The 4-2-3-1 is a popular formation in MLS, so it's time it made an appearance in Team of the Week...
GK Bobby Shuttleworth (New England Revolution): Columbus got plenty of good looks at New England's goal - certainly more than sufficient to at least come away with a point. But Shuttleworth made save after save after save, to help the Revs claim three points from a game they arguably should have lost.
RB Richard Eckersley (New York Red Bulls): This blog's called Once A Metro, right? And Eckersley was once considered a starter for RBNY, but got off to one of the worst starts imaginable, conceded two penalties in the team's first four games of the season, and was pretty much banished from the starting lineup. He has bided his time, put in some solid performances when asked, and finally got another chance to start in MLS this week, against Houston Dynamo. Handling Brad Davis and DaMarcus Beasley is no small assignment, but Eckersley did well, even playing a part in the sequence leading up to the Red Bulls' match-winner.
CB Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps): The big man is still settling in to his new club, which is a worry for the rest of the league since he is already playing pretty well. He helped the 'Caps shut out FC Dallas this week, tallying 14 clearances and five interceptions as Vancouver restricted FCD to just two shots on target.
CB Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City): In Aurelien Collin's absence, Besler stepped up to play the more aggressive role in KC's center back pairing. Sporting had nearly 60% of possession against DC this week, a surprising statistic given that KC was on the road. Besler contributed eight interceptions, all outside KC's defensive third, helping his team win the ball early and often, and pick up a point to slow the club's alarming recent slump in form.
LB Donny Toia (Chivas USA): The Goats won a game! For the first time since July 12! And they didn't just beat any old team; the beat a good team - Real Salt Lake. Despite 73% possession, RSL could only get one shot on target, and credit for that should go to the Chivas defense. Toia contributed 11 clearances, five intercepttions, two tackles and one block - mostly in positions close to or inside the penalty area. A strong showing from a young full back (he's 22) who, incidentally, was RSL's first-ever homegrown player.
CDM Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls): In the match that saw him become just the 12th player in RBNY history to log 10,000 competitive minutes for the club, it was fitting McCarty put in one of his better performances of the season. It was also essential: the Red Bulls lost control of the game against Houston for much of the second half, and McCarty's scrambling, here-there-everywhere contribution to keeping trouble at bay was critical to the team's ability to make one goal stand up for three points.
CDM Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution): For the second consecutive week, Jones scored the winner for the Revs. His goal against Columbus was not as impressive as last week's effort against Sporting Kansas City, but it was every bit as valuable - New England should now be considered favorite to nab the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Jones would be forgiven for taking some time to settle in: he's a midseason signing, which typically means a lengthy bedding-in period; his home field is one of the worst surfaces in MLS, and now confusingly daubed with NFL markings. But he seems to have no interest in any such excuses. Jones is contributing significant minutes and moments to New England's cause on both sides of the ball, and he looks like he's enjoying himself tremendously.
RW Mauro Rosales (Vancouver Whitecaps): Coaxed two goals out of Sebastian Fernandez, thereby snagging three points for the Caps in a must-win home game.
CAM Marco Pappa (Seattle Sounders): The whole league knows Obafemi Martins cannot be given time and space in front of goal, but the Rapids didn't give Martins anything - Pappa took it from them with a chip over the back line that was duly converted into the Sounders' second goal of a 4-1 rout in Colorado. Pappa scored the third himself: another chip, this time over the 'keeper and into the net.
LW Rodney Wallace (Portland Timbers): Scored both goals in Portland's crucial, comeback win in San Jose. Each had an element of luck - his shot was deflected to the top corner for his first goal; for the second, all he did was let his face get in the way of Liam Ridgewell's header. But if there is a player in the league who deserves a little bit of luck, it is Wallace, who missed most of this season due to injury.
FWD Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy): Scored twice in three minutes to all but eliminate Toronto FC's hopes of springing an upset on the road in LA.
COACH Caleb Porter (Portland Timbers): The Timbers are in their current predicament because the defense hasn't been right all season - and that is on the coach. But the Timbers have not been sunk by their hapless back line because Porter has generally got the best of out of his players when they push forward, and he won't let the team quit. Absent the team's leader (Will Johnson) and creative dynamo (Diego Valeri), Portland fought back from a goal down on the road to record arguably the most impressive and important win of the week. One suspects this team isn't really good enough to make much of an impact in the playoffs, if it gets there - but it won't go quietly. And Porter deserves much of the credit for building a team spirit that continues to generate improbable results.