Summer madness has reached its peak in MLS, meaning teams are now focused squarely on a playoff run. For a number of sides, it has meant tweaking things just a little bit, whether personnel-wise, tactically or both.
In Week 20, we began to see some of these tweaks pay dividends. Houston’s offense came alive in the team’s new 4-3-3 formation, with two previously unheralded players standing out and earning Team of the Week honors. Up in Vancouver, one of the league’s newest Designated Players put in two excellent shifts in the middle of the park.
Changes in New York have paid dividends, too, and though high-profile acquisition Sébastien Le Toux didn’t make this week’s cut, another recent acquisition allowed ensured the Red Bulls didn’t skip a beat in the back despite an injury to their first-choice goalkeeper, rookie sensation Ryan Meara.
GK: Bill Gaudette (New York Red Bulls) – The veteran 'keeper has so far proved to be a smart pickup by Hans Backe, filling in well for Ryan Meara and looking steady while keeping clean sheets against Chicago and Philadelphia.
DF: Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake) – Led an excellent defensive showing from a backline that has often looked at sea through the month of July. Colorado barely had a sniff at goal thanks to Borchers' excellent play.
DF: Aurélien Collin (Sporting Kansas City) – One of the best Sporting players in a 2-1 defeat at Houston, and followed it up by anchoring a solid defensive showing in a 0-0 draw with New England.
DF: Jay DeMerit (Vancouver Whitecaps) – Had Chris Wondolowski in his pocket for a full 90 minutes in the 'Caps 2-1 victory over San Jose.
MF: Calen Carr (Houston Dynamo) – The speedster has really taken to the Dynamo's retooled formation – he bagged both goals in Houston’s midweek win over Sporting KC and helped set up the opener in a weekend win over Montreal, all from the right wing side of Dominic Kinnear’s 4-3-3 formation.
MF: David Beckham (LA Galaxy) – The English star kept up his impressive form this week, scoring the first goal in LA's thrilling comeback at Vancouver before setting up another two strikes in a 3-1 win over city rivals Chivas USA.
MF: Barry Robson (Vancouver Whitecaps) – 'Caps fans were treated to their first live glimpse of the Scotsman this week and the veteran midfielder didn't disappoint. He bossed the midfield in a midweek draw against LA and scored both in that game and in the victory over San Jose.
MF: Jackson (FC Dallas) – The star of Dallas' 5-0 romp over the Timbers. Scored twice and set up another, gave Portland's defense fits all game long.
FW: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) – A menace throughout LA' 3-1 win over Chivas USA, scored twice, including his 200th professional goal, and hit the post two more times.
FW: Kenny Cooper (New York Red Bulls) – Cooper has found the perfect time to rediscover his torrid early-season form, as his brace powered the Red Bulls to a 2-0 win over Philadelphia and to the top of the Eastern Conference.
FW: Macoumba Kandji (Houston Dynamo) – Another player who has reaped the fruits of the Dynamo's new look, Kandji put in a man of the match performance in a 3-0 triumph over Montreal, bagging two goals including an excellent individual effort to cap off the win.
Coach: Dominic Kinnear (Houston Dynamo) – His shift to a 4-3-3 is starting to play huge dividends, as the Dynamo picked up six points this week and outscored opponents 5-1. Also deserves credit for finding a way to get the best out of role players such as Calen Carr and Mac Kandji while seamlessly integrating new Designated Player Boniek Garcia.
Honorable Mention: Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew), Rafael Baca (San Jose Earthquakes), Chris Birchall (Columbus Crew), Marvin Chavez (San Jose Earthquakes), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Fabián Espíndola (Real Salt Lake), Torsten Frings (Toronto FC), Boniek García (Houston Dynamo), Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes), Andy Gruenebaum (Columbus Crew), Doneil Henry (Toronto FC), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Connor Lade (New York Red Bulls), Y.P. Lee (Vancouver Whitecaps), Stephen McCarthy (New England Revolution), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Sanna Nyassi (Montreal Impact), Dane Richards (Vancouver Whitecaps), Álvaro Saborío (Real Salt Lake), Ryan Smith (Chivas USA), Jose Villarreal (LA Galaxy)