Team of the Week (Wk 35): Unlikely heroes make their mark in regular season's final week
The final week of the regular season certainly lived up to the hype, with some dreams coming true and others crushed during a wild, tense weekend of action. And though the events on the field were just as exciting as expected, some of the perpetrators came out of nowhere to steal the scene.
Whether in New York, Philadelphia or D.C., some unlikely heroes led the Red Bulls, Sporting KC and the Dynamo to victories that gave their teams a key boost in the playoff and Supporters' Shield races and made Week 35 one to remember.
Of course, there was some room for the stars, who also chipped in during a pair of conference-clinching victories, and another emerging player who came from behind to clinch individual honors, even if his team won't be playing in November.
Which players, likely and unlikely, made the cut in the final Team of the Week selection? Read on to find out...
GK: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes) – Helped make Ramiro Corrales' final game, a 2-1 win against FC Dallas, all the more memorable by making seven stops in a rare cameo between the sticks, including a pair of excellent stops on Blas Pérez and a good save on a Michel free kick.
DF: Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy) – Played a critical role in the Galaxy's 1-1 draw in Seattle, which helped them avoid the Knockout Round. Played typically solid defense, scored one equalizer that wasn't given and helped set up the one that was.
DF: José Gonçalves (New England Revolution) – Marshalled a strong defensive effort and a clean sheet in the Revs' No. 3 seed-clinching 1-0 win in Columbus despite an early right hamstring injury. A true captain's performance.
DF: Futty Danso (Portland Timbers) – Futty's strong defensive showing gave Donovan Ricketts a relatively easy night in the Timbers' 5-0 romp over Chivas USA, and some accurate balls out of the back, including one to set up the Timbers' third, only added to his case.
MF: Péguy Luyindula (New York Red Bulls) – Enjoyed a renaissance for the Red Bulls when the team needed it most, providing three assists from the center of midfield in that oh-so-memorable 5-2 win over the Chicago Fire.
MF: Lawrence Olum (Sporting KC) – The regular season-closing 2-1 win at Philadelphia was, if not his best, then certainly his most memorable game in a Sporting KC Jersey. Set up Graham Zusi's opener before snatching a stoppage-time winner to add to solid defensive showing.
MF: Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers) – So much for that adductor injury. Valeri put on a first-half masterclass in Portland's drubbing of Chivas USA, netting two goals – including the superb chip of Tim Melia (above) – and adding an assist before be taken off as a precautionary measure at halftime.
FW: Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo) – Came up big for Houston when they needed it most in a must-win game at D.C. United that saw the Dynamo come away 2-1 victors. Drew the penalty for the opener before scoring the winner to cap off a hard-working performance.
FW: Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls) – Winning trophies requires winning big-time games, and big-time games require big-time players. So it was no surprise that Thierry Henry stepped up to the plate in Sunday evening's Supporters' Shield-clinching win over the Chicago Fire. He provided a superb equalizer after the Fire took an early lead and paced the offense throughout the game.
FW: Camilo (Vancouver Whitecaps) – There was no way the Whitecaps were going to come back to claim a playoff spot, but Camilo put in his own come-from-behind performance on Sunday night, scoring all the goals in Vancouver's 3-0 win over Colorado to overtake Mike Magee and Marco Di Vaio to claim the 2013 Budweiser Golden Boot.
Coach: Mike Petke (New York Red Bulls) – The Red Bulls clinched the Shield in some style, and much of the credit has to go to Petke, not only for the whole campaign, but for the game itself. Managed what must have been a tense halftime break with the score tied 1-1, while moving Luyindula to midfield paid big dividends.
Bench: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Seth Sinovic (Sporting KC), Will Johnson (Portland Timbers), Oriol Rosell (Sporting KC), Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution)