Team of the Week (Wk 29): Supporters' Shield in view
If the San Jose Earthquakes' close-cut 2-2 draw at home to the struggling Portland Timbers on Wednesday raised questions about their Supporters' Shield credentials, they made sure to quash those doubts quickly with an impressive 2-1 at CenturyLink Field this past Saturday evening to complete a season sweep of the Sounders.
For their impressive efforts, both in staging another late comeback with their unbeaten streak at Buck Shaw Stadium in peril, and for going toe-to-toe with Seattle in that intimidating venue, San Jose players earned three spots in the Team of the Week.
The Quakes' four-point haul allowed them to take a huge step closer to their first piece of silverware since the 2005 Supporters' Shield, but Sporting Kansas City kept within touching distance, matching San Jose's output by earning four points in two tough road games, which in turn landed the them two representatives in this week's selection.
The only other team with a shot at the Shield (should San Jose unexpectedly falter) are the Chicago Fire, whose talismanic forward paced them to yet another win, earning him another Team of the Week selection. Elsewhere, there were impressive wins for Real Salt Lake, LA Galaxy and the Philadelphia Union earned them the remainder of the Team of the Week spots.
GK: Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City) – Complemented his team’s solid defensive showings with equally good goalkeeping, making important saves against both New York and Montreal as Sporting maintained their lead in the Eastern Conference.
DF: Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union) – The 21-year-old is quickly becoming one of the best center backs in the league and showed well over two games in the past week, with his defending and reading of the game impressing in games against D.C. United and Houston.
DF: Víctor Bernárdez (San Jose Earthquakes) – At his dominant best in the Quakes’ 2-1 win at Seattle, doing his part to shut out Fredy Montero and Sammy Ochoa with a high-flying aerial performance. Chipped in with an assist on Chris Wondolwoski’s game-winner.
DF: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) – Stayed steady through 180 minutes of soccer, with his intelligent play in the back helping Sporting to two clean sheets and a vital four points from two road games. His quick thinking allowed him to register an assist in Sporting’s 2-0 win at New York on Wednesday.
MF: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) – No goals this time around, but setting up two for his teammates will do just fine for Donovan, who looks set to break his own single-season assists record.
MF: Juninho (LA Galaxy) – The message is clear: Give Juninho even a few yards of space outside the area, and he is likely to make you pay. A free kick and a stunning long-range effort were ample reward for another superb showing in LA’s 4-2 win over Toronto.
MF: Sam Cronin (San Jose Earthquakes) – You won’t see his name on the scoresheet a lot, but performances like Saturday’s showed exactly why Cronin is so important to this San Jose team. He outplayed Ozzie Alonso in the middle of the park and was a crucial part of the Earthquakes’ storming first half at CenturyLink Field. Against Portland it was his dangerous ball into the box that turned into the late equalizer.
MF: Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake) – The Argentine schemer was the key man in RSL’s 2-1 win over Portland, scoring a brilliant free kick, assisting another and keeping the RSL attack humming throughout the game.
FW: Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union) – When he’s on, he’s on. The mercurial attacker was at his best on Sunday, scoring twice and proving quite the threat in the Union’s comfortable 3-1 win over Houston. Can a permanent move to that trequartista role be far behind?
FW: Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) –The runaway Golden Boot leader looks set for another one of his patented late-season scoring runs, only this time, he has Roy Lassiter’s single-season goal mark and a Supporters’ Shield in his sights. He picked up three goals in two games this week to take his total on the year to 22, scoring twice off the bench to secure a draw against upstart Portland before hitting a classic poacher’s effort for the game-winner against Seattle.
FW: Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire) – In line for a career year despite playing roughly half the season, Rolfe continued to prove a vital part of Chicago’s late surge, scoring two well-taken efforts in a 2-1 comeback win over Columbus.
Coach: Ben Olsen (D.C. United) – D.C. have now picked up nine points out of nine – including two wins this week – since losing Dwayne De Rosario for the season, and much of the credit can be given to Ben Olsen for ably finding ways for his team to succeed without its talisman. Whether it’s Lionard Pajoy, Chris Pontius or Branko Boskovic, Olsen has his players doing everything in their power to keep the team’s postseason push steady in the face of crippling adversity.
Honorable Mention: Davy Arnaud (Montreal Impact), Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew), Joe Bendik (Portland Timbers), Branko Boskovic (D.C. United), Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids), Fabián Espíndola (Real Salt Lake), Raymon Gaddis (Philadelphia Union), Bill Gaudette (New York Red Bulls), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA), Gershon Koffie (Vancouver Whitecaps), Justin Meram (Columbus Crew), Danny Mwanga (Portland Timbers), Andy Najar (D.C. United), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Barry Robson (Vancouver Whitecaps), Sammy Ochoa (Seattle Sounders), Lionard Pajoy (D.C. United) C.J. Sapong (Sporting Kansas City), Jaime Smith (Colorado Rapids), Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew), Marvell Wynne (Colorado Rapids), Steve Zakuani (Seattle Sounders), Sal Zizzo (Portland Timbers)