Team of the Week (Wk 22): Midfield maestros and a hat trick hero make the grade
Look closely and you'll see a peculiar trend in this week's selection. The Week 22 Best XI features no less than four players who came up big at left midfield for their team. It's a trend that exemplifies some of the superb midfield play we saw this week, particularly in Colorado's notable 2-0 win over LA. It also meant a bit of fiddling with the positions, but in the end, it makes for a fair assessment of the weekend's best performers.
Of course, the best player of Week 22, as decided by both reporters and fans, wasn't a midfielder, but was a huge contributor in what has been one of the best games of the season to date, New York's dramatic 4-3 win over Real Salt Lake.
And for all the offense and strong midfield play we saw, we'd be remiss not to honor some standout defensive performances, too, with one defender helping put his team in the Supporters' Shield picture and another further establishing himself as an up-and-coming center back in this league.
Which midfield maestros and attacking stars made the cut? Which defenders joined them? Read on to find out...
SAVE: Busch takes one away from Johnson
GK: Jon Busch (San Jose Earthquakes) – The stat sheet will say he made just three saves, but all of them were quality and at opportune times – one just before the half with the score at 0-0 and two in the dying minutes with the Quakes clinging to a lead. Factor in his fearlessness in dealing with crosses, and you have a top-notch goalkeeping performance.
DF: Johnny Leveron (Vancouver Whitecaps) – May have ultimately ended up on the wrong end of a 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union, but put in a heroic defensive performance with the 'Caps playing down a man for most of the game and even started a few attacks himself.
DF: Marc Burch (Seattle Sounders) – Put in a superb performance going forward in the Sounders' 2-1 comeback win over Chivas USA on Sunday night, keeping the visiting defense on the back foot for almost the entire night. (We know he played left mid, but it seemed like every left mid in the league came to play in Week 22, so we had to take a liberty or two.)
MF: Shea Salinas (San Jose Earthquakes) – The Quakes' offensive heartbeat in their 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers. Had a hand in both San Jose goals, drawing a penalty kick after a slaloming run into the box, then setting up Steven Lenhart with a smartly-taken quick free kick.
GOAL: Powers punishes LA
MF: Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids) – Seemed to be at the heart of everything the Rapids did offensively against the Galaxy. Came away with a goal and an assist, not to mention his strong work rate and eye-catching moves on the ball.
MF: Hendry Thomas (Colorado Rapids) – Yeah, there will be questions about whether or not he should have been on the field, but apart from some questionable tackles, got his goal and used his size and athleticism to make life especially difficult for LA's midfielders.
MF: Bobby Convey (Toronto FC) – Set up both goals in Toronto's late comeback win over the Columbus Crew, their first of the season at BMO Field. The pass for Andrew Wiedeman's game-winner was pure quality.
FW: Fabian Espindola (New York Red Bulls) – Scored twice from the spot against his former team, one a cool-as-ice chip in the first half and the second an 89th-minute equalizer that set the stage for Dax McCarty's stoppage-time heroics. Also showed his typically hard-working side, covering plenty of ground and drawing eight fouls on the night.
GOAL: Saborio seals his hat trick
FW: Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake) – Simply en fuego in one of the games of the season to date, a wild 4-3 win for the New York Red Bulls over RSL. His hat trick speaks for itself, and showed some stunning technique to put away his third of the evening.
Coach: Mark Watson (San Jose Earthquakes) – Despite missing key contributors across the field, Watson's shorthanded Quakes team took it to Portland – who have now lost just three times in 2013 – and came away with a potentially season-saving win.
Bench: Troy Perkins (Montreal Impact), Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Mauro Rosales (Seattle Sounders), Blake Smith (Montreal Impact), Antoine Hoppenot (Philadelphia Union), Olmes Garcia (Real Salt Lake)