MLS Team of the Week from Conference Semifinal 1st Legs
The stakes were raised this weekend in Major League Soccer, as the conference semifinal round of the playoffs began.
In the four first-leg matches, plenty of key players had big days to put their respective sides in position to advance to the next round.
Tremendous goalkeeping, stout defending and superb attacking skills were all on display in each game, which made choosing the best 11 from the weekend a tough task.
To accommodate one more attack-minded player, the MLS Team of the Week is shaped in a 4-3-1-2 this week.
GK: Jaime Penedo, LA
Jaime Penedo put on a terrific show between the pipes for the Galaxy in the scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake.
The Panamanian shot-stopper made six saves to keep the dangerous RSL attack at bay heading into the second leg at StubHub Center.
Penedo was kept busy until the final minutes of the match, as he made his final stop on a superb leaping save on Javier Morales in the 90th minute.
RB: Richard Eckersley, New York
Few people expected Richard Eckersley to make an impact for the Red Bulls in the postseason.
The 25-year-old Englishman started just eight games in the regular season for New York, but his role has grown in recent weeks for Mike Petke's side.
In the Red Bulls' 2-0 win over D.C. United Sunday, Eckersley made six interceptions and two clearances on his way to shutting down Chris Pontius on the left wing.
CB: Chad Marshall, Seattle
There were plenty of quality center-back performances across MLS this weekend, but only two players could fit into the Team of the Week.
Seattle's Chad Marshall, who should be the Defender of the Year, made 14 clearances, five interceptions and two tackles in the 1-1 draw at Toyota Stadium against FC Dallas.
The former Columbus man also won six aerial duels in one of his best showings of the season.
CB: Nat Borchers, Real Salt Lake
Nat Borchers was another of the top defenders in the league to put in an impressive work rate this weekend.
The bearded center-back helped hold the Galaxy to three shots in the 0-0 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The anchor of the Real Salt Lake defense tallied five clearances and two tackles in front of the home crowd in Utah.
LB: Chris Tierney, New England
Chris Tierney uncorked a rocket of a free-kick into the back of the net in the 51st minute of New England's statement win at Crew Stadium.
The left-back used his killer left foot to strike the top-right corner of the net to earn the Revolution's second goal.
Tierney only scored on one occasion in the regular season back on May 17 against Philadelphia. That goal also came off a strong free-kick effort.
RM: Lloyd Sam, New York
Before Thierry Henry unleashed a wicked backheel pass in the 40th minute of New York's win, Lloyd Sam played a perfect ball into the box for the French legend.
Sam provided the Red Bulls with a constant threat down the right wing in the home win over D.C. United, which gave New York a two-goal advantage heading into Saturday's second leg.
The numbers put up by the Englishman may not stick out, as he produced only one shot in the 2-0 win, but he influenced the game on countless occasions as the Red Bulls searched for more goals at home.
CM: Scott Caldwell, New England
Scott Caldwell's name was not called much during New England's win at Crew Stadium, which is exactly why he deserves a spot in the Team of the Week.
Caldwell shut down Crew playmaker Federico Higuain throughout the match, holding the Argentinian to one shot on target.
The 23-year-old may not get the attention that Lee Nguyen and Jermaine Jones get in the middle of the park, but his contributions to the Revolution are as important as those put in by the two big names.
LM: Justin Meram, Columbus
Justin Meram made sure that the Crew did not go down without a fight Saturday in front of the home support at Crew Stadium.
Before New England's scoring frenzy began, Meram had a chance to open the scoring in the 29th minute, but his shot hit the crossbar.
After the visitors put their first two goals on the board, Meram struck in the 64th minute to hand the Crew a lifeline in the semifinal series.
The goal was the ninth of the season for Meram, who scored once in his last seven regular-season games.
CAM: Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake
Just like he has been all season, Javier Morales was the driving force of the Real Salt Lake attack Saturday night.
The 34-year-old designated player made five key passes and took three shots in an effort to put the Claret and Cobalt ahead in their semifinal with the Galaxy.
Despite being one of the best players on the pitch, Morales was unable to beat Penedo in the star-studded clash at Rio Tinto Stadium.
FW: Charlie Davies, New England
The only player to strike the back of the net on two occasions this weekend was Charlie Davies, who scored the first and fourth goals for the Revolution.
The 28-year-old opened the scoring in Columbus with a terrific diving header in the 34th minute before being given loads of space in the 78th minute to beat Steve Clark.
Entering the match, Davies had scored three goals in 18 matches during the regular season.
FW: Thierry Henry, New York
Thierry Henry was at his best at Red Bull Arena, as he provided two assists in the win over D.C. United.
The signature moment of the match for the Frenchman came in the 40th minute, as he set up Bradley Wright-Phillips with a superb backheel pass.
In the 73rd minute, Henry lofted a perfect pass toward Peguy Luyindula, who finished off the second New York goal with a shot between Bill Hamid's legs.
GK: Raul Fernandez (FC Dallas)
CB: Zach Scott (Seattle)
CB: Matt Hedges (FC Dallas)
CM: Peguy Luyindula (New York)
CM: Lee Nguyen (New England)
FW: Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake)
FW: Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York)
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.