A strong afternoon in Colorado earned Graham Zusi a goal, two assists, and Major League Soccer’s Player of the Week honor. There’s only one problem: He wasn’t the key player on any of those goals, and in a game that was largely fought through the middle of the park, Zusi’s influence may have been secondary to teammate Benny Feilhaber. Too bad Feilhaber, with a goal of his own on the night, also conceded a penalty kick that gave Colorado a late lead.
Context is, of course, important. One goal and two assists in an away win looks amazing, but one assist was a secondary tally, something that wouldn’t be rewarded in another league. Zusi’s goal was a tap in from three yards thanks to a great ball from Sal Zizzo, and the second assist was less an amazing chance created than “did Dom Dwyer really do that?” Zusi had a very good day, but was it the league’s best?
Here’s why we’re saying no. Pedro Morales had an amazing, dictating day in Vancouver, Osvaldo Alsono put in another under appreciated performance for the Sounders, and Michael Parkhurst calmly covered behind Columbus’s back line so easily, people will overlook how good he was. They all may have had as much, if not more, influence on their matches as Zusi.
But none of them are winning our award. Instead, the honor goes to Real Salt Lake’s Álvaro Saborío, admittedly another player who may not have even been the best on his own team. But drawing the early penalty (then, converting it) ahead of his second half goal gives him a case against creator Javi Morales’s, as does his key dummy on RSL’s other goal. Add in all the unheralded defensive work Saborío did in the first half, and he edged this week’s honor.
That defensive work could be seen in the 28th minute. Then again in the 37th. Once more in the 43rd. With Olmes Garcia starting with him up top, Saborío didn’t have to worry about staying high as an alternative to the diminutive João Plata. Instead, the Costa Rican international was able to check back into the midfield and take the ball off the likes of Jeremy Hall, Michael Bradley, and the rest of an overwhelmed Toronto FC. His play forced key turnovers that helped Real Salt Lake maintain pressure throughout the first half.
Is that his primary job? No, but it’s important, particularly when a slew of players make cases to be our Player of the Week. But whereas Graham Zusi’s case leaned almost entirely on his stats, Álvaro Saborío offered something that augmented his numbers. Not only did he have two goals, he had a big impact in other phases of the game.
In week four, Graham Zusi was good. Álvaro Saborío, however, was better.
|PST Award||MLS Award|
|Week 1||Will Bruin, Houston Dynamo
2g, 1a vs. New England
|Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake
8 saves, PK save at LA
|Week 2||Victor Bernardez, San Jose Earthquakes
2g, 1a vs. Real Salt Lake
|Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC
2 goals at Seattle
|Week 3||Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas
1 goal vs. Chivas USA
|Bernardo Añor, Columbus
2 goals vs. Philadelphia
|Week 4||Álvaro Saborío, Real Salt Lake
2 goals vs. Toronto FC
|Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City
1 goal, 2 assists at Colorado