Team of the Week (Wk 24): Star forwards take the plaudits
It was a good week to be a forward in MLS. Some of the league's top goal-getters put their team over the top as the playoff push continues, most notably in a wild (and controversial affair in Dallas).
There were the classic poacher's goals in Philadelphia and some works of art in Columbus, but any which way they went in, they came as part of exceptional individual efforts from the men up top. Even players listed as midfielders here (partly because they played wider and partly because positional liberties are sometimes necessary to honor all who earned it) are often considered forwards.
All in all, we got nine goals and six assists, plus a penalty earned, from this week's honorees. What makes this offensive output even more exceptional is that none of these players shied away from their defensive duties, with a number proving just as important to their team without the ball as they were with it.
Which goalscorers made the cut in a goal-filled week in MLS? Read on to find out...
GK: Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire) – Put in a tremendous shift in goal during the Fire's 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact, making several key stops to first keep Montreal off the board, then protect the Fire's one-goal lead.
DF: Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia Union) – Had a great game on both sides of the ball in the Union's 2-0 win over D.C. Served up a good cross on the opener and made a crucial goal-line clearance on the other end.
DF: Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew) – Showed us glimpses of his back-to-back Defender of the Year form with a solid outing in a 2-0 win over New York, shutting down nearly everything that came his way. Was also a threat on set pieces.
DF: Chris Klute (Colorado Rapids) – The Rapids left back frustrated Chivas USA's Tristan Bowen to the point of a meltdown on the defensive side of things and delivered a fine ball for Martín Rivero's equalizing header in Colorado's 1-1 draw with the Goats.
MF: Kei Kamara (Sporting KC) – Put his incredible athleticism to use in a hard-fought battle with New England left back Kevin Alston and got the better of him with a pair of headed goals that sparked Sporting's 3-0 win over the Revolution.
MF: Ned Grabavoy (Real Salt Lake) – Thrived in an unusual (for RSL) 4-3-3 formation with his tireless work rate and accurate passing (41 of 43 passes completed) as the Claret-and-Cobalt edged out Houston by a 1-0 scoreline.
MF: Nigel Reo-Coker (Vancouver Whitecaps) – Seemingly all over the field in Vancouver's 2-0 win over San Jose. Set up both goals with his typical surging runs forward and did the dirty work defensively, most notably with a big clearance right in front of goal with the score at 0-0.
MF: Soony Saad (Sporting KC) – Thrived as a stand-in playmaker for Graham Zusi against New England, pulling all the strings in midfield and coming away with a couple assists to show for it.
FW: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) – Left no doubts about his form on his return to MLS play from the Gold Cup, taking three shots and putting all of them in the back of the net as he guided LA to a 3-3 draw at FC Dallas.
FW: Conor Casey (Philadelphia Union) – Showed great instincts and finishing ability to net both of the Union's goals in their win over D.C. United and continued to show why he's been one of the best pickups of the 2012-13 offseason.
FW: Federico Higuaín (Columbus Crew) – At his sparkling best in the Crew's win over New York. His set pieces and skill on the ball caused the visitors problems all game long and the chip for his second goal of the game was a sight to behold.
Coach: Peter Vermes (Sporting KC) – Helped get his side back in the win column in a big way, even without key man Graham Zusi, with Saad more than justifying his coach's decision to trust him with Zusi's typical role on the field. The system works.
Bench: David Ousted (Vancouver Whitecaps), Chris Wingert (Real Salt Lake), Erick (FC Dallas), Mauro Rosales (Seattle Sounders), Sébastien Le Toux (Philadelphia Union), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Blas Pérez (FC Dallas)