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MLS Team of Week 23

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This week's team is overloaded with forwards...

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

A simple 4-4-2 is achieved by shoehorning a number of players into positions they didn't really play this week...

GK Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union): The Union has an absurd abundance of goalkeeping at the moment, so this week might be the first and last time we see Blake in MLS this season. His first start of the year was neither the best nor worst performance by a 'keeper in the league this week, but it was the most entertaining. Blake's teammates generously allowed Houston frequent attempts on goal, presumably to showcase the skills of the rookie who will probably spend the rest of the season on the bench, assuming Rais M'Bolhi turns up to take the starting spot he was signed to fill. It's unusual to nominate a losing 'keeper to the team of the week, but Blake couldn't do a great deal about the goals he conceded, and if this performance was his parting gift to MLS 2014, it was a memorable one.

LB Taylor Kemp (DC United): The second-year pro is not a regular for DC United, but that may change after this week. He mugged Colorado's Nick LaBrocca and sprung Luis Silva for DC's opening goal of its 4-2 home win over the Rapids. And he set up DC's third of the game with a determined (if almost unchallenged) run down the left culminating in a smart cut back for Chris Rolfe to finish first time.

CB Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers): The Englishman was brought in to the club to bolster its defense, however, the Timbers have only kept two clean sheets so far this season, both against Chivas USA, so defensive solidity can be regarded as still a work in progress. But three wins in five games indicates the team is getting better at simply scoring more goals than its opponents. This week's draw (1-1 in New England) was Portland's 10th of the season, but only its third tie in 13 matches. The team can take some consolation from the fact the goal conceded could have been called back for offside without great controversy, and the goal scored was a solo effort from its new center back which would feature on the career highlight reel of almost any attacking player in the league. If Portland's upcoming matches are going to be shootouts, it may be comforting for the team to realize there is a new club in the bag of attacking options.

CB Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City): KC's 4-1 win over Toronto wasn't as easy as the scoreline suggests, but perhaps the key difference between the two teams was TFC's defense had a regrettable tendency to hack down opponents in dangerous positions (KC had two penalties and a two-goal lead in the first 30 minutes or so of the game) whereas Sporting's defensive composure was illustrated by Collin's determined 70th minute interception to prevent a near-certain Toronto goal. What made this particular effort so impressive was it was Collin's lunge at Jackson which opened up the gap in the KC defense in the first place - he fixed his mistake, and crushed TFC's comeback dream at the same time.

RB Giancarlo Gonzalez (Columbus Crew): No, Gonzalez is not a right back, but half this week's team is playing out of position, so he may was well lead the trend. The Crew's surprising demolition of LA was largely down to Columbus converting some difficult chances while the Galaxy missed what appeared to be easier opportunities. Gonzalez had a busy day - racking up 12 clearances - but still weighed in with his team's last goal in a game that didn't feel entirely safe for Columbus until it established a three-goal lead in the 84th minute.


LM Justin Meram (Columbus Crew): The scouting report on the Crew is pretty simple - don't let Federico Higuain get much of the ball - but it may require adjustment if Meram, and opposite-side winger Ethan Finlay, can keep turning in performances such as the one provided against LA. Both contributed a goal and an assist, but Meram's goal was arguably the best of the four the Crew put past Jaime Penedo, and his assist (to play Finlay into space) was from the Higuain school of playmaking. Meram's work also opened up a two goal lead from which the Galaxy would never recover.

CM Luis Silva (DC United): Silva has spent most of his time in MLS being touted as a good player on terrible teams (2012 Toronto FC and the 2013 iterations of both TFC and DCU). Finally, he's looking more and more like a good player on a good team. Unfortunately, there is cause to suspect his best position is up front - where Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola are expected to work together when both fit and available.  But two-goal games like this week - where he delivered the calm finishing which has eluded Johnson to date, and showed greater effectiveness in charting a direct path to goal than Espindola's firefly meanderings - suggest DC might be better off finding a way to keep Silva up front for a while.

CM Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City): Feilhaber drew the foul for KC's first penalty, and had the good fortune to clang a pass off the referee and straight to Dom Dwyer, who promptly drew his team's second spot kick. When even your mistakes create goals, you're having a good week.

RM Fabian Castillo (FC Dallas): Pretty much thrashed San Jose by himself this week - Castillo had a hand in four of FCD's five goals. First, he declined Jason Hernandez's invitation to allow himself to be rugby tackled (and if he had gone down, Hernandez would have been lucky to stay on the pitch) and produced a startling finish when it appeared he might have dribbled himself into trouble. He picked on Hernandez again for his second goal (FCD's fifth), using the defender as a screen for his shot. In between, he set up Tesho Akindele twice - first with a simple pass, then by crashing a shot off Jon Busch's gloves for Akindele to tap in.


FWD Joao Plata (Real Salt Lake): The TV commentators made Luke Mulholland the man of the match in RSL's 2-1 win over Seattle, but hoiking a dead ball into the six yard box is not as impressive as the sight of 5' 2" Plata drifting free of his marker and planting a header past Stefan Frei. Plata was also responsible for RSL's second goal: in one touch, he converted an interception into a pass which found Luis Gil at the top of the penalty area with space and time to consider several options. Mulholland may have got the last touch on Gil's pass (or, as the tape suggests, it might have been Osvaldo Alonso - nope...see edit below), but it was Plata's quick, intelligent first touch which created the opportunity for what turned out to be the match-winner for RSL.

Edit: As the good people running RSL's Twitter feed took the time to point out - the second goal was indeed Mulholland's (and was credited as such). Still Plata's work that got the ball back into the box so quickly, though.


FWD Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas): The basic job of any forward is to get in position to register shots on goal, so it would be harsh to suggest Akindele's hat-trick in week 23 was gifted to him by three goalkeeping errors. His first was a slow-roller to the far post which Jon Busch flailed at but failed to touch; his second was a tap-in after Busch spilled a shot from Fabian Castillo; his third was slammed into the roof of the net after Busch parried a Blas Perez header into the six-yard box. But a hat-trick is a special achievement, regardless of how they come. And it is perhaps appropriate that rookie Akindele bagged three poacher's goals on the home ground of the league's best at the often under-rated skill of being in the right place at the right time: Chris Wondolowski.


COACH Oscar Pareja (FC Dallas): San Jose drew in LA last week, beat Seattle the week before that and thrashed Chicago the week before that (and got a tie in New York before that), so the Quakes should have been considered one of the form teams in MLS coming into week 23. This makes FCD's obliteration of San Jose in San Jose all the more impressive: the Quakes were on a high, deservedly confident, and still got completely outplayed. Pareja has now countered FCD's eight-game winless streak with a nine-game unbeaten run, including five wins in the last six matches. And it's still not entirely clear what his best team might be (though it is certain it includes Fabian Castillo).