlos Valdés (Philadelphia Union) – The All-Star center back put up another excellent performance en route to the Union’s crucial win over the Revolution on Saturday, making a number of excellent plays in the back to keep the Revs from adding to their opener, none more so than a crucial goal-line clearance with just seconds left in injury time.
DF: Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy) – He's back, folks. The 2011 MLS Defender of the Year put in an impressive 90 minutes in the Texas heat to hold off a Dallas side coming off a 5-0 thrashing of Portland the weekend before.
DF: Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes) – The best Earthquakes player on the field in their 1-1 draw with Chicago, Morrow contained nearly everything the Fire threw at him and looked comfortable at both left and center back.
MF: Felipe Martins (Montreal Impact) – One thing is clear: When the clever Brazilian is on point, so is the Impact offense. And he was certainly on point Saturday evening as he rang up New York to the tune of three assists on the way to a vital 3-1 win.
MF: Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake) – The wily playmaker was his usual self at the heart of the RSL attack, spreading the ball around and setting up Saborío’s winner with a lofted cross that found the big striker lurking at the back post.
MF: Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo) – Drove the Houston offense in its 2-0 win in Toronto, setting up both goals as the Dynamo solidified themselves as playoff contenders.
FW: Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders) – Showed off his versatility on his way to a man of the match performance in Seattle’s 2-1 win over Colorado, heading home a goal within minutes of the opening whistle and setting up Osvaldo Alonso’s winner with a perfect cross to the back post.
FW: Álvaro Saborío (Real Salt Lake) – The Costa Rican international stayed hot in July, scoring another two goals to guide RSL past Vancouver. A penalty kick and a back post header may not have been the most visually stunning goals, but they did demonstrate his ruthlessness near the net.
FW: Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew) – The offensively starved Crew are surely thrilled to see one of their newest acquisitions coming through. The Costa Rican scored an impressive brace in Columbus' impressive and unexpected 2-1 win at Sporting Kansas City.
Coach: Robert Warzycha (Columbus Crew) – Warzycha just might be onto something here. One of his newest acquisitions, Arrieta, put in a breakout performance to key a 2-1 upset of Sporting KC, and more firepower is on the way in the form of Argentine Designated Player Federico Higuaín. The win was a second straight for the Crew against a top Eastern Conference side, and the makings of a late-season surge to the playoffs might just be in place.
Honorable Mentions: Jon Busch (San Jose Earthquakes), Calen Carr (Houston Dynamo), Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Simon Dawkins (San Jose Earthquakes), Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact), Boniek García (Houston Dynamo), Andy Gruenebaum (Columbus Crew), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Steven Lenhart (San Jose Earthquakes), Zac MacMath (Philadelphia Union), Mike Magee (LA Galaxy), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Brent Richards (Portland Timbers), Barry Robson (Vancouver Whitecaps), Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire), Saër Sène (New England Revolution), Danny Califf (Chivas USA), Ben Zemanski (Chivas USA)