This week's team lines up in a simple 4-4-2...
GK Bill Hamid (D.C. United): He got overlooked in the Save of the Week nominations, and he really didn't have to work all that hard against RBNY until the last 15 minutes or so of the midweek game his team ought to have lost 4-0. Instead, DC lost 1-0, but that does not sufficiently tarnish his achievements at Red Bull Arena to keep him out of this week's league-best selection.
RB DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders): He did important work for Seattle in this week's 3-2 win over RSL, which meant the Sounders took more points away from one game in week 27 than their Shield rivals, LA Galaxy, managed to accumulate in two matches over the same period. Yedlin showed up on the score sheet with two assists, though he really had little to do with Lamar Neagle's wonder strike, and his role in Andy Rose's winner was only marginally less peripheral. But his contribution highlighted a hard-working defensive performance: nine clearances, three interceptions and three tackles. And much of his defending was done outside the defensive third of the field - winning the ball in the sort of positions where his team might do some damage with it was his key contribution to Seattle's win.
CB Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps): He pretty much beat the Quakes at what used to be their own game by himself this week: put a big man in the box and watch him wreak havoc. Won the penalty that turned into the Caps' first goal since August 10, then nodded in the second to wrap up a 2-0 win. Things didn't go quite so well against Dallas - Vancouver lost 2-1, on the road - but a different referee might easily have given another penalty for Zach Lloyd's flailing arm-block on yet another seemingly goal-bound header from the big man.
CB Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake): His team lost, and his decision to take out Obafemi Martins rather than allow the forward to take his chances one-on-one with Nick Rimando cost RSL the services of a much-needed defender for the last 20 minutes of its match against Seattle - during which time, the Sounders got a winner. And yet there was much to admire about the calm and deliberate way Borchers weighed up his options - he wasn't going to catch Martins, who was probably going to score and leave RSL chasing a goal on the road - and accepted the consequences of his decision with graceful professionalism. Killing the move and taking the red card was the right decision (even it didn't pay off), and wasting nobody's time with protesting the referee's call was a refreshing change from the usual I-did-no-wrong routine players insist on subjecting us to when asked to take responsibility for their actions.
LB Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew): It's getting increasingly difficult to peg Columbus as a one-man team, dependent on Federico Higuain. The last few weeks have seen Justin Meram steal the highlights; this week saw the team's left back shoulder the burden of getting the scoring going. Houston outplayed the Crew in the first half of their encounter this week, meaning Columbus came out after half-time needing two goals to get a point and stall the Dynamo's late run at the post-season. Both goals came inside 10 minutes of the restart: first, Francis simply teed up Wil Trapp with a throw-in to the midfielder's feet; next, the left back opted for a more conventional method of creating scoring chances, lofting a cross to the far post for Ethan Finlay to head home.
RM Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution): The Revs are doing that thing where they can't stop winning again - this week brought the fifth consecutive victory. A 2-1 home win over the worst team in the league (yes, Montreal still has fewer points than Chivas USA) isn't cause for excessive celebration, but the opponent shouldn't stand in the way of the fact Nguyen continues to do beautiful things for his team every week, and most weeks they seem to bring three points.
CM Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers): If his team could defend, Valeri would be leading the Timbers to a Supporters' Shield this season. Instead, he scored one and helped set up another (albeit not entirely deliberately) to help Portland to its 12th draw in the league this year.
CM Peguy Luyindula (New York Red Bulls): The Red Bulls played well this week - a win at home and a draw on the road is the way a club wins trophies, if sustained over the course of a season. Unfortunately, RBNY has not been consistent in 2014 and now needs something close to a Shield-winning pace over its last few games just to squeeze into the playoffs. To achieve such a pace, Mike Petke has put his faith in a new formation that places Luyindula in his best possible position - central attacking midfield. He'd have had more than a few assists this week but for Bill Hamid and his teammates' utter hopelessness at reading a pass, but he did enough to show why he should be an every day starter for his team and why that start should be as the creative center of the attack.
LM Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact): L'Impact is no longer a terrible team. Montreal is unbeaten in its last three games at home, including this week's 2-2 draw with La Galaxy. Piatti lit up that match, scoring one and setting up the other as his team jumped out to a two goal lead against the only team that can catch Seattle in the Shield race without the intervention of particularly unlikely events. He played no part in Montreal's other game this week - the 2-1 loss to New England - because the only remaining source of hope in the team's season is CONCACAF Champions League, and he will be expected to lead L'Impact's effort to give its fans a CCL quarterfinal to look forward to next year.
FWD Blas Perez (FC Dallas): He didn't mean it, but that doesn't make his opening goal against Vancouver any less spectacular. He scored the match-winner too, to tighten FCD's grip on - at least - fourth place in the Western Conference.
FWD Pedro Ribeiro (Philadelphia Union): He picked a good time to score his first goal in MLS - his team was two goals down at home to RBNY with half-time looming. He picked an ever better time to lure the referee into giving his team a penalty: pretty much the last available minute for the Union to snatch an equalizer.
Coach Mike Petke (New York Red Bulls): Yes, this is a RBNY fan site - why do you ask? Mike Petke is a good coach. Slow to react? Sure. But he turned his team around with a formation change last season, and he's attempting to do so again this year. Unfortunately, he's left the tactical adjustment a lot later than he did in 2013, but he's accepted there was error in his ways and sought out a correction. Eking out four points over two games in a week from a rapidly tiring squad is not a small thing for any coach.