Team of the Week (Wk 34): More players make their case as playoffs edge closer
The playoffs are just eight days away, and the picture is as convoluted as ever heading into the final round of regular-season games. That's thanks in large part to another chaotic weekend of MLS action, with some big-name players standing out above the rest.
On the team side, the New England Revolution made a strong case for their own playoff spot after an exciting win over the Columbus Crew, while the New York Red Bulls, already in the playoffs, jumped into the Supporters' Shield lead with a 3-0 win on the road against the Houston Dynamo.
Up top, three goalscorers – including two Designated Players – earned their keep in potentially season-saving wins and scored some pretty goals, to boot.
Which players pushed their team closer to a coveted postseason berth? Read on to find out...
GK: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) – Made four saves in the team's valuable 0-0 draw at Portland, all of them of the highlight-reel variety and none moreso than his excellent double stop on Will Johnson and Sal Zizzo in the dying minutes of the game.
DF: Matt Hedges (FC Dallas) – Not only did Hedges lead the FC Dallas defense to a clean sheet in Schellas Hyndman's home farewell, a 2-0 win over Seattle, he got forward to open the scoring and spark the Dallas attack after a choppy first hour of play.
DF: Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes) – The Earthquakes may be all but eliminated from the playoff race after their 0-0 draw at the LA Galaxy on Sunday, but it wasn't from lack of effort on the part of Goodson and his defense. The US international dominated in the air and looked good on the ground as well while facing the trio of Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes.
DF: Seth Sinovic (Sporting KC) – Another outstanding night in an excellent season from the Sporting left back, who was one of the stars of their 1-0 win over D.C. United. Sinovic was intelligent and accurate with the ball going forward and sound all the way around defensively.
MF: Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution) – Made the midfield his in New England's wild 3-2 win over Columbus. Rowe orchestrated most of the Revolution's best moves, got himself in the right positions defensively and picked up an assist on the night.
MF: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls) – Set the tone for New York's 3-0 win over Houston by scoring the fastest goal in MLS with a spectacular strike eight seconds in. Cahill was relatively quiet after that, but he still managed to set an example with his intensity and provide a strong aerial presence in the Red Bulls attack.
MF: Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls) – It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say McCarty did almost everything for the Red Bulls against Houston on Sunday afternoon. He cleaned up loose balls in front of the backline, was spot-on in his distribution and picked up the assist on Cahill's record-setting goal.
MF: Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution) – The Revs' prodigious young attacker showed no signs of letting up in Saturday's win over the Crew. The 18-year-old posed a goalscoring threat throughout much of the game and made good on that threat with a far-post run to turn in the game-winner.
FW: Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact) – Di Vaio was the driving force behind a potentially season-saving, comeback win for the Impact, who topped Philadelphia, 2-1 with a pair of second-half goals, including Di Vaio's typically lethal turn and finish for the opener.
FW: Gabriel Torres (Colorado Rapids) – The Rapids' DP showed off all the facets of his game in a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps that all but secured Colorado's berth in the playoffs. Torres netted a pair of goals, including a rip worthy of winning any game to give the Rapids a lead they did not relinquish.
Coach: Jay Heaps (New England Revolution) – The Revs were impressive as they edged closer to a playoff return on Saturday evening, and a good deal of the credit should go to Heaps, who ably dealt with two key absences (Saër Sène and Lee Nguyen) to put out a strong, cohesive lineup.
Bench: Jaime Penedo (LA Galaxy), Jeff Parke (Philadelphia Union), Ibrahim Sekagya (New York Red Bulls), Yordany Álvarez (Real Salt Lake), Deshorn Brown (Colorado Rapids), Kekuta Manneh (Vancouver Whitecaps), Dominic Oduro (Columbus Crew)