MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 31

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Week 31 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is in the books, and in its wake comes the least star-studded MLS Team of the Week squad we’ve seen all year — just three Designated Players: two of which are center backs; the other a striker, but not one of “those” big names.

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Go ahead, try to spot the Designated Players in this week’s Team of the Week (below). Suffice it to say, it was another strange weekend around the World’s Most Unpredictable League™.

[ WEEK 31: SEA 1-1 LA | RBNY 2-1 CLB | TFC 3-1 PHIFCD 4-1 HOU ]

Tim Melia stood on his head in Portland (again), which made Krisztian Nemeth’s Goal of the Year candidate (if you haven’t watched it yet, do so now). David Texeira scored twice to lead FCD’s rout of Houston, while Harry Shipp scored one and assisted one as the Fire shocked the world and the Revs.

Thoughts? Questions? Agreements? Disagreements? (Of course not.) Leave them in the comments section, as always. I’m not afraid to defend my picks.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS Team of the Week archive ]

MLS Team of the Week — Week 31

Goalkeeper: Tim Melia (Sporting Kansas City)

MLS Goalkeeper

Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Damien Perrinelle (New York Red Bulls)

MLS Defenders

Midfielders: Harry Shipp (Chicago Fire), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes)

MLS Midfielders

Forwards: David Texeira (FC Dallas), Gilberto (Chicago Fire), Krisztian Nemeth (Sporting Kansas City)

MLS Forwards

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 3-2 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less): Toronto FC narrowly avoided a “TFC-ing” of the highest order on Saturday, as the Reds snatched three points late on with a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Fire at BMO Field. Gilberto, making his first appearance in Toronto since being let go by the club earlier this year, bagged a brace (1st and 52nd minutes) that at one point looked likely to resign TFC to defeat. Alas, the brilliance of Sebastian Giovinco (an assist on two of TFC’s three goals) shone through and Greg Vanney’s men had done just enough to avoid the embarrassment of losing to the league’s worst team (by a full six points) at home and falling dangerously close to the playoff cut line. Giovinco’s 35 goals and assists combined in 2015 is the new league record, breaking Chris Wondolowski’s record (34) from 2012. As things stand now, TFC (currently 5th in the Eastern Conference) have a five-point cushion on 7th-place Orlando City SC, and a game in hand.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of Week 30 | Week 29 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

1′ — Gilberto marks his return to Toronto with a goal — This is all that needs to be said. Thanks, Duane.

29′ — Giovinco’s brilliance on full display again — Giovinco did something so audacious that, had any other player in MLS done it, you’d have said, “That’s a cross, not a shot.” But, because it’s Giovinco, you know with near-absolute certainly, it was a shot. WATCH HERE.

79′ — Altidore pokes home from Giovinco’s corner — Jozy Altidore didn’t make great contact with the ball on his first attempt, but thanks to a bit of typical Fire “defending,” the ball stayed in the box and fell nicely for the big American striker, who made no mistake with effort no. 2.

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Man of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Gilberto (1′, 52′), Osorio (29′), Bradley (59′), Altidore (79′)

Gilberto officially solves Toronto’s DP problems with loan to Vasco da Gama

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And then there were three.

Gilberto is no longer a part of Toronto FC’s Designated Player glut. The 25-year-old Brazilian striker is going home on loan to spend a time with Vasco da Gama.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Houston’s Erick Torres ]

He originally came to MLS in 2014, joining Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe as a trio of big-name DP signings for the Reds, and picked up 7 goals and 5 assists as a bright spot. He was especially strong during a four-game goal streak in August.

But the acquisitions of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco gave general manager Tim Bezbatchenko the need to move Gilberto in order to break the limit for Designated Players at a single club.

“We’d like to thank Gilberto for his contributions to Toronto FC and wish him well this season,” Bezbatchenko said in a statement.

There’s no doubt TFC has scored an upgrade, but Gilberto was not the problem last year.

Report: Toronto FC’s Gilberto to be loaned to Vasco da Gama until end of 2015

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It seems as though Toronto FC have finally found a resolution to their we’ve got too many Designated Players problem (again).

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Toronto are all set to loan 25-year-old Brazilian forward Gilberto, last winter’s “unsung” DP signing (Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe) to Vasco da Gama until the end of 2015, according a report by Brazilian website He will reportedly sign with the Brazilian club before Tuesday, putting TFC in compliance with Major League Soccer roster regulations, which state a team shall not have more than three DP’s on their roster at one time.

There were suggestions that with Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations taking place, MLS may raise the DP limit to four for the 2015 season, but TFC either feel that isn’t likely to happen, or the chance to have Gilberto’s wages paid in full was too good a proposition to pass up in favor of a pipe dream.

Gilberto was always going to be the odd man out when TFC again splashed the cash this winter, signing U.S. national team star Jozy Altidore and Italian playmaker Sebastian Giovinco. Gilberto scored seven goals (five of which came during the final three months of the season) and assisted on five more in his one MLS season.

Lee Nguyen’s goal lifts Revs to 1-0 win over Toronto FC

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One game in 100 words: The New England Revolution dominated possession for short spells in this match, but it was the one debatable opportunity that ultimately handed them the 1-0 victory over ailing Toronto FC. The Revs ended up blistering their opposition with chances, many of which missed the net, including a seething left-footed shot from Jermaine Jones and a wide-open chipped miss by Kelyn Rowe, one that surely looked promising before it sailed over the crossbar. The Revolution have officially clinched the second-place spot in the Eastern Conference, standing six points clear of Sporting Kansas City and Columbus Crew, with both squads yet to play their final regular season contest. Toronto, meanwhile, ended their frustrating, playoff-less year with their fourth loss in five competitions.



New England: Lee Nguyen 35’

Toronto: None


Three moments that mattered

74’— Shuttleworth extends to keep clean sheet — Mark Bloom’s slight hesitation allowed substitute Luke Moore to maintain great positioning inside the Revolution’s back line, and when the cross was whipped into the box, it seemed as if it was a game equalizer waiting to happen. Revs goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth held firm and then sprung out of his stance to punch the the headed try away—a wonderful stop that helped to preserve a shutout for New England and quelled Toronto’s hopes of a come-from-behind win.

21’ — Who else but Nguyen for the opener — Toronto FC players ran over to the referee, trying to make their case that an offside call was missed, but Lee Nguyen’s controversial goal wasn’t given a second thought. The Major League Soccer’s MVP candidate now has 18 goals, increasing his tally as the highest-scoring midfielder in the league when Chris Tierney tracked a loose ball near Toronto’s end line and sent a quick pass into the center of the penalty area, where Nguyen patiently awaited for the simple finish.

9’ — Gilberto almost converts magnificent attempt — It was a mixture of a bicycle kick and a sprawling, unnamed version of the signature highlight reel attempt, as Toronto FC’s forward went all-in for the spectacular goal after the ball escaped a couple of Revolution D-men, bounced once in the middle of the box and landed at the waist of the Brazilian. Unforunately, his endeavor was just inches off as it banged the crossbar and flew out-of-bounds.



New England: Bobby Shuttleworth; Andrew Farrell, A.J. Soares, Jose Goncalves, Chris Tierney; Jermaine Jones (Andy Dorman 67’), Scott Caldwell, Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen (Daigo Kobayashi 62’), Diego Fagundez; Charlie Davies (Patrick Mullins 80’)

Toronto: Joe Bendik; Mark Bloom, Steven Caldwell, Doneil Henry, Justin Morrow; Kyle Bekker, Michael Bradley, Colleen Warner (Warren Creavalle 71’); Dominic Oduro (Andrew Wiedeman 90’), Gilberto, Daniel Lovitz (Luke Moore 63’)