NEW YORK — Chivas USA are believers when it comes to a postseason berth this year.
The Goats' 3-0 win against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday not only injected their season with playoff hopes but it also confirmed Nick LaBrocca's form, it placed the spotlight on Ante Jazic and it resurrected the goal-scoring fortunes of Justin Braun. All three Chivas USA players were Week 19 Team of the Week selections.
Also earning consideration this week were the Crew's stalwart captain, a Galaxy All-Star, two rookies and another hat trick hero from Colorado.
GK: Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City) – Although he only had to make three saves against Toronto FC and gave up two goals in the same game, his saves were tough ones which came at critical moments of his team's victory.
DF: Ante Jazic (Chivas USA) – The 35-year-old commanded the left flank against much younger opposition from the Houston Dynamo, finding Braun for two of the forward's three goals.
DF: Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew) – After going 90 minutes in LA during midweek, Marshall completed a team-high 57 passes against the Portland Timbers and also led the Crew with nine headers, including one that led to a decisive goal and another controversially cleared off the line.
DF: Sean Franklin (LA Galaxy) – The right back reminded everyone once again why he was selected to the 2011 All-Star Game, scoring his first career goal and shutting down the Columbus Crew, who rarely threatened last Wednesday.
MF: Nick LaBrocca (Chivas USA) – When Chivas USA are scoring goals and winning games, it’s usually because their midfield is dominant thanks to the passes connected by All-Star LaBrocca. Another big game by the Goats’ MVP.
MF: Stephen McCarthy (New England Revolution) – The rookie is a danger in the air, scoring the winner against D.C. United in midweek and then providing the flick-on assist for Benny Feilhaber’s opener in Colorado. But it’s his efficient and reliable distribution of the ball over the two matches that will keep him in the starting XI.
MF: Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers) – Another step forward for Portland’s top rookie draft pick. His standout performance in Columbus featured efficient ball possession, creativity (four key passes) and an aggressive attack (four shots).
MF: Shea Salinas (Vancouver Whitecaps) – The Whitecaps were back to playing entertaining soccer at San Jose in midweek and part of the reason was an inspired Salinas, who was not only beating players down the flanks but also delivered pinpoint crosses with two assists and another service that should have been converted into a goal.
FW: Justin Braun (Chivas USA) – Just when they were appealing for him to get back to his scoring ways after a four-match drought, the 24-year-old responds with a hat trick. He made all the right runs, finishing each of his opportunities with a single touch.
FW: Sanna Nyassi (Colorado Rapids) – With Conor Casey going down to a long-term injury and Omar Cummings struggling to score again, Nyassi’s explosion at forward is just what the doctor ordered for Colorado. His hat trick against New York was as impressive for the way the goals were created as much as the number of goals scored. He returned a few days later against New England, drawing a penalty kick and a Revolution red card.
FW: Marvin Chávez (FC Dallas) – Finishing may not come naturally for the winger-turned-forward, who only had three career MLS goals before Saturday. But he showed an ability to pop up in the right spots and applied a decisive finishing touch twice during the match against the Red Bulls, singlehandedly overturning a negative result.
Manager: Tom Soehn (Vancouver Whitecaps) – In the face of four straight losses in league play and an 0-8-3 road record, the Whitecaps showed that they are capable of a spectacular style of play under Soehn and even deserved to win their first away game in San Jose. It helps to have DP forward Mustapha Jarju and a healthy Davide Chiumiento back in the lineup.
Honorable Mentions: David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City), Jon Busch (San Jose Earthquakes), Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United), Roger Espinoza (Sporting Kansas City), Stefan Frei (Toronto FC), Ugo Ihemelu (FC Dallas), Jéferson (Sporting Kansas City), George John (FC Dallas), Ryan Johnson (Toronto FC), Kei Kamara (Sporting Kansas City), Gershon Koffie (Vancouver Whitecaps), Matt Reis (New England Revolution), Dane Richards (New York Red Bulls), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)