Every postseason sees previously unheralded players step up with vital performances to help their teams wend though the draw, and the Audi 2020 MLS Playoffs have certainly been no exception.
There has been no shortage of guys that were able to "turn it up to 11" once the postseason arrived. And as success breeds notoriety, it will come as no surprise that four of the six sudden standouts remain alive with their teams in the MLS Cup hunt.
Brian Anunga & Alistair Johnston
The honorary cheat pick goes to a Nashville SC duo that helped the expansion side come shockingly close to the Eastern Conference Final. Thanks to his forceful work rate, Anunga suddenly emerged in the playoffs as a very difficult central midfielder for even the best teams to play against. Johnston had started all but two regular season games at right back, but made good use of the bigger spotlight by raising his two-way game in the playoffs.
Both were essential in all but completely shutting down Toronto FC and in taking Columbus to extras scoreless. In fact Nashville did not concede a single goal in the 193 postseason minutes played by Anunga, who brilliantly covered for Anibal Godoy against some of the league's top midfielders.
New England Revolution
It can be argued that nobody has raised their profile as much during the playoffs as New England's recently converted right back. Given more runway to hit the jets, Buchanan has repeatedly flashed his natural winger credentials to great effect.
He scored the bold raid insurance tally that basically broke Philadelphia's back and earned the ice-breaking spot kick in their win at Orlando City. His emergence isn't all about attack capabilities, either. The 21-year-old frustrated the hell out of Nani in the latter win, racking up 13 total defensive stops.
Minnesota UnitedPrior to the playoffs, I wrote that it seemed as though a lot of people were sleeping on Minnesota United's big midseason pick-up. Somehow, Reynoso was flying under the radar despite his immediate success sparking the team's best run of the year.
Now that he's artfully notched three assists in each of the Loons' postseason victories, that will no longer be an issue.
The man they call "Bebelo" has everyone's attention now, most of all conference final foe Seattle. If they can't limit his time in Zone 14, it could be a big problem for the champs.