As the stretch run starts to heat up, teams across MLS will be looking for their star players to come through when they are most needed. And if Week 23 is any indication, the next few months will be looking rosy for teams like the Chicago Fire and LA Galaxy.
Both teams not only had star men deliver offensively, but reaped the reward of investing heavily in defense as well, and they combined to put four honorees in this week's XI.
In Dallas and Kansas City, two other key men stepped up, one an established player looking to break into the US men's national team and the other a young player looking to make his mark on the league, with both connected by a Team of the Week selection.
Elsewhere, the San Jose Earthquakes cemented their credentials as contenders with yet another late win, earning two of their players spots in this week's selection.
Who else made the cut for the best of Week 23? Read on to find out...
GK: Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA) – It’s hard to remember the last time a goalkeeper put on such a stunning performance while conceding four goals, none of which he could do much about. Without Kennedy and his eight saves, the 4-0 mauling LA handed Chivas could have been much, much worse.
DF: Jason Hernandez (San Jose Earthquakes) – Though Víctor Bernárdez has drawn many of the plaudits this year, Hernandez has been steady as ever in the Quakes backline and showed it on Saturday night against Seattle, nullifying their attacks at almost every turn.
DF: Markus Holgersson (New York Red Bulls) – A complete performance from the Swedish center back, who remained sturdy at the back (helped by Dax McCarty, of course) and scored an easy finish that ultimately stood up as the game-winner against Houston.
DF: Arne Friedrich (Chicago Fire) – Not only did he score, but he was quick to snuff out any potential danger coming his way as the Fire cruised to a win over the Union.
MF: Fabián Castillo (FC Dallas) – The young Colombian is starting to make his mark in the league and put in another excellent performance in Dallas’ wild 3-2 win over the Rapids. He scored with a fine finish of his own and set up countryman David Ferreira for the winner.
MF: Juninho (LA Galaxy) – A fine performance on both sides of the ball from the Brazilian, who formed a formidable partnership in the center of the park and was lethal in front of goal, tallying two of LA’s four goals against Chivas USA.
MF: Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City) – Pulled all the strings as Sporting kept on chugging. Set up the opener with a corner kick delivery and scored the winner after being twice denied by the woodwork, all after going 120 minutes in the team’s midweek US Open Cup triumph.
MF: Camilo (Vancouver Whitecaps) – Put in a standout performance on the left wing as he took RSL to the task for a sloppy clearance by scoring the opener and set up Dane Richards' stunning winner.
FW: Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire) – Came up with perhaps his best showing so far in his second stint with the Fire, flourishing just behind Sherjill MacDonald and coming up with a brace, including an excellent second goal.
FW: Steven Lenhart (San Jose Earthquakes) – A handful as always for a beleaguered Seattle team, his movement on Steven Beitashour’s throw-in made space for Simon Dawkins’ opener and he capped off the performance with yet another late winner for the Quakes.
FW: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) – Simply electric in LA’s SuperClasico win as he racked up four assists and could have easily had one or two more. If he keeps this kind of form up, it will be difficult to stop the champs.
Coach: Bruce Arena (LA Galaxy) – If last weekend’s drubbing at the hands of the Sounders raised questions about the Galaxy, they turned around and answered them immediately. Even without David Beckham in the lineup, Arena fielded a confident team that was in complete control of the SuperClasico and made a big statement.
Honorable Mention: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Aurélien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), Julian de Guzman (FC Dallas), Michael Farfan (Philadelphia Union), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Connor Lade (New York Red Bulls), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Young-Pyo Lee (Vancouver Whitecaps), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls), Andy Najar (D.C. United), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Sanna Nyassi (Montreal Impact), Heath Pearce (New York Red Bulls), Troy Perkins (Chicago Fire), Dane Richards (Vancouver Whitecaps), Barry Robson (Vancouver Whitecaps), Marcelo Sarvas (LA Galaxy)