MLS Team of the Week: Wright-Phillips, Rivero Dazzle in Slow Week 3
The third week of the Major League Soccer season was far from exciting from start to finish, but there were some glimpses of brilliance across the league on Saturday and Sunday.
With two of the most creative teams in the league, Toronto and Seattle, off this weekend, fans should have expected a drop off in quality from the first two weeks. But the goal production dried up significantly as only seven of the 16 clubs who played in Week 3 found the back of the net.
Some of the players who did score a goal this weekend produced terrific bits of individual skill before beating the opposing goalkeeper.
Due to the lack of extraordinary output at a certain position, we opted to field our best 11 from Week 3 in a traditional 4-4-2.
Here's a look at the Week 3 edition of the MLS Team of the Week.
GK: Josh Saunders, New York City FC
Earning a clean sheet at Dick's Sporting Goods Park was not an easy task to achieve for New York City FC goalkeeper Josh Saunders.
Saunders made seven saves in order to preserve the clean sheet in NYCFC's 0-0 road draw with the Colorado Rapids.
The 34-year-old sprung into action early in the match, as he saved a Gabriel Torres shot at the near post in the eighth minute.
One of Saunders' other top saves of the game came on another close-range shot from Torres in the 62nd minute.
RB: Alvas Powell, Portland Timbers
Let's just say Week 3 wasn't the most glamorous weekend of action for the right-back position, as two players on the right flank of their respective defenses saw red.
Alvas Powell turned in one of the more impressive shifts at the position during the Portland Timbers' 0-0 draw with Sporting Kansas City.
The 20-year-old Jamaican recorded four tackles, four interceptions and three clearances as Portland claimed a surprising road point at Sporting Park.
CB: Clarence Goodson, San Jose Earthquakes
In all honesty, we could have included both San Jose center-backs if we really wanted to this week.
Clarence Goodson earned the nod over Ty Harden due to his defensive prowess in the back four in the first regular-season match at Avaya Stadium.
The towering defender also earned his first assist of the season in the fifth minute, when his header connected with the noggin of rookie Fatai Alashe right in front of goal.
Inside his own half of the pitch, Goodson made eight clearances and three interceptions.
CB: Leonardo, LA Galaxy
Once seen as a defensive liability next to Omar Gonzalez at center-back, Leonardo has erased his old reputation over the first few weeks of the season.
The 27-year-old once again delivered an impressive performance in the LA Galaxy's 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo at StubHub Center.
Leonardo won five aerial battles, made five interceptions and helped hold the visiting Dynamo to three shots on goal.
LB: Marcel De Jong, Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City's acquisition of Marcel de Jong has reaped plenty of rewards throughout the first month of the 2015 campaign.
The 28-year-old Canadian put a ton of pressure on the Portland defense when he moved forward during Saturday night's draw at Sporting Park.
De Jong perfectly set his teammates up in the box on a few occasions, but the final touch escaped the host side.
He also limited Portland right winger Dairon Asprilla to 21 touches and one shot in 75 minutes.
RM: Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire
Harry Shipp basically did everything in an attempt to inject life into the Chicago Fire attack on Sunday night.
Shipp took six of the Fire's 12 shots, and one of them rolled into the back of the net in the 29th minute. He earned the goal after he made a terrific run through the middle of the pitch.
The 23-year-old, who also started the 2014 season on a strong note, recorded the most touches of any Chicago attacker with 64.
If the Fire are to turn themselves into a contender in 2015, Shipp will be the player who drives them to one of the top six positions in the Eastern Conference.
CM: Dax McCarty, New York Red Bulls
In his second game as captain of the New York Red Bulls, Dax McCarty made a key play on each end of the pitch.
McCarty lofted a beautiful pass into the penalty area in the 25th minute, which was finished off by Bradley Wright-Phillips for the first goal of the Red Bulls' 2-0 win.
In the 33rd minute, McCarty reached a rebound with a sliding tackle seconds before D.C.'s Jairo Arrieta could pounce for an equalizer.
McCarty also connected well with Felipe and Sacha Kljestan in the middle of the pitch, which was a welcome sight to the fans at Red Bull Arena.
CM: Nathan Sturgis, Houston Dynamo
Nathan Sturgis turned up at the right place at the right time on Houston's 11th-minute equalizer at StubHub Center.
Sturgis timed his run to perfection and broke away from a defender just as David Horst's header drifted toward the left post.
After Horst's pass landed at his feet, Sturgis poked his first goal of the season past LA goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
The goal was the first for Sturgis since July 4, 2013, when he netted a strike for Colorado against the Red Bulls.
LM: Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas
Fabian Castillo was his usual menacing self on the left flank in FC Dallas' 2-0 win at PPL Park over the Philadelphia Union.
Castillo, who took six shots in the club's third win of the season, earned an assist on Ryan Hollingshead's 59th-minute strike. The Colombian played the ball through the box and out to the substitute, who then danced into the box and slotted home the second goal of the match.
Two minutes before the dynamic winger created a goal with his passing, he hit a shot off the crossbar from the left side of the box.
Castillo only attempted 17 passes on Saturday afternoon, but he made the most of them since three were key passes.
FW: Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
The 2014 Golden Boot winner opened up his 2015 account with a 25th-minute strike at Red Bull Arena.
Wright-Phillips displayed a ton of composure in the penalty area as he pulled down McCarty's pass and beat D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
The Englishman did much more than score one goal on Sunday night, as he produced one of the best 90-minute shifts in the league this season.
All four of Wright-Phillips' shots were on target, and he made four key passes in the game in which he earned an assist on the second Red Bulls goal.
FW: Octavio Rivero, Vancouver Whitecaps
Before his 96th-minute header found the back of the net, Octavio Rivero had already earned Team of the Week honors for his efforts in the final third.
The game-winning goal at the Citrus Bowl was the icing on the cake for the Uruguayan, who has been terrific up top for Vancouver over the first three weeks of the season.
Rivero recorded three shots on target, one of which banged off the crossbar in the 35th minute, in the Whitecaps' 1-0 win over Orlando City.
The offseason acquisition has scored in each of his first three matches with the Whitecaps.
GK: Tyler Deric (Houston Dynamo)
CB: Ty Harden (San Jose Earthquakes)
CB: Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City)
RM: Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas)
CM: Gershon Koffie (Vancouver Whitecaps)
FW: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)
FW: David Villa (New York City FC)
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.