In what has been a trend over the past few seasons, the Western Conference is yet again the superior conference in MLS this season, and its teams showed why over the weekend, producing eight of the 11 players on the latest Team of the Week.
Leading the way is one of the hottest players in MLS: Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri who has scored a goal in each of the past four matches. D.C. United traveled to Salt Lake City in a clash between the two teams who currently sit in second place in their respective conferences. Real Salt Lake got out to an early lead behind Joao Plata and two set-piece goals from Chris Schuler, and Jeff Cassar's team did not look back in a 3-0 win. The game was also notable because Nick Rimando passed Kevin Hartman for the most regular-season shutouts in MLS history with 113.
North of the border, Sporting Kansas City visited the Vancouver Whitecaps after winning their previous five road games. Pedro Morales & Co. put an end to that with a 2-0 thrashing over the Eastern Conference leaders. The win put the Whitecaps back into playoff places as we enter the stretch run of the season.
Who else earned a spot on the latest Team of the Week? Read on to find out.
GK: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) – The shutout king was not asked to do much against D.C., but he helped preserve all three points at home.
D: Matt Hedges (FC Dallas) – He was the rock of the Dallas defense and even got into the offensive action, tapping in the opener from close range. Hedges also had a goal-line clearance as FCD beat Colorado 3-1.
D: Chris Schuler (Real Salt Lake) – A defender scoring two goals in a game is not something you see every day, as Schuler helped RSL capture the win at home.
M: Michel (FC Dallas) – The Brazilian was instrumental in all of Dallas' goals: He provided the cross from wide that led to Hedges' tap in, converted the PK himself and sent in the cross that led to the third.
M: Matias Laba (Vancouver Whitecaps) – Laba completely overpowered the revamped KC midfield, something rarely seen over the past few seasons.
M: Pedro Morales (Vancouver Whitecaps) – The Whitecaps DP pulled all the strings against SKC, constantly releasing their speedy attacking threats.
M: Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia Union) – The Frenchmen has now scored four goals over his last four games, finishing this game with two as the Union collected all three points at home against the Impact.
F: Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) – Wondo provided a ridiculous finish from a tight angle and an even more audacious backheel to set up Matias Perez Garcia – that’s three goals and three assists in his last five games – as San Jose escaped StubHub Center with a point.
Coach: Carl Robinson (Vancouver Whitecaps) – Sporting Kansas City were looking for their sixth consecutive road win in Vancouver, but the Whitcaps demolished the Eastern Conference leaders with their speed and dominance in the midfield.
Bench: Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Bakary Soumare (Chicago Fire), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Stefan Ishizaki (LA Galaxy), Rodney Wallace (Portland Timbers), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Luke Moore (Toronto FC)