Things got busy this week, which is why our Team of Week 26 is going out at the dawn of Week 27. Our heroes line up in a 3-4-3.
DEF Damien Perrinelle (New York Red Bulls): Yes, it is a lot harder to play on the road than at home in MLS. Yes, the Red Bulls' mid-week problems in Chicago were largely in midfield, where constant turnovers put the defense under untenable pressure. But RBNY's total domination of D.C. United perhaps obscured the fact that its defensive positioning and overall play is markedly improved with Perrinelle in the lineup. He missed arguably his team's worst performance of the season to date, and was back for its best. Coincidence? Perhaps. We choose to think not.
DEF Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders): The Sounders were over-run at home by Portland, who carved out 20 shots. But the Timbers only landed six of those on target, and only one found the net. Seattle's defense certainly wobbled - but not nearly as much as the calamitous Timbers' back-line. Ultimately, a determined rearguard effort (and Obafemi Martins) won the day. Torres' contribution was seven clearances, two tackles, one block and nine interceptions.
DEF Raul Rodriguez (Houston Dynamo): Helped Houston shut out one the league's most productive attacking teams, Vancouver, with seven interceptions, and scored a goal - after it appeared David Ousted had stifled the best chance he was likely to see.
RM Kennedy Igboananike (Chicago Fire): For the purpose of including the man who scored twice against the New York Red Bulls and gave highly-rated young center back Matt Miazga one of his most difficult outings of the season, we must pretend Igboananike is a winger and not a center forward.
CM Vicente Sanchez (Colorado Rapids): When he's actually on the field (the 35-year-old has yet to start more than 12 games in a MLS regular season - though that should change shortly), Sanchez is one of the league's elite playmakers. Issued a reminder of that fact this week with a goal (a penalty he drew by enticing Houston's Alex into a diving tackle that the referee was persuaded included a hand ball) and two assists (both against Kansas City). Not coincidentally, his team gathered six points from two games in a week in which Sanchez reasserted himself as one of the league's standout attacking threats.
CM Federico Higuain (Columbus Crew): Perhaps the only person more surprised to see Higuain score with a header off a set piece than this observer was Andrea Pirlo, who was supposed to be marking the Columbus midfielder, but didn't. His assist to Justin Meram for the match-winner was fortuitous - Meram did all the work - but it did add another mention of Higuain's name to the scoresheet. The result - an away win over star-studded NYC FC - and Higuain's part in it was a reminder that to be considered a star in MLS a player ought to have some star-worthy performances in MLS.
LM David Accam (Chicago Fire): Picked up a goal and an assist in Chicago's four-point week. If the Fire is to make an unexpected late charge at the playoffs, it will almost certainly feature more of the left-winger's considerable attacking prowess.
FWD Kevin Doyle (Colorado Rapids): The Rapids still have the best defense in MLS - least goals conceded through 26 weeks of the season - but they have only managed to score 25 goals in 26 regular season games. So it is significant they scored four this week, good for two wins in two matches. And it is significant that Doyle scored two of them: the game-winning goals against both Houston and Kansas City. He is on a Designated Player contract and that usually means there is an expectation of match-winning performances: Doyle may finally be proving himself capable of keeping his end of the bargain.
FWD Quincy Amarikwa (San Jose Earthquakes): Amarikwa has become one of the most dangerous and effective attacking players in MLS since moving to San Jose mid-season. He has four goals and three assists in 781 minutes of play for the Quakes so far this year; his single-season career high in each category is eight and five respectively (for Chicago Fire in 2014, from 2549 minutes on the field). But his effectiveness extends beyond the more visible attacking statistics: he is a menace to defenses whether he troubles the score sheet or not. This week, his header drew the rebound that Shea Salinas tapped in for San Jose's winner against LA Galaxy; he followed that with a breakaway run that drew Leonardo into a red-card foul, giving the Quakes the luxury of an extra man for almost half the match.
FWD Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls): When you get to a Team of the Week late, it is impossible to ignore what is already out there. After two goals and an assist against D.C. United, and becoming RBNY's third-highest scorer of all time, BWP was always going to be in OaM's Team of the Week. Once he made MLS's official TotW, and won Player of the Week and won Goal of the Week - well, it would have been negligent to leave him out of this selection.
COACH Dominic Kinnear (San Jose Earthquakes): Pablo Mastroeni registered two wins for his hitherto dreadful Rapids, which is usually enough for a coach to make TotW, but Kinnear's achievement - beating the (still) Shield-race leading LA Galaxy - was the stand-out result of the week. TotW isn't supposed to be an award for consistency, but it's also hard to overlook the fact Kinnear's men now have the longest active winning streak in MLS, and haven't conceded a goal since the four-game winning run started.