MLS Team of the Week: Giovinco Solidifies Status as MVP Favorite in Week 29
The 29th week of play in Major League Soccer left a few questions unanswered after the extended slate of games, but one thing was made clear: Sebastian Giovinco is the favorite to win the Most Valuable Player award.
Giovinco, who experienced a rough patch of form in front of goal in late August and early September, powered Toronto FC to a 3-1 victory with two goals and an assist on Saturday. The performance also solidified his status as the MVP frontrunner among a field of worthy candidates.
Outside of Giovinco's stellar day at BMO Field, Real Salt Lake continued their late surge toward the playoffs with a win over the LA Galaxy, while Seattle also impressed out in the Western Conference with a big win on the road in Vancouver. Both RSL and the Sounders boast a pair of players in the latest MLS Team of the Week.
We shaped our best 11 from Week 29 in a 4-4-2 with two right-backs as our full-backs, given the good amount of solid showings at that position this week.
Continue reading to see who joined Giovinco in the latest MLS Team of the Week.
GK: Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders
Seattle clinched the Cascadia Cup with a 3-0 win over Vancouver at BC Place on Saturday night.
Stefan Frei played a major role in keeping the first-place Whitecaps out of the net as he made eight saves for the visiting Sounders.
In the process of making his eight denials, Frei eclipsed the 100-save mark for third time in his MLS career. The 29-year-old was one save short last season. The shutout was the 10th of the year for the experienced goalkeeper.
Full Back: Jordan Allen, Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake conquered an old foe at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night to move within three points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
In the 3-0 win, the Claret and Cobalt limited the Galaxy starters to two shots on goal. LA ended with four attempts on target after substitute Alan Gordon took two during his 24-minute shift.
On the right flank of defense, 20-year-old Jordan Allen silenced the impact of Sebastian Lletget in the Galaxy attack.
The 20-year-old held the former West Ham man to 29 touches and one shot off target in the Galaxy player's 66 minutes on the pitch.
Allen also stifled Lletget's replacement, Baggio Husidic, as he made 16 touches in 24 minutes.
CB: Chad Marshall, Seattle Sounders
Thanks to a solid performance at the back from Chad Marshall on Saturday, the Sounders quieted any concern about them missing out on the playoffs.
Marshall and the Seattle back line held Vancouver scoreless at BC Place and in the process moved closer to the Whitecaps in first place than the Portland Timbers in sixth place.
The veteran center back made nine interceptions, four tackles and three clearances in the 3-0 victory. Marshall, 31, was also one of three Sounders to record a pass-accuracy percentage of over 90.
CB: Damien Perrinelle, New York Red Bulls
Damien Perrinelle made impressive contributions on both sides of the pitch for the New York Red Bulls in their 2-0 road win over Portland on Sunday.
Perrinelle's top moment in attack came right before half-time as he catapulted himself over a defender to head his shot into the right side of the net.
Defensively, the 32-year-old made 10 clearances and seven interceptions against a Portland attack that never found a rhythm at Providence Park.
The victory, which came four days after a rough loss to New England, allowed the Red Bulls to clinch the first playoff berth in MLS this season.
“Tonight was a real team performance. In the first half we played so well, we overwhelmed them and we put two unbelievable goals in. In the second half we just defended for our lives because that’s when the fatigue started to kick in, but overall a great performance," midfielder Sacha Kljestan told Eric Giacometti at MLSSoccer.com.
Full Back: Eric Miller, Montreal Impact
Montreal continued to assert itself as the favorite for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a 3-0 win over New England on Saturday.
Interim boss Mauro Biello was able to get an inspired performance out of his defense, including right-back Eric Miller, who shut down Kelyn Rowe on the left wing. The showing from the 22-year-old was even more impressive given the hot streak Rowe entered the match on.
Miller made nine interceptions and five tackles while holding Rowe to 42 touches and one shot on goal.
RM: Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia Union
Sebastien Le Toux joined MLS' 50-50 club while powering Philadelphia to a 2-0 win at home over lowly Houston on Sunday night.
Le Toux set the tone early as he handed out his 50th-career MLS assist to Tranquillo Barnetta in the third minute to open the scoring.
The winger continued to shine against former teammate Sheanon Williams as he made four key passes and recorded three shots.
The victory allowed the Union to not only stay in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but it also handed them a big confidence boost ahead of the U.S. Open Cup Final on September 30 against Sporting Kansas City.
CM: Benny Feilhaber, Sporting Kansas City
Benny Feilhaber's latest strong performance in the middle of the park for Sporting Kansas City came on Friday against FC Dallas.
The 30-year-old, who has made a terrific case to earn another call-up for the United States all season long, scored twice in the crucial Western Conference showdown at Sporting Park.
In the 65th minute, Feilhaber struck the back of the net with an impressive free-kick effort before he slotted home from the spot in the 76th minute.
CM: Tony Tchani, Columbus Crew
Tony Tchani was an active participant in the Columbus attack from the first whistle on Saturday night at RFK Stadium as he tested Bill Hamid with two long-range efforts early in the Eastern Conference clash.
Although he was unable to strike the back of the net himself, Tchani did set up a goal in the 49th minute as he played a beautiful through ball toward Kei Kamara, who proceeded to score his 21st of the year.
Tchani also played a big role in protecting the lead as he and Wil Trapp helped dictate the possession battle in the minutes following the second Crew goal.
LM: Ned Grabavoy, New York City FC
Ned Grabavoy bagged an unlikely brace on Saturday night for New York City FC in their 3-2 win over San Jose.
The former Real Salt Lake man benefited from a pair of assists by David Villa and Frank Lampard, who are just two of the top contributors to NYCFC's late playoff push.
Grabavoy scored his first goal of the season in the 51st minute as he latched on to a pass from Villa before sliding the ball past David Bingham. In the 63rd minute, Grabavoy headed home a Lampard cross from the right wing.
"It’s great, it’s brilliant, a testament to his professionalism. I’ve seen him train and the way he carries himself, a squad player. When he’s not playing, a great attitude and when he plays he works for the team. He got what he deserved today," Lampard said of Grabavoy, per Dylan Butler of MLSSoccer.com.
FW: Devon Sandoval, Real Salt Lake
Devon Sandoval made sure Real Salt Lake started on the right foot on Saturday night as he kicked off the scoring in the third minute with a volleyed attempt at the left post.
Sandoval earned a deserved brace in the 53rd minute as he rose high in the air to slam home a Juan Manuel Martinez cross with his noggin.
In his last two games, Sandoval has scored three of his four goals in 2015. During that same stretch, RSL have put themselves back into the playoff discussion.
"This is what we live for, these big games and every game now is big. So we’re excited. Keep it rolling. Keep improving. We’ve got to win," Sandoval said, per Tyler Gray of MLSSoccer.com.
FW: Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
Sebastian Giovinco once again put in a masterful performance at the top of the Toronto FC formation on Saturday with two goals and an assist in a win over Colorado.
The Italian scored his first goal since August 22 in the 14th minute on a play that started at midfield. Giovinco picked up the ball, sprinted toward goal and then composed himself at the top of the box to shoot and beat Clint Irwin for his 18th goal of the season.
Giovinco's 19th strike of the year came in the 18th minute as he curled a shot into the right part of the net after the Colorado defense gave him plenty of space to work in. The Italian completed his day with an assist off a corner kick for Damien Perquis' 38th-minute goal.
The performance at BMO Field secured Giovinco's status as frontrunner for the Most Valuable Player award.
"I would think Seba is at top of the list. It's not a very long list," Toronto manager Greg Vanney said, per the team's official Twitter account.
GK: Tally Hall (Orlando City)
CB: Aurelien Collin (Orlando City)
RM: Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
CM: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders)
CM: Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake)
FW: Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders)
FW: Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact)
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.