It’s now or never when it comes to Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs fortunes, and Week 32 saw both the LA Galaxy and New York City FC produce sterling performances when it seemed their seasons might be slipping away.
The resulting Team of the Week presented by Audi has two NYCFC representatives – center back Alexander Callens and head coach Nick Cushing – following a 2-0 Hudson River Derby win over the New York Red Bulls that snapped a five-game winless streak. Callens had the opener and a vital goal-line clearance, all after netting the opener in NYCFC’s Campeones Cup victory over Liga MX’s Atlas FC. Now fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, a playoff spot is virtually locked up.
LA boast both central midfielders in Riqui Puig and Gaston Brugman, each of whom joined during the Secondary Transfer Window. Puig, signed from Spain’s FC Barcelona, had three assists in a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rapids, becoming the first Galaxy player to accomplish that since Landon Donovan in September 2014. Brugman, signed from Italy’s Parma, had two goals against Colorado despite playing as a No. 6.
The wide midfield spots belong to Facundo Torres (Orlando City SC) and Santiago Moreno (Portland Timbers). Torres’ first-half opener began a 4-0 demolition of Toronto FC, eliminating the Reds from postseason contention and continuing the Uruguay international’s spectacular form ahead of the World Cup. Meanwhile, Moreno’s 95th-minute equalizing volley secured a 1-1 draw at the Columbus Crew and moved Portland to five games unbeaten.
Up top, Charlotte FC’s Karol Swiderski, FC Cincinnati’s Brenner and Sporting Kansas City’s William Agada all get the nod. Swiderski’s brace inspired a 3-2 comeback victory at Chicago Fire FC, arguably the Polish star’s best game in MLS to date. Brenner’s red-hot form continued with a brace in a 2-1 win at Real Salt Lake, reaffirming the Brazilian’s club-record signing status. And Agada’s own brace helped SKC send Minnesota United FC to a crushing 4-1 defeat, continuing the Nigerian midseason signing’s positively contagious midseason arrival.
Callens is joined in defense by two wingbacks: Julian Gressel from Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Alistair Johnston from CF Montréal. Gressel’s volleyed-home golazo secured a 2-1 win over Seattle Sounders FC, possibly ending a 13-year playoff streak for their Cascadian rivals and certainly snapping a 15-game winless streak for Vancouver against the Rave Green. Meanwhile, Johnston’s fourth goal of the year paved way for a 1-0 win at the New England Revolution, perfect timing as heads into September camp for Canada.
Philadelphia Union star Andre Blake reminded everyone why he’s a two-time Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, posting a five-save shutout in a 0-0 draw at Atlanta United. Several saves were top-drawer from the Jamaican international.
Team of the Week (3-4-3, left to right): Andre Blake (PHI) – Alistair Johnston (MTL), Alexander Callens (NYC), Julian Gressel (VAN) – Facundo Torres (ORL), Riqui Puig (LA), Gaston Brugman (LA), Santiago Moreno (POR) – Karol Swiderski (CLT), Brenner (CIN), William Agada (SKC)
Coach: Nick Cushing (NYC)
Bench: Roman Celentano (CIN), Jakob Glesnes (PHI), Santiago Rodriguez (NYC), Hany Mukhtar (NSH), Jeremy Ebobisse (SJ), Carlos Vela (LAFC), Gonzalo Higuain (MIA)
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.