Sticking with the 4-4-2 for the penultimate week of the regular season...
GK Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake): The 114th shutout of his MLS regular-season career was one of his better ones. Rimando made six saves in a goalkeeping masterclass that might also have put him back in the Goalkeeper of the Year conversation.
RB Zach Lloyd (FC Dallas): Yes, beating Colorado is not an exceptional achievement these days, but FCD is not a good team away from home - and duly allowed the Rapids 57% possession this week. But the home team only got one shot on target, thanks to a sturdy defense. Lloyd had his hands full, largely playing the deeper-lying center back role, but led the back line in tackles (four), as well as chipping in two interceptions and seven clearances.
CB Tyson Wahl (Columbus Crew): The Crew strolled into Red Bull Arena this week and hammered the New York Red Bulls, an achievement built on a solid defensive performance (RBNY attempted just six shots) that might have been undone by Michael Parkhurst's injury-enforced exit at half-time. But Wahl handled the task of playing alongside Emanuel Pogatetz as smoothly as he had managed partnering Parkhurst, and made sure RBNY never got to find out what would have happened if Thierry Henry had been allowed to get a potential equalizing strike on target.
CB Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes): The Quakes didn't have much to play for beyond pride this week. And contracts. San Jose will have a new coach next season, and Dominic Kinnear is likely to shake up a squad that has lost its way over the last two years. Bernardez put in a shift to remind the incoming coaching staff that he is a defensive leader, helping to restrict Vancouver to just one shot on target. He contributed 10 clearances and four blocks - one of which made the highlight reel - as the Quakes closed out the Buck Shaw era with a shutout.
LB Kevin Alston (New England Revolution): Alston might not have played at all this week, since he was a bench option for New England's trip to Houston, and once the Dynamo took the lead in the first-half it was clear the Revs' tactical needs would most likely be attacking rather than defensive. But Andrew Farrell took a knock and Alston was the first sub used by Jay Heaps, who reshuffled his back line to stick the speedy utility back on the left flank. Alston's defensive qualities were called upon to limit Andrew Driver's chance to double Houston's lead; then he teed up Lee Nguyen for the Revs' equalizer in the 65th minute. Contributing at both ends of the field within 15 minutes of joining the game is a good outing for any player.
RM Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew): Set up Aaron Schoenfeld twice and scored one himself as he repeatedly taunted RBNY by making intelligent and efficient use of the ball whenever he got hold of it - something the home team never quite got its head around.
CM Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union): The Crew's central midfield (Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp) has been getting effusive praise this week for its part in the humbling of RBNY in Harrison. So why is a guy who plays center back for a team that won't even be making the playoffs occupying a spot that probably ought t be taken by Thierry Henry's new favorite player? Because of eight interceptions. Columbus was given a lot of possession by RBNY's sloppy passing; Edu took the ball from KC, helping Philly salvage some pride by closing out the year with a home win over the defending MLS Cup champ.
CM Christian Maidana (Philadelphia Union): Jim Curtin seems to be using Philly's last few games of the season to take a look at some fringe players. He let two young strikers - Brian Brown and Pedro Ribeiro - split time this week, but Maidana complicated the evaluation by teaming well with both of them. He helped Brown find the net in the first half, then set up Ribeiro in the second. And he should have had a goal of his own to add to his creative work.
LM Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution): He keeps scoring and the Revs keep winning. This week, Nguyen led his team from a goal down to a 2-1 win in Houston. His first goal was a function of confidence and technique, his second was about positioning and anticipation. His goals didn't just win the game for New England, they clinched the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs as well.
FWD Eddie Johnson (D.C. United): One of the more impressive aspects of DC's 2014 season is that the team has managed to win the Eastern Conference without ever really getting the best out of Eddie Johnson. This may be about to change. Johnson set up DC's opening goal and scored the second himself, piloting his team to a 2-1 win over Chicago with a performance that suggested he may be ready to take up the star-forward role he was hired to fill.
FWD Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders): He didn't have much luck with his own shooting this week. Still, when he stopped arguing with Clint Dempsey and the referee, Martins carried the Sounders out of the two-goal hole they had dug for themselves, teeing up Dempsey and Lamar Neagle to snatch victory and momentum away from LA Galaxy, and send Seattle into week 33 as favorite to lift the Supporters' Shield.
COACH: Gregg Berhalter (Columbus Crew): It is one thing to grab a two goal lead at Red Bull Arena, but quite another to keep your team going after its senior defender (Michael Parkhurst) has to come off at half-time. Berhalter had a plan to beat the Red Bulls that worked in the first half, and which he quietly adjusted in the second, just as RBNY seemed to be getting back into the game. When the Red Bulls scored to get within a goal of tying the game, Berhalter quickly switched out Justin Meram for Chad Barson, a more defensive player. And as soon as Aaron Schoenfeld restored the Crew's two-goal lead, the coach brought fresh legs - Eric Gehrig - off the bench to keep his back line focused on closing out the game. Berhalter's in-game management was as good as his preparation, and the reward was a statement win over a potential playoff rival.