Chicago Fire FC and Inter Miami CF were among those making strides in Week 21, helping pace the Team of the Week presented by Audi.
Behind a headed goal from center back Rafael Czichos (plus lockdown defense from the Bundesliga veteran), Chicago climbed the Eastern Conference table with a 1-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC. That earned first-year boss Ezra Hendrickson top coaching honors after they sent the Concacaf Champions League winners to a third straight defeat.
For Inter Miami, striker Gonzalo Higuain’s second consecutive goal off the bench helped spark a 3-2 comeback win over Charlotte FC, negating a brace from winger Yordy Reyna for the visitors. Herons midfielder Gregore earned a bench spot for his two-assist performance and all-around contributions.
There were star showings in Heineken Rivalry Week matches, too, including a divine assist from NYCFC midfielder Santiago Rodriguez in their 1-0 New York Derby win at the Red Bulls. In the year’s first Hell is Real game, Columbus Crew midfielder Lucas Zelarayan supplied one goal and one assist in a 2-0 win over FC Cincinnati. And in a Southeastern bout, new Atlanta United center back Juan Jose Purata had the game-tying header (along with strong defense) in a 1-1 draw with Orlando City SC.
Higuain’s joined up top by Colorado Rapids forward Jonathan Lewis after his two-assist night in a 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy snapped a six-game winless streak. Real Salt Lake forward Jefferson Savarino is on the opposite flank, staying red-hot with one goal and one assist in a 3-0 win over Sporting Kansas City.
As for the midfield group, LAFC’s Jose Cifuentes and Minnesota United FC’s Emanuel Reynoso join Rodriguez and Zelarayan. Cifuentes had the game-winner in a 2-1 victory at Nashville SC, and Reynoso bagged another brace in a 2-0 win over D.C. United.
On the backline, Czichos and Purata are joined by Houston Dynamo FC center back Tim Parker. He had a stunning goal-line clearance in their 2-1 win at the San Jose Earthquakes.
The goalkeeper spot belongs to Toronto FC’s Alex Bono, whose five-save performance shouldn’t detract from their 1-0 loss at CF Montréal in the Canadian Classique. He was only bested by an own goal.
Team of the Week (3-4-3, left to right): Alex Bono (TOR) – Tim Parker (HOU), Rafael Czichos (CHI), Juan Jose Purata (ATL) – Santiago Rodriguez (NYC), Jose Cifuentes (LAFC), Emanuel Reynoso (MIN), Lucas Zelarayan (CLB) – Jonathan Lewis (COL), Gonzalo Higuain (MIA), Jefferson Savarino (RSL)
Coach: Ezra Hendrickson (CHI)
Bench: Isaac Boehmer (VAN), Kai Wagner (PHI), Diego Chara (POR), Gregore (MIA), Yordy Reyna (CLT), Diego Fagundez (ATX), Cucho Hernandez (CLB)
Audi Goals Drive Progress
MLS Academies have been identified as one of the most important resources for building on-field talent in North America. Through the Audi Goals Drive Progress initiative, Audi has committed $1 million per season in an effort to advance academies league-wide, and to drive progress for the sport. For every goal scored in the regular season, Audi will contribute $500 into the Audi Goals Drive Progress fund to directly support each MLS Club Youth Academy.