Back to a 3-4-3 this week.
GK Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls): He didn't have a great match against New England in mid-week, but bounced back in Portland. Playing his 100th consecutive regular season game for RBNY (a club record and the second-best streak in MLS history), his part in the 2-0 win over the Timbers tied the Red Bulls' club record for career shutouts in all competitions. And he sealed it with what
could should be a Save of the Year contender.
DEF Damien Perrinelle (New York Red Bulls): He scored a goal against Portland, but the Red Bulls' defender is here for the exemplary defensive effort he put in against the Timbers, after a rough outing against New England saw him substituted at half time. He got on the wrong side of the referee early against the Revs, and was very lucky not to be sent off. But against Portland, he kept himself on the right side of the ref, and contributed 10 clearances, seven interceptions and a block to RBNY's cause. And he was the team's most effective attacking threat: second only to SWP in shots, and leading the team in shots on target (two).
DEF Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders): Huge win for Seattle this week in Vancouver, relieving anxiety about possibly sliding out of the playoff places in the Western Conference, and winning the Cascadia Cup. It was harder work than the 3-0 scoreline suggests, but as Marshall's defensive contribution attests - three clearances, four tackles and nine interceptions - the Sounders did a good job of disrupting their opponent's attacks.
DEF RJ Allen (NYC FC): If David Villa, Andrea Pirlo or Frank Lampard had made the one-touch, overhead pass Allen delivered to set Lampard up for his first goal in MLS, it would be endlessly replayed with gushing commentary about the unmatched brilliance of NYCFC's superstars. Instead, the official MLS match report says "the ball caromed off Allen's foot" - which seems a singularly uncharitable description of highlight-reel play. To compensate for that injustice, and because Allen started both NYC's Week 29 wins - contributing 10 clearances, six tackles, four interceptions, and one block against Toronto, AND that special assist, AND three interceptions and three tacklesagainst San Jose - he's in OaM's TotW.
MID Tranquillo Barnetta (Philadelphia Union): The Union still has a Cup to play for this season, and there remains a very slender chance of playoff qualification. So credit to Barnetta for sparking a home win over Houston with an early goal, and sealing it with an assist.
MID Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC): He had six shots (three on target) against NYCFC midweek - but none found the net and TFC was held scoreless in a 2-0 loss. He had six shots (three on target) against Colorado at the weekend - and two went in, plus he set up the third in TFC's 3-1 win. His effort doesn't drop, but when things are going his way, they are generally also going the way of his team - and when he's having no joy, neither is TFC. As Giovinco goes, so does Toronto.
MID Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City): Contributed two goals to KC's 3-1 win over FC Dallas. The win was much needed, and Feilhaber is the man KC increasingly needs to get any wins: he leads the team in goals and assists.
MID Ned Grabavoy (NYC FC): It takes a lot to outshine the superstars in NYCFC's squad, but Grabavoy managed to do so with two goals and an assist in a 14-minute burst against San Jose that helped his team to its second helping of three points this week.
FWD Juan Manuel Martinez (Real Salt Lake): Rumor has it RSL passed on Fernando Cavenaghi in favor of signing Martinez, so he has some big shoes to fill, not least because Cavenaghi has scored four goals in his first three appearances for APOEL FC in the Cypriot First Division. Martinez has made three appearances for RSL also, but only has one goal and an assist to his name. But his contribution has been significant - as detailed by RSL's official Twitter account:
@Once_A_Metro JMM "El Burrito" has created 6 of last 7 goal-scoring opportunities since 8/29— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) September 22, 2015
He won a penalty - duly converted by Javier Morales - this week, and set up RSL's third goal in the trouncing of LA Galaxy that continues his team's all-or-nothing effort to make a late run into the Western Conference playoffs.
FWD Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew): His assist on Ethan Finlay's opening goal of the Crew's 2-1 win over DC brought Kamara level with his career-high for assists in a single MLS regular season; his goal was the match-winner, and pushed him above Juan Pablo Angel on the league's all-time scoring chart.
FWD Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact): After a midweek rest, sitting out Montreal's tie in San Jose, Drogba contributed a goal and an assist to L'Impact's 3-0 win over New England - the hottest team in MLS until it ran into Montreal, which increasingly looks like the team no one will want to play in the post-season.
COACH Jesse Marsch (New York Red Bulls): Two difficult road games in Week 29 weren't going to break RBNY's season, but they had the potential to make it. After losing to New England, the Red Bulls looked likely to exit this week having lost ground in the Eastern Conference and Supporters' Shield races. Then all the other front-runners lost over the weekend, and Marsch put out a lineup featuring four new faces (Gonzalo Veron, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Sean Davis, and Sal Zizzo - none regular starters at the moment) in Portland. His tactics - full throttle from the start, trust the back line to snuff out the frequent Timbers' counter-attacks - worked perfectly. The home team never really settled into a rhythm, and the game was won by the team able to conjure the more extraordinary moments: Felipe's goal and Luis Robles' goalkeeping. Marsch exits Week 29 as the coach of the Eastern Conference leader and a team with a very solid shot at the Shield.