Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake each had a productive week with two matches and four points in the standings. On top of that, add three players for each team on the MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week.
A Rookie of the Year candidate inserted himself in the midfield corps while the three-man forward line is an international group with players who have featured for their national team.
GK: Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting KC) – Of the two matches he played last week, the seven-save shutout of the Philadelphia Union is the highlight for the White Puma. He also registered a key save on Vancouver’s Eric Hassli to preserve the 2-1 home win on Saturday.
DF: Jámison Olave (Real Salt Lake) – Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire have experienced their share of scoring issues but the reigning MLS Defender of the Year didn’t make things any easier on them.
DF: Aurélien Collin (Sporting Kansas City) – Sat out the Philly midweek match due to suspension but returned to neutralize fellow Frenchman Hassli, who rarely threatened on Saturday.
DF: Robbie Russell (Real Salt Lake) – Played the full 90 in both of RSL’s matches this week and on a team desperate to jumpstart its attack, the right back also contributed two assists against Toronto FC.
MF: Jackson (FC Dallas) – They say marriage changes everything. If you want a case in point look at the FC Dallas midfielder, who was smiling and bubbly against Portland on Saturday. Pushed up into midfield, the Brazilian is proving he can be a menace in attack with his ability to create something out of nothing.
MF: Sainey Nyassi (New England Revolution) – The Gambian winger took the opportunity to show his manager he can still be a catalyst down the right flank. He was a thorn in Seattle's side before Steve Nicol replced him in the second half.
MF: Rich Balchan (Columbus Crew) – This Rookie of the Year candidate is prone to the odd mistake, but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives with Balchan. His move to holding midfield has added an upgrade of quickness and technique which is tipping the midfield battles in the Crew’s favor of late.
MF: Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake) – It seems like the Toronto-born Canadian international seemed especially motivated for the game against Toronto FC on Saturday. He was all over the field against TFC and that came only three days after featuring for RSL in a trip back to his other hometown, Chicago.
FW: Andrés Mendoza (Columbus Crew) – "El Condor" has officially taken flight for Columbus. Perhaps the controversy involving the penalty kick he took over teammate Jeff Cunningham has rekindled the competitive fire. He’s playing with more passion and enthusiasm, including chasing two balls down and beating a Colorado defender with his speed. That may not be his forte, but this is a new Mendoza.
FW: Mauro Rosales (Seattle Sounders) – Another attacker playing with infectious enthusiasm is Seattle's Argentine, who has quietly emerged into a potential league MVP candidate this year. Anywhere manager Sigi Schmid plays him, Rosales brings energy, sublime passing, soccer smarts and a surprising work rate to a Sounders team which is feeding off him.
FW: Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City) – There are no more questions about whether this Designated Player experiment in Kansas City is working. It’s proven a match made in heaven for Sporting manager Peter Vermes, who has seen a rejuvenated Bravo looking as good as he ever has, proving deserving of the captain’s armband in Davy Arnaud’s absence.
Manager: Sigi Schmid (Seattle Sounders) – The Sounders faced their fair share of adversity over two home matches last week. But an early goal conceded against New England, a two-goal lead coughed up to New York and a host of player absences due to injury and suspension, this Seattle team does not quit. There is a decidedly different mental makeup this time around.
Honorable Mentions: Servando Carrasco (Seattle Sounders), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Charlie Davies (D.C. United), Tommy Heinemann (Columbus Crew), Daniel Hernandez (FC Dallas), Roger Levesque (Seattle Sounders), Joel Lindpere (New York Red Bulls), Justin Mapp (Philadelphia Union), Marcos Mondaini (Chivas USA), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Álvaro Saborío (Real Salt Lake), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)