Team of the Week (Wk 32): Midfielders make presence felt
It was a lean week for goalscorers in MLS – only one player put in a two-goal effort, and he seemed to play just about every position besides forward. There wasn't a total lack of goals from up top, though. Two young forwards with bright futures joined an old hand up top in this week's selection, with each of them netting a goal for their team (even if only one was part of a winning effort).
As if to make up for the relative lack of production from the men up top, though, midfielders across the league came up with huge offensive efforts. The four honored in this week's Best XI selection came up with five goals and an assist between them, while also contributing behind the ball. And though only four are honored here, there were plenty more midfield performances worthy of consideration.
Of course, the struggles experienced by many of the league's strikers this week can partly be explained by strong defensive performances. Two of the three defenders honored this week helped their teams to clean sheets, while two exceptional goalkeeping performances made for a tough decision over who to honor between the pipes.
Which players made the cut and which had to make do with an honorable mention? Read on to find out...
GK: Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City) – Put on a stunning show in goal, saving everything New York threw at them en route to his 15th clean sheet of the season.
DF: Andy Najar (D.C. United) – Has settled in nicely at right back and put in as strong a performance as any he’s had at the position in D.C.’s big win over the Crew. His crossing was strong and he didn’t slouch on his defensive responsibilities.
DF: David Horst (Portland Timbers) – Call him Mr. Cascadia Cup. After being so instrumental in Portland’s two home games against Seattle earlier in the season, Horst once again stepped up. His defensive play was key in limiting Vancouver to just one shot on goal, keying the Timbers’ first road win of the season and their first piece of hardware as an MLS club.
DF: Matteo Ferrari (Montreal Impact) – Played a big part in spoiling Toronto’s home finale, limiting the Reds to half-chances at times and no chances at others thanks to his timely stops.
MF: Marvin Chávez (San Jose Earthquakes) – Scored a fine free kick for San Jose against LA, while his service – especially from corner kicks – was on point all game long, most notably on Chris Wondolowski’s inch-perfect header.
MF: Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders) – Did it all for the Sounders over the course of two games. Dropped back in defense helped 10-man Seattle keep a clean sheet against RSL in midweek before taking the reins offensively and netting twice in the Sounders’ win over FC Dallas.
MF: Jack Jewsbury (Portland Timbers) – Fittingly scored the goal that earned Portland their first Cascadia Cup of the MLS era, and it was a stunning strike, to boot. Complemented his scoring efforts with a strong 90-minute showing in the middle of the park.
MF: Nick DeLeon (D.C. United) – A complete performance from the rookie wide man, who not only scored, but was on point in helping his team keep possession both through retaining the ball and recovering it.
FW: Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution) – Scored an excellent game-winning goal in the Revolution’s narrow win over Chicago, typical of his electric performance on the night.
FW: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy) – A typically dangerous performance from the Irishman, who gave the San Jose defense fits all game long and came up with a goal as a deserved reward.
FW: Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union) – The young forward was outstanding in Philadelphia’s 3-1 loss at the Dynamo, scoring an excellent header and testing the Houston backline constantly with his off the ball movement.
Coach: Ben Olsen (D.C. United) – United’s 3-2 win over Columbus affirmed what has easily been the most impressive feat in Olsen’s young coaching career – leading a young team missing Dwayne De Rosario to the playoffs. Made the most of the players available to him, exemplified by strong performances from the likes of Marcelo Saragosa and Lewis Neal.
Honorable Mention: Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew), Jon Busch (San Jose Earthquakes), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Boniek García (Houston Dynamo), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Gspurning (Seattle Sounders), Kevin Hartman (FC Dallas), Gershon Koffie (Vancouver Whitecaps), Rafa Márquez (New York Red Bulls), Lewis Neal (D.C. United), Fredy Montero (Seattle Sounders), Sanna Nyassi (Montreal Impact), Jeff Parke (Seattle Sounders), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Martín Rivero (Colorado Rapids), Marcelo Saragosa (D.C. United), Jermaine Taylor (Houston Dynamo), Sebastián Velásquez (Real Salt Lake), Christian WIlhelmsson (LA Galaxy), Josh Williams (Columbus Crew), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)