Back to basics for week 18: 4-4-2 and almost everyone in a position they can actually play.
GK Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire): There's a strong case for Bill Hamid this week, since he had to deal with more shots, and arguably make more desperate saves, than Johnson. Both 'keepers won their team three points on the road despite ample scoring opportunities for their opponents. But the Fire's goalie kept a clean sheet, and saved a penalty - effectively twice, since he stopped the shot and then hopped up to take care of the rebound.
LB Gonzalo Segares (Chicago Fire): The Fire's clean sheet also owed a great debt to its defense, who worked a high line pretty effectively against the Revs to keep the home team from turning dominant possession into can't-miss chances. Segares conceded the penalty that almost gave the game away, but it was a soft call. In general, he did yeoman's work on the left hand side: tidying up (10 recoveries) and getting his
hands feet dirty when necessary (seven interceptions and four tackles).
CB Zach Scott (Seattle Sounders): Chad Marshall tends to get the praise when the Sounders' defense is clicking, since he's the leader at the back. But Scott did the heavy lifting this week, doing most of his work outside the penalty area, leaving Marshall to clean up anything or anyone that got through. A clean sheet, three points, and zero shots on target from inside the box for the Timbers, suggests Scott's work was effective.
CB Jamison Olave (New York Red Bulls): Olave has his hands full tutoring RBNY's young back line. He can't be everywhere, and can't anticipate every mistake his teammates make, but he did block three shots - as many saves as Luis Robles made effectively - and made four interceptions. Columbus had a lot of chances, but Olave ran interference for 90 minutes and helped make a close game look like a blow-out.
RB Igor Juliao (Sporting Kansas City): KC's latest win came courtesy of one of the most embarrassing defensive blunders you will ever see, and the fact Montreal couldn't keep the ball. Juliao's in this team this week because he was the youngest man on the pitch, but held down his side of the defense pretty well, while helping KC keep winning and controlling the ball in Montreal's half.
LM Chris Rolfe (D.C. United): DC pretty much lost control of the game after 25 minutes against San Jose, and it was all up to Bill Hamid to protect the lead. But before things got frantic, Chris Rolfe made excellent use of a little possession: his speculative shot caught Brandon Barklage's arm for a penalty; then his cross was turned in by Luis Silva. Two goals (and Hamid) was enough for three points.
CM Mauro Rosales (Chivas USA): The Goats got yet another win this week, and Rosales was credited with assists on all three goals against Vancouver. He took the corner which resulted in the first goal; made the pass which led to the pass which led to the second goal; and his clearance at the end found its way to Leandro Barrera, who arrowed it into an empty net (the 'keeper was up for the corner as Vancouver pressed for an equalizer). Good players, and teams, make their own luck - and Rosales was as fortunate to be awarded all those assists as Chivas was to get its fourth consecutive win.
CM Marcelo Sarvas (LA Galaxy): His running and passing troubled Real Salt Lake all night. It was his work down the right which pulled RSL's back line deep, and his pass into the space suddenly available that Gyasi Zardes connected with to score. He also set Landon Donovan free on a run which ought to have had a goal at the end of it. And he won the penalty which would have made LA's win more convincing, had anyone but him taken it.
RM Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids): Colorado's 3-3 draw in Philadelphia was largely a comedy of defensive errors. The Rapids couldn't defend crosses, the Union couldn't keep eleven men on the pitch. But before the game became a complete farce, Serna scored a neat, confident goal for Colorado, creating space for himself on the edge of the area with a couple of sharp touches, and shooting through a cluster of five defenders to beat the 'keeper.
FWD Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls): Scored one, set up three, putting himself in sole possession of his team's all-time MLS assist record, and joint-first on its all-time, all-competitions assist leaders' chart. His goal nudged him past Clint Mathis into second on RBNY's all-time scoring list too. But more than the statistical prizes, Henry was constant danger, lurking in midfield, making runs and passes that dressed up a pretty uneven RBNY performance as a much-needed big win at home.
FWD Jermain Defoe (Toronto FC): Had a hand in all four goals that brought TFC back from 0-2 down after 30 minutes to a 4-2 win. His cross was mishandled by Tally Hall, giving Jonathan Osorio a free header to an empty net. Then his run and pass set up Dominic Oduro to shoot twice, scoring with the second attempt. He got one of his own next - telling Osorio where to put the ball, before running around the defense and beating Hall from an improbable angle. Finally, he picked up a loose pass in midfield and beat Hall one-on-one. Pretty much single-handedly took Houston apart, once he got going.
Coach - Frank Yallop (Chicago Fire): His team finally held on for a win, stopping its winless streak at six games and keeping faint hope alive for a playoff appearance this year.