A 3-5-2 for the second week running because the league's midfielders came up big again...
GK Raul Fernandez (FC Dallas): Absent his work in goal, FCD wouldn't just have lost against Vancouver this week - Pedro Morales might have had a hat-trick of goals and assists. Two goals conceded and a road point isn't generally a sign of stellar goalkeeping, but the Whitecaps had nine shots on target from 30 chances created from almost 60% possession. FCD shouldn't have got anything out of this game. Fernandez won the point as much as the Whitecaps' slack defending cost them a win.
DEF Jack Jewsbury (Portland Timbers): The Timbers won a scrappy, rain-soaked game they dominated by a narrow margin: 3-2. Defense was a more important part of their three-point haul than the panting tributes to Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri might suggest. The difference between Montreal and Portland was one goal, and perhaps the best illustration of that difference came from two incidents involving each team's right back. Hassoun Camara was too clumsy in dealing with Valeri in the penalty area - and conceded the spot-kick that put Portland ahead for the first time. In the 55th minute, with the scores again level, Jewsbury got just enough of himself in front of Maxim Tissot to sell the argument he'd won the ball instead of simply stopping his man. The Timbers' defense gets a lot of deserved criticism, but Jewsbury did his job better than Camara (who was also somewhat at fault for the third goal conceded by L'Impact) and that is why his team got three goals and Montreal only got two.
DEF Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City): In the 23rd minute of KC's trip to Toronto, Collin tripped Gilberto, preventing the TFC striker from testing himself one-on-one with the 'keeper. There aren't many center backs in the league who can go on the road, hack down an opponent, and get away with it. Collin got the benefit of what really shouldn't have been any doubt, and stayed on the pitch. Surprisingly, it was his partner in defense, Matt Besler, who ultimately tested the referee's patience once too often. Collin stuck around to help KC win in Toronto, chipping in with 11 of his team's 26 clearances.
DEF Drew Moor (Colorado Rapids): Part of the defense that restricted Chivas USA to just one shot on target (and, more importantly, kept Erick Torres from registering any shots on frame) and still found time to saunter up the field and score one of his own.
RM Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew): His run drew the foul which Federico Higuain turned into one of the prettiest set piece goals we'll see this season; and his run let Justin Meram launch one over the top for the Crew winger to chase, control, and fire into goal for Columbus's winner in New England.
CM Federico Higuain (Columbus Crew): One could talk about his leadership, his influence on the Crew's younger players, like Finley, or Wil Trapp - but mostly Higuain is in this week's team because he can do wonderful things with a free kick.
CM Yannick Djalo (San Jose Earthquakes): The Quakes battered Chicago this week, but not as literally as has tended to be the case with San Jose's more recent iterations. The big men who normally stalk the attacking third for the Quakes were absent, and Djalo took up a central playmaking role which contributed to his team's five-goal bonanza. In truth, most of the goals were either extraordinary individual efforts (Shea Salinas made something out of nothing; Djalo chipped one in from distance) or the result of the Fire's defensive blundering (Atiba Harris knocked in a rebound; Chicago let Chris Wondolowski too close to goal once too often). But Djalo was credited with two assists on the night and his goal was pretty special.
CM Pedro Morales (Vancouver Whitecaps): The score sheet shows Morales scored a penalty in Vancouver's 2-2 draw with FC Dallas. The game highlights, however, show this match to be effectively a 90-minute master class in midfield creativity and attacking intent. Morales put on a show. He'd be the runaway player of the week if he hadn't been playing against the goalkeeper of the week.
LM Shea Salinas (San Jose Earthquakes): Started the Quakes' 5-1 rout of Chicago in rare style, with a solo effortthat started too far away to be any threat to anyone, moved seemingly too close to the Fire's defense to do anything, and finished too well for Sean Johnson to stop it.
FWD Olmes Garcia (Real Salt Lake): Sure, RSL was a man up by the time Garcia got onto the pitch. Yes, he got a lot of help from Javier Morales, who enjoyed the extra space on the field. But Garcia had gone more than a year without scoring, which includes a substantial part of this season, when senior Salt Lake forwards Alvaro Saborio and Robbie Findley have been unavailable for one reason or another. Garcia is only 21, but Joao Plata is merely 22 and he has been leading RSL's attack. So Garcia was in a danger of being labeled a bust, which wouldn't be great for him, or for the league's funny-money player acquisition policy. RSL needed a win, Garcia needed goals. He scored twice and his team got three points: a good week for all concerned in Utah.
FWD Gabriel Torres (Colorado Rapids): It was a good week for goal-shy strikers. Colorado's game against Chivas could have been predicted to play out as a Rapids win with a goal for Torres, but the latter was expected to be Erick, the Goats' Golden Boot contender. Instead, Gabriel struck from distance, at an even more improbable angle than that engineered by Nick LaBrocca for the opening goal. It was a memorable way for Torres to open his 2014 MLS scoring account. He's late to the party, but the Rapids won't care if he helps them secure a playoff place.
Coach - Mark Watson (San Jose Earthquakes): He hasn't much to celebrate this season, and his August schedule includes two games against Seattle, as well as matches with LA and RSL. San Jose is still bottom of the West, and likely to remain there. Unless this week's 5-1 win over the Fire, fashioned from an unusually lightweight Quakes lineup, represents a turning point, this could be the last chance to celebrate Watson's work in San Jose for some time. The Quakes played some fun, creative and attacking soccer in week 20, in a quite different way from what had become the expected, blunt-force-trauma approach to the game as practiced by the San Jose of old.