Huge opportunities awaited both LAFC and the New England Revolution during MLS Week 33, and they seized them to pace the Team of the Week presented by Audi.
We’ll start with New England, who followed up winning the 2021 MLS Supporters’ Shield with a 1-0 win over Colorado that gave them the single-season points record (73), surpassing LAFC’s mark from 2019. Center back Henry Kessler was rock-solid Wednesday night, while head coach Bruce Arena recorded his 240th MLS regular-season coaching win, drawing level with the late, great Sigi Schmid. One more: MVP frontrunner Carles Gil placed on the bench after reaching 126 chances created on the year – the most in any MLS campaign since 2011.
As for LAFC, midfielder Latif Blessing had 1g/1a in a 3-0 win over the Seattle Sounders that kept afloat their hopes of seizing a Western Conference spot in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. South Korea international and right back Kim Moon-Hwan had a strong game as well, while midseason acquisition Jamal Blackman is the backup goalkeeper following a five-save shutout of the then-West’s No. 1 seed.
Aside from Blessing, the midfield group includes a star showing from Columbus Crew playmaker Lucas Zelarayan (1g/2a) that keyed a vital 3-2 win over Orlando City SC. Out wide, there’s also Real Salt Lake’s Justin Meram behind his two off-the-bench assists in a 2-1 win at FC Dallas. And lastly, Nashville SC’s Randall Leal had 2g/1a to spark a wild 6-3 comeback win at FC Cincinnati that clinched an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The forward group contains Portland’s Dairon Asprilla following his bicycle-kick stunner that sealed a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes. Out wide, a two-goal effort from Sporting Kansas City’s Johnny Russell powered a 2-0 victory over the visiting LA Galaxy. On the other flank, Atlanta United’s Luiz Araujo contributed 1g/1a during a 2-1 win over Inter Miami CF that reinforced why he could become a top-end Designated Player in MLS.
At goalkeeper, there's D.C. United's Bill Hamid courtesy of a five-save shutout that blanked New York Red Bulls 1-0 and vaulted them back into an East playoff spot. Last but not least, Philadelphia Union left back Kai Wagner supplied two assists in a 2-2 draw at Toronto FC, giving the German defender 10 goal contributions this season.
Team of the Week (3-4-3, left to right): Bill Hamid (DC) – Kai Wagner (PHI), Henry Kessler (NE), Kim Moon-hwan (LAFC) – Randall Leal (NSH), Lucas Zelarayan (CLB), Latif Blessing (LAFC), Justin Meram (RSL) – Luiz Araujo (ATL), Dairon Asprilla (POR), Johnny Russell (SKC)
Coach: Bruce Arena (NE)
Bench: Jamal Blackman (LAFC), Steve Birnbaum (DC), Keaton Parks (NYC), Carles Gil (NE), Ezequiel Barco (ATL), Brian White (VAN), CJ Sapong (NSH)
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.