They line up as a 4-3-3 this week.
GK Bill Hamid (D.C. United): Returned from injury to backstop DC to its first clean sheet since June, under extraordinarily testing circumstances. Montreal rained shots on Hamid's goal - 25 attempts, eight on target - but the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year held firm, delivering the shutout that allowed DCU to turn one shot (and one goal) into three points.
CB Pa Modou Kah (Vancouver Whitecaps): After two goals last week, he found the net again in Week 23. Kah is officially on a scoring streak - and as he has already shown this season, he favors more graceful methods of finding the net than are typically associated with center backs. Kah confidently bagged a tap-in against Real Salt Lake to give Vancouver a two-goal lead from which it never looked back.
CB Kevin Ellis (Sporting Kansas City): Contributed six interceptions, five tackles, three clearances and a block to KC's determined and successful effort to limit Toronto's scoring chances. And he won the penalty that got his team's scoring started. Ellis's week's work translated to three more points for KC, and the suspicion that he might be approaching his best form yet in MLS - while his team starts to make a move to be recognized as the league's best this season.
RB Connor Lade (New York Red Bulls): He's the team's stand-in right back and therefore a potential weak link to be targeted by any opponent. NYC FC found space and opportunity down the flanks, but Lade's ability to limit the damage is illustrated by his team-high (level with Dax McCarty) eight interceptions. He also combined well with Lloyd Sam in attack, completing an all-round performance that suggests he may finally have found a position where he can compete effectively for a starting role even when first-choice right back Chris Duvall is returned from injury.
MID Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City): MLS is gamely trying to pretend that anyone other than Sebastian Giovinco is being thought of as the league's MVP at the moment, but Feilhaber does look the most likely candidate to step forward should the Italian falter during the season's run-in. This week, he once again showed his mastery of the set-piece: bagging a penalty and firing in a free kick for Krizstian Nemeth to convert. KC won 3-1 on the road in Toronto, and Feilhaber marches into Week 24 with a strong claim to being the second-most valuable player in the league.
MID Felipe Martins (New York Red Bulls): He has been a liability in front of goal all season, and - as has been his habit - flubbed a few shots this week. But he also found the net against NYC FC to ease RBNY into the two-goal lead it required to breathe easy and know it would be celebrating nine points from its three games against its new neighbor this season.
MID Cristian Techera (Vancouver Whitecaps): Two goals - one from near, one from far - will tend to get a player into Team of the Week.
FWD Giovani Dos Santos (LA Galaxy): This column only considers MLS performances, but it must be noted this was the week Dos Santos scored on his Galaxy debut - twice. First, in CONCACAF Champions League in mid-week, and then against Seattle to seal a 3-1 win. There is pressure on big-name mid-season signings to adapt quickly, and - as Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard can attest - the league's observers can be critical of players who fail to find their best immediately. Dos Santos is presumably also still settling in, but he's bought himself some time - and helped his team to some points in two competitions.
FWD Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC): It was a win-one-lose-one double-game week for TFC, which is just doing enough to stay out of danger of battle to make the playoffs - 1.5. points per game should see Toronto to the post-season comfortably. And with Giovinco in its lineup, TFC will be a challenge for any opponent in the playoffs. He advanced his case for the league's MVP award with a hat-trick against Orlando and an assist in the game against Sporting Kansas City this week.
COACH Peter Vermes (Sporting Kansas City): This week, he masterminded a big road win over Toronto, one of the aspiring big beasts of the East. KC has a lot of games in hand to work through before we can say for sure how it is matching up with the rest of MLS's front-runners, but Vermes closed out Week 23 with his club fourth in its Conference, joint-top of MLS in points-per-game, and boasting the fewest losses of any team in the league. And he's done so with a squad that has nothing like the operating budget TFC has put into its Giovinco-led All-Star crew. A statement win for Vermes and KC this week: they can still take on and take down the league's big spenders, and they can do it on the road.