Starry nights: MLS Team of the Week – Round 29

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Goalkeeper:

  • Sporting Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen

Rationale, motive and intent: Seven saves spread out over two road matches helped the Eastern Conference leaders put up two clean sheets. One came against Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls.

Apologies to Portland’s Joe Bendik, who did some outstanding work in tough matches against San Jose and Real Salt Lake, both on the road. Not saying anything was his fault – certainly not the free kicks goals from RSL. But it’s hard to pick a goalkeeper who conceded four in a week. Tough break, but props just the same.

Back line:

  • D.C. United’s Dejan Jakovic
  • Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler
  • Philadelphia’s Amobi Okugo

Rationale, motive and intent: Aside from losing his man once, there was little wrong with Jakovic’s performance over two matches, both shutouts in tight matches. United will look back on this week as the one that got them into the playoffs – if they make it, that is.

Besler is frequently as effective as center back mate Aurelien Collin. It’s just that Besler doesn’t get involved in as many scraps and generally doesn’t go about his task with all the attached drama and histrionics the way his French teammate does. So, we tend to notice him less – but he turned up in all the right spots in those two SKC clean sheets mentioned above.

Okugo was moved out of Philadelphia’s midfield and into the back by necessity. Now, alongside Carlos Valdes, that might be a Top Five in MLS in terms of center back combos.

Midfield:

  • L.A. Galaxy’s Juninho
  • D.C. United’s Chris Pontius
  • New England’s Lee Nguyen (pictured)
  • Real Salt Lake’s Javier Morales

Rationale, motive and intent: Juninho’s two goals give him seven in the Galaxy’s last seven matches. So, thanks to performance like his, the Galaxy keep winning without David Beckham or Landon Donovan, one of whom has been absent in MLS matches over the last month.

Pontius was all over the field in the literal sense last week in that he was asked to play in different roles for Ben Olsen’s team, which posted two huge wins.

Terrible news for Nguyen, who will miss the rest of the season due to injury. And he was playing so well, just like last week when the first-year MLS man was figuratively all over the field in a 1-1 draw with New York. He’s been New England’s top man for most of the summer.

And Real Salt Lake’s talisman, Morales, turned in a performance in a win over Portland that looked like Morales circa 2010. He needs to be that guy down the stretch for the Utah club.

Forward:

  • Chicago’s Chris Rolfe
  • Portland’s Danny Mwanga
  • San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski

Rationale, motive and intent: We covered Rolfe’s week pretty well here. And here.

Mwanga has shown flashes for the Timbers, just not enough of them. But a few more nights like last week’s in San Jose, where he had two quality goals against the league’s best team, will silence the ever growing percentage of doubters.

Wondolowski matched Mwanga’s pair of goals in that same match, and then hit another in his team’s big 2-1 win at Seattle. On another week, that would add up to ProSoccerTalk MLS Player of the Week. (Why not this week? See “Rolfe.”)