Minnesota United FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC faced pressure during Week 31 to keep pace in the Western Conference’s topsy-turvy Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs hunt, and they responded in kind to spearhead the Team of the Week presented by Audi.
Minnesota rallied for a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Union that was sparked by two assists from midfielder Emanuel Reynoso. MNUFC winger Franco Fragapane also earned a bench spot behind a 1g/1a showing, pushing the Loons into sixth place in the West standings.
As for Vancouver, 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR honoree Deiber Caicedo’s 1g/1a performance helped ignite a 3-2 comeback win at the Portland Timbers. Whitecaps interim manager Vanni Sartini oversees the 3-4-3 formation following a result that pushed them into the West’s seventh (and final) playoff spot.
Another huge performance came in the US capital, where the New England Revolution surged to a 3-2 win over D.C. United – a result that moved them within touching distance of the Supporters’ Shield and four points of breaking LAFC's single-season points record. Adam Buksa was the standout there, contributing 1g/1a as highlighted by a delightful backheel feed on Gustavo Bou's game-winner.
Speaking of LAFC, Cristian Arango netted his first MLS hat trick in a 3-2 win over FC Dallas that kept the Black & Gold’s playoff hopes alive – only strengthening his Newcomer of the Year candidacy after arriving in August from Millonarios FC of Colombia’s top flight. Arango and Buksa are joined up front by Chicago Fire FC's Robert Beric, whose first-half brace began an eventual 4-3 wild win at FC Cincinnati between two Eastern Conference foes already bounced from playoff contention.
Other midfielders are Seattle U22 Initiative signing Leo Chu, whose second-half entrance sparked a 1-1 comeback draw at Colorado – clinching the Sounders a top-four Western Conference playoff spot after assisting Cristian Roldan's equalizer. And Nashville SC composer Hany Mukhtar was all over a 1-1 home draw with the Columbus Crew, including a 77th-minute equalizer to boost his MVP campaign.
The backline features two goalscorers in Inter Miami CF center back Christian Makoun and CF Montréal center back Rudy Camacho. Makoun's stroke-of-halftime tally put a 3-0 win over Toronto FC to bed, snapping his team’s six-game losing streak, while Camacho’s equalizer salvaged a 1-1 draw at Orlando City SC in Montréal’s pursuit of an Eastern Conference playoff spot. The other defender is San Jose Earthquakes center back Nathan, with the Brazilian bringing all-around play to a 4-0 rout of Austin FC.
At goalkeeper, the LA Galaxy’s Jonathan Bond pitched a seven-save shutout (his fourth of the year) in a 3-0 win at Houston Dynamo FC.
Team of the Week (3-4-3, left to right): Jonathan Bond (LA) – Christian Makoun (MIA), Rudy Camacho (MTL), Nathan (SJ) – Leo Chu (SEA), Emanuel Reynoso (MIN), Hany Mukhtar (NSH), Deiber Caicedo (VAN) – Cristian Arango (LAFC), Adam Buksa (NE), Robert Beric (CHI)
Coach: Vanni Sartini (VAN)
Bench: Matt Turner (NE), Danny Wilson (COL), Marcelino Moreno (ATL), Franco Fragapane (MIN), Benjamin Kikanovic (SJ), Daniel Gazdag (PHI), Kevin Cabral (LA)
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.