Team of the Week (Wk 18): Clutch players show their worth across the league
The latest round of MLS action certainly didn't lack for drama, with three games featuring stoppage-time winners or equalizers, another featuring a series of amazing stoppage-time saves, and the weekend action as a whole featuring 3.38 goals per game.
With all that late drama and big-time scoring comes the age-old debate over the so-called "clutch" player? Do they exist? What makes one?
Week 18 provided pretty strong evidence that yes, they do exist, with many of the players honored in the week's Best XI coming digging deep when their team was down in the dregs and/or under serious pressure.
Of course, other players honored here were not part of winning causes, despite their own best efforts. And that raises the question, are they not "clutch," or is the whole concept moot, given soccer is such a team-oriented game. It's a debate that will live on past this week, but is epitomized in this week's selection.
Who came up when their team needed it most, and who played well enough to be honored despite their team's loss? Read on to find out...
SAVE: Rimando comes up huge late on
DF: Ethan White (D.C. United) – Showed his potential with a sterling defensive performance in D.C.'s narrow 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Physically dominant in the game, with solid technique to boot.
DF: Chris Tierney (New England Revolution) – Generated a ton of offense from his left back position and set piece service as New England rallied for a 1-1 draw at Chivas USA. Completed five of nine crosses attempted, made several key passes and showed well defensively.
MF: Kei Kamara (Sporting Kansas City) – Netted twice to lead Sporting to a hard-fought 3-2 win over the Columbus Crew, including a wonderfully taken opening goal and the all-important winner, both just reward for his high work rate throughout the evening.
MF: Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls) – Quietly dominant in the midfield in New York's 2-0 win over Houston, completing 56 passes and making 11 recoveries, supplying the foundation New York needed for a key Eastern Conference win.
GOAL: Powers brings it level
MF: Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids) – Did it all at the heart of a Colorado Rapids midfield that was key to scoring an impressive away win in Montreal. Set up Atiba Harris' opener, nabbed a goal of his own and contributed key passes on several attacks.
MF: Shea Salinas (San Jose Earthquakes) – The creative force San Jose so desperately needed in their wild 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy. Came out with one goal and one assist, both in injury time, but really should have had a few more given the way he played all night.
FW: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy) – He didn't find the net himself, but he made everything happen in the LA attack, providing two excellent assists for both LA's goals against San Jose. Will be hugely disappointed not to have come out on the winning end after an outstanding attacking display.
GOAL: Gordon wins it in dramatic fashion
FW: Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes) – Played the hero as the Quakes conjured up some of that late magic, showing great instincts in the box to end the game with two goals, the second one of which sent 50,000 fans into delirium as his team completed another improbable comeback.
FW: Daniele Paponi (Montreal Impact) – Picked up two goals in the Impact's loss to Colorado. The first was a thing of beauty and the second showed great poacher's instinct. Montreal have to be happy to be able to count on yet another scoring threat in their varied offense.
Coach: Oscar Pareja (Colorado Rapids) – Yeah, the backline's a mess, but you can't fault the attacking endeavor and never-say-die attitude Pareja has instilled in his team after they showed both in spades at the Stade Saputo. Two of his substitutes netted in that win, too.
Bench: Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia Union), Eric Alexander (New York Red Bulls), Soony Saad (Sporting Kansas City), Blas Pérez (FC Dallas), Fabián Espíndola (New York Red Bulls)