MLS Team of the Week: Drogba Nets Hat-Trick in First Montreal Start
Week 27 in Major League Soccer may not have had a full slate of games, but the five matches that were played produced plenty of excitement.
Most of the headlines came out of Montreal as Didier Drogba scored a hat-trick in his first start for the Impact. Drogba, whose rights were traded by Chicago to Montreal in order for his transfer to happen, netted his first three MLS goals against the team that coveted him so much but couldn't get a deal done.
On the other side of the continent, another big-name player made his presence known early at CenturyLink Field. In his return from injury, Clint Dempsey combined well with Obafemi Martins in the Sounders' 2-1 win over Toronto.
The three other matches had intriguing results as well, especially Philadelphia's unexpected road win over San Jose on Saturday night.
Our list of the week's best from Week 27 is shaped in a 4-3-3 formation due to the impressive outings from the stars at the forward position.
Continue reading to see which 11 players were named to our latest MLS Team of the Week.
GK: Tally Hall, Orlando City
Rarely will you ever see a goalkeeper who concedes on three occasions in the Team of the Week, but without Tally Hall's six saves on Saturday night, Orlando City would've lost by at least five or six goals to New England.
Hall put in a massive shift in between the pipes and held the Revolution to one goal over the first 83 minutes of the match. His best spell came in the second half, when he made a pair of strong denials on Chris Tierney and Charlie Davies in the 56th and 59th minutes.
Despite his efforts to keep the Lions within one goal, Hall eventually succumbed to the New England pressure and let in two late strikes.
Although a result on the road was unlikely from the start due to the Lions' depleted roster, Hall did his best to give Orlando a chance in a match they had no business being in.
RB: Atiba Harris, FC Dallas
With plenty of open space around him in the 27th minute, Atiba Harris easily nodded in his first league goal since Sept. 27, 2014.
Harris sat at the right post on a corner kick, and with zero defenders surrounding him, he was able to head in David Texeira's pass from the middle of the box to put FC Dallas into the lead at Mapfre Stadium.
In the 69th minute, Harris played a nice ball through the middle of the pitch to spring Michael Barrios forward on a counter in the buildup to the Hoops' second goal of the night.
Harris was also able to limit Columbus' starting left winger Ben Speas to 15 touches in the midfielder's 57 minutes on the field.
CB: Zach Loyd, FC Dallas
Against the depleted Crew attack, Zach Loyd turned in an impressive 90-minute shift in the middle of the FC Dallas back four.
By limiting Federico Higuain and Ethan Finlay's chances in the final third, Loyd and his teammates were able to have a rare stress-free match on the road.
Loyd ended the contest with 10 clearances, eight interceptions, three tackles and a key blocked shot in the first half.
The victory allowed Oscar Pareja's side to keep a three-point advantage on Seattle and move within two points of first-place Los Angeles in the Western Conference playoff race.
CB: Steven Vitoria, Philadelphia Union
Philadelphia's win over San Jose on Saturday night witnessed plenty of unexpected performances from unlikely players, including center back Steven Vitoria.
The 28-year-old, who is on loan from Benfica, helped erase the memories of a poor season to date with a solid defensive outing against Chris Wondolowski and Quincy Amarikwa.
Vitoria limited the San Jose forward pairing to two shots on goal, both of which came from Wondolowski, which was a surprise to many given the Earthquakes' blazing-hot form in August.
Thanks to the valiant performance at the back by Vitoria, the Union stayed in the race for the sixth position in the Eastern Conference. After Week 27, Philadelphia is one point behind Montreal.
LB: Chris Tierney, New England Revolution
Chris Tierney finished off the Revolution's 3-0 win over Orlando with a left-footed shot from close distance in the 94th minute.
The goal capped off a splendid night for the New England left back, who was a constant threat in attack due to his side's domination in the possession battle. The 29-year-old totaled three key passes and two shots on target in the victory.
On the other side of the pitch, Tierney limited Orlando winger Adrian Winter to one shot on goal at Gillette Stadium.
RM: Justin Mapp, Montreal Impact
One of the best players from the seven-goal shootout at Stade Saputo on Saturday was a winger who didn't contribute to a single goal.
Justin Mapp was an absolute force on the right wing as the Impact tried to pull away from the Fire in front of a boisterous group of supporters in Quebec.
Mapp, who recently returned from a prolonged injury break, dished out five key passes and attempted four shots in the Impact's 4-3 victory.
With Mapp hitting his stride on the wing, the Impact should be able to lock up the sixth playoff spot in the East with three and four games in hand on the other contenders.
CM: Lee Nguyen, New England Revolution
Lee Nguyen made a massive impact on the final score in New England on Saturday night without recording a single shot on goal.
The United States international earned assists on all three strikes starting with a lovely chip in the direction of Diego Fagundez on the first tally of the match.
In the 84th minute, Nguyen played an incisive ball over to Teal Bunbury on the right wing after a lovely one-two with Fagundez in the buildup to Juan Agudelo's tap-in. Nguyen finished off his fantastic night with a backheel pass in the box to Tierney to set up the defender's second goal of the season.
Nguyen's best performance of the season came at the perfect time for the Revs, who are jockeying for a playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
“That’s the plan, hopefully you peak at the right time. I think I’ve been feeling good, getting my fitness levels up, which helps, and seeing the game as well," Nguyen told MLSSoccer.com's Craig Forde.
LM: Diego Fagundez, New England Revolution
Diego Fagundez was one of many New England attackers who benefited from Orlando's poor defensive form on Saturday night at home.
Fagundez finished off a brilliant team move in the 43rd minute after he received a nice chip from Nguyen on the left side of the box. The goal was the fourth of the season and second in two weeks for Fagundez.
The 20-year-old recorded five shots and completed 98.3 percent of his 59 passes, both of which were the best totals recorded by a New England starter.
FW: Didier Drogba, Montreal Impact
Didier Drogba's first three MLS goals came in grand fashion as he led the Impact to an important win at home over Chicago on Saturday night.
The Ivorian opened his MLS account in the 27th minute after he used some stellar physical control to fend off a defender and slot the ball into the right side of the net.
As the action heated up in the second half, so did Drogba. The former Chelsea man leveled the contest at three goals apiece in the 61st minute, when he benefited from a quick free-kick that caught the Chicago defense off guard.
With his team in need of one more goal to secure a crucial victory at home, Drogba kept with his original shot and headed the rebound past Sean Johnson in the 65th minute.
"What can I say? What a performance from Didier. He’s such a committed person. He’s won everywhere. He came here with a great spirit, with such a will to win. And we saw that tonight," Montreal interim boss Mauro Biello said, per Olivier Tremblay of MLSSoccer.com.
FW: Conor Casey, Philadelphia Union
Even in a league where we have come to expect the unexpected, Conor Casey's brace off the bench caught everyone off guard.
The 2010 MLS Cup Most Valuable Player touched the ball eight times in 20 minutes, but during that time he headed in two goals and handed the Union a much-needed three points.
Four minutes after entering the match, Casey rose above a pack of players in the box and nodded a Raymon Gaddis cross into the right side of the net.
With his side desperate for another goal in the 86th minute, Casey perfected a near-post run and headed home the game-winning strike.
The last time Casey headed in two goals in one game was May 31, 2009, per Opta.
FW: Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders
For the first time in over three months, Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins started next to each other in the Seattle lineup. For the first time in the same time period, Seattle fans felt comfortable about their team's playoff hopes.
Dempsey combined with Martins on both of the Sounders' goals on Saturday night, but what distanced him from Martins to earn this recognition was his effort throughout the match.
The American's first key involvement in attack came in the sixth minute, when he connected with Martins through a ball over the top of the Toronto defense. In the 77th minute, Dempsey cleaned up a rebound created by Chris Konopka to seal three points for the Sounders.
Due to the lack of action across the Western Conference in Week 27, the Sounders jumped into fourth with their 13th win of the year.
GK: Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
CB: Eriq Zavaleta (Toronto FC)
CM: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders)
CM: Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact)
FW: David Texeira (FC Dallas)
FW: Kennedy Igboananike (Chicago Fire)
FW: Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders)
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.