MLS Team of the Week: BWP, Grella & Kljestan Feature After Red Bulls' Big Week
Rivalry Week handed plenty of sides in Major League Soccer motivation to earn three points, but no club had more to prove than the New York Red Bulls.
Against their most-hated rival D.C. United, the Red Bulls produced one of the most dominant performances in MLS this season on Sunday night at Red Bull Arena.
Due to the large amount of success earned by Jesse Marsch's side in Week 26, three Red Bulls headline the latest edition of the MLS Team of the Week.
Elsewhere across the league, a few teams earned surprising results against difficult opposition. The Colorado Rapids specifically caught our attention with a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City. Because of the impressive nature of their win, the Rapids are the only other team with two or more players in the best 11 from Week 26.
Since there were a number of strong showings at the central midfield position, we aligned our team in a 3-5-2 formation.
Continue reading to see who was named to our latest MLS Team of the Week.
GK: Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders
Say what you want about the overall team performance put in by the Seattle Sounders, but one player who showed up from the first to last minute was goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Frei kept Seattle in the match with a string of clutch saves in the first half. The Sounders took the lead on a hustle play by Nelson Valdez and earned a fortuitous penalty late in the first half that sealed the final result.
Freis's two biggest denials came in the 18th minute on Jack Jewsbury and in the 30th minute on Lucas Melano. Frei ended the Cascadia Cup contest with five saves.
The victory allowed the Sounders to climb back into the final play-off spot in the Western Conference with two months to go in the season.
RB: Justin Morrow, Toronto FC
In the lone derby match on Saturday, Justin Morrow turned in a solid 90-minute shift for Toronto FC in their 2-1 win over Montreal in the 401 Derby.
Morrow contained starter Maxim Tissot and substitute Justin Mapp to three shots, all of which went off target, in the match that eventually cost Impact boss Frank Klopas his job.
Morrow totaled a game high of seven tackles and made three clearances and two interceptions for Greg Vanney's side.
CB: Raul Rodriguez, Houston Dynamo
The Houston Dynamo used the Texas heat to their advantage once again on Saturday and pulled out a 2-0 win over the red-hot Vancouver Whitecaps at BBVA Compass Stadium.
On top of turning in a solid defensive shift against the likes of Darren Mattocks, Kekuta Manneh and Mauro Rosales, center-back Raul Rodriguez was a key contributor in the final third for Owen Coyle's side.
In the 86th minute with his side up two men and a goal, Rodriguez made a nice run to the near post to get his head onto the end of Brad Davis' corner. Rodriguez's second goal of the season helped seal the victory, which gave Houston a boost in the air-tight Western Conference play-off race.
LB: Maynor Figueroa, Colorado Rapids
Make all the jokes you want about the Colorado roster being full of former players from the lower tier of the Premier League and the Championship, but they are veterans who have experience against some of the world's best players.
With his side down a goal in the 53rd minute, former Wigan Athletic and Hull City man Maynor Figueroa delivered a brilliant equalizer from the left side of the box. His driving shot into the top-right corner sparked a comeback that was finished off by Kevin Doyle's game-winning goal in the 76th minute.
In his own half, Figueroa came out on top of his battle on the flank with Graham Zusi as the Sporting Kansas City man failed to put a shot on goal.
“Tonight the guys played the type of football that is needed for where we’re headed in the final stretch of the season. Games are chippy and they’re tight. The guys did a fantastic job of finding ways to win these games and I’m very proud and excited," Rapids manager Pablo Mastroeni said, per MLSSoccer.com's Marco Cummings.
RM: Vicente Sanchez, Colorado Rapids
The catalyst of Colorado's come-from-behind victory at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Saturday was Vicente Sanchez.
Sanchez provided Figueroa and Kevin Doyle with strong crosses from the right wing in the 53rd and 76th minutes to set up the two Colorado goals in front of the home fans.
The 35-year-old did not attempt a shot in the win over Sporting Kansas City, but he did dish out seven key passes, two of which were assists on Colorado's strikes.
“It was a real workman-like performance for Vicente on both sides of the ball. He just needs a moment and tonight he created quite a few moments that are just goal dangerous. He really puts a team on its heels," Rapids boss Pablo Mastroeni said of Sanchez, per MLSSoccer.com's Marco Cummings.
As hard as it is to believe, the Rapids aren't entirely out of the play-off race in the Western Conference. Entering September, the Rapids sit five points behind Seattle in the race for sixth.
CM: Anibal Godoy, San Jose Earthquakes
The addition of Anibal Godoy to the starting lineup has turned the San Jose Earthquakes from laughable pretender to valiant contender in the span of a month.
Godoy's latest impressive outing came on Friday night in the California Clasico win over the LA Galaxy. Next to United States international Marc Pelosi, the Panamanian filled most of the passing lanes the Galaxy usually use to feed Robbie Keane and Giovani Dos Santos, who had one shot on target each.
The clogging of the midfield by Godoy and Pelosi also forced Sebastian Lletget into a rare poor game on the left wing. Gyasi Zardes' impact was also reduced to a minimum on the right wing.
"I think the pickup of Godoy has been a real good one for us, in a lot of ways – possession, defending, breaking lines out of pressure," San Jose manager Dominic Kinnear told Geoff Lepper of MLSSoccer.com.
Although San Jose is still on the outside looking in in the Western Conference, it could control its own destiny with a win over Seattle on September 12.
CM: Sacha Kljestan, New York Red Bulls
Sacha Kljestan set the tone for the Red Bulls from the first whistle with his terrific effort surging forward from midfield into the final third.
Although he did not score in the 3-0 win over D.C. United, Kljestan was easily the best player on the pitch for long stretches.
The 29-year-old American led all players with 94 touches and seven key passes, and he attempted four shots from the part of the pitch that saw plenty of action on Sunday night.
"We put our foot on the gas pedal and went out to get them from the first minute. We probably had the most dominating performance we’ve had this season so that felt really good," Kljestan said, per MLSSoccer.com's Eric Giacometti.
CM: Federico Higuain, Columbus Crew
The lasting image from Columbus' 2-1 win over New York City FC on Saturday afternoon came on Federico Higuain's goal in the 10th minute.
Instead of taking the corner like he usually does, Higuain set up in the box and easily rounded Andrea Pirlo to knock a shot past Josh Saunders. The strike was only the seventh of the season for the midfielder, who has scored 11 goals in each of the last two years.
In the 83rd minute. Higuain picked up his seventh assist of the season on Justin Meram's game-winning goal that helped the Crew keep pace with the Red Bulls near the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
LM: Mike Grella, New York Red Bulls
Keeping new signings Shaun Wright-Phillips and Gonzalo Veron out of the starting 11 wasn't seen as an easy task a few weeks ago, but that is exactly what Mike Grella is making it look like.
The American winger once again turned in a superb shift on the left side of the pitch in the dominant win over D.C. United. Grella's only contribution to the scoresheet came in the 42nd minute when he volleyed a pass over to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who struck a beautiful one-time shot into the back of the net.
Along with earning an assist in the win, Grella dished out five key passes and was active in front of goal by attempting five shots.
FW: Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City
Although Sporting KC left Colorado as a whole with their heads hung low, Dom Dwyer exited the pitch with plenty of confidence following his individual performance up top.
Dwyer was constantly active in the final third for Peter Vermes' side in the first half, and he finally earned a breakthrough in the 47th minute when he slammed a shot into the left side of the net.
The Englishman continued to test Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin for the rest of the match as he put five of his six shots on goal.
With six matches in all competitions coming up in September, Sporting KC will need Dwyer to replicate his performance from Saturday in order lock up a play-off spot and win the U.S. Open Cup.
FW: Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
Bradley Wright-Phillips laid the game against D.C. to rest in the 42nd minute, when he sent the home crowd at Red Bull Arena into an uproar with his sweet strike from the right side of the box.
Wright-Phillips went on to complete his brace in the 64th minute after he was kept onside by the D.C. defense while linking up with Sacha Kljestan's pass from the right wing.
Although he hasn't made as much noise on a national level as he did last season, Wright-Phillips is quietly climbing up the league scoring chart. His two goals on Sunday moved his season total to 13.
"He works so hard for his team. He's shown what a complete player he is. He's been a major factor in our success," Red Bulls boss Jesse Marsch said, per the club's official Twitter account.
GK: Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
CB: Andrew Farrell (New England Revolution)
CDM: Marc Pelosi (San Jose Earthquakes)
CDM: Scott Caldwell (New England Revolution)
CM: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
LM: David Accam (Chicago Fire)
FW: Dominic Oduro (Montreal Impact)
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.