Defenders may not always get the love they deserve when it comes to recognition of their achievments on the soccer field, but that's not the case for this week. In an MLS Week 7 that saw plenty of close, physical games (and far too few goals), a host of defenders from across the league took the chance to make their mark. Four of them earned places in this week's Team of the Week for it.
In addition, two defensive-minded midfielders found their way into the selection (though one's brilliant goal helped him stand out), while this week's honoree in goal put in an exceptional showing to elevate himself above the other eight 'keepers – yes, eight – who earned consideration for the spot.
Let's not forget the players on the attacking side, though. One of the league's marquee men was in typical form while leading his team to a win, while another of the league's rising stars added another impressive outing to his resume. And of course, Houston claimed a piece of MLS history by setting a record for games unbeaten at home in all competitions, and two of their players made the cut for their exemplary efforts in that win.
Which stars shone brightest this time around? Read on to find out...
SAVE: Bendik's superb reaction
GK: Joe Bendik (Toronto FC) – Made no shortage of big saves as he proved the key to the Reds’ 1-1 draw in Philadelphia, turning a match in which they were very much outplayed into a well-earned draw on the road.
DF: Jámison Olave (New York Red Bulls) – Dominant on the defensive side of the ball in New York’s 2-0 win over D.C. United and added the all-important second with his thigh while continuing to show off his great instincts attacking set pieces.
DF: Matt Hedges (FC Dallas) – George John may have gotten the goal and the glory in FCD’s 1-0 win over the Galaxy, but Hedges was the best defender on the field, making plenty of timely interventions to keep LA off the board.
DF: Mamadou "Futty" Danso (Portland Timbers) – Faced with the task of stepping into an injury-ravaged Timbers backline and coping with no less than Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart, Danso was more than up to the task. Wasn’t afraid to mix it up physically and a big part of the reason why the Quakes got almost nothing going on offense in Portland’s 1-0 win over San Jose.
DF: José Gonçalves (New England Revolution) – Emerged as a key force in New England’s backline in Saturday’s 0-0 draw in Seattle, stopping everything the Sounders threw at him as he led the Revolution to a clean sheet and a point in one of the league’s toughest road venues.
MF: Andrew Driver (Houston Dynamo) – You won’t find his name on the scoresheet, but the Anglo-Scottish winger is a big part of the reason why Houston’s game plan of pressuring Chicago out wide was so effective. Frequently got into good positions and caused some real problems for the Fire throughout his 70 minutes on the field.
MF: Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls) – Did very well to disrupt D.C.’s rhythm and prevent them from getting anything going offensively, distributed the ball well in midfield and made the smart layoff to set up Thierry Henry’s opener.
GOAL: Johnson's free kick beauty
MF: Will Johnson (Portland Timbers) – His brilliant free-kick winner was the cherry on top of an effective evening in the heart of the Timbers midfield, where he showed his strength on both sides of the ball and proved an effective, calming leader in the heat of a very physical game.
MF: Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo) – It was only natural that the team’s star man stood out in his team’s record-setting win over Chicago. Notched an excellent assist on Will Bruin’s opener, added a goal of his own by simply dropping a cross near the far post and watching it go in untouched.
GOAL: Henry lashes one in
FW: Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls) – Put in a superb offensive performance for the Red Bulls in D.C. – was involved in nearly every New York attack and scored an excellent curling shot.
FW: Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union) – Only a questionable call denied him an equalizer in the 89th minute of the Union’s draw with Toronto, but he was not to be denied a couple minutes later when he finally found the net. Was active and dangerous all game, turning in another performance that will see his stock rise even higher.
Coach: Dominic Kinnear (Houston Dynamo) – Not only did his team make MLS history by notching its 35th straight without a loss at home in all competitions, they did it in an efficient, workmanlike way with a well-thought out and well-executed game plan.
Bench: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), George John (FC Dallas), Andrew Jacobson (FC Dallas), Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders), Camilo (Vancouver Whitecaps), Deshorn Brown (Colorado Rapids), Dominic Oduro (Columbus Crew)