MLS Team of the Week: FC Dallas Trio, Chicago Fire Pair Star in Week 31
The first weekend of action in October in Major League Soccer produced a sliver of clarity in a league known for its parity.
FC Dallas became the first team to clinch a playoff spot out of the Western Conference on Sunday, and the Hoops did it dominant fashion as they trounced rival Houston 4-1 in the Texas derby.
Oscar Pareja's side may have had the most dominant showing of the weekend, but the Hoops were unable to leapfrog the LA Galaxy in the Supporters' Shield race as Bruce Arena's team drew 1-1 in Seattle to secure their spot in the postseason.
Over in the Eastern Conference, last-place Chicago stole all the headlines with a 3-1 win over New England, while D.C. United recovered from a brutal losing streak with a win over New York City FC that put them into the playoffs.
Because of the strong performances put in by FC Dallas and Chicago, they are two of the three clubs represented by more than one player in the latest MLS Team of the Week.
We shaped this week's team in a 3-4-3 formation in order to include three impressive center backs and a wealth of attackers.
Continue reading to see who landed a spot in the Week 31 edition of the MLS Team of the Week.
GK: Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City
For the second time in the span of three league games, Tim Melia starred in between the pipes for Sporting Kansas City at Providence Park.
Melia, who made seven saves against the Timbers on September 9, returned to the Pacific Northwest on Saturday to stop six shots sent in by the Portland players.
The clean sheet recorded by Melia was the only one across MLS this weekend, and it helped Sporting KC remain in fourth place in the Western Conference on 48 points.
CB: Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City
Some people expected Sporting KC to drop off in quality on Saturday following their extra-time win in the U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday and their long trip to Portland.
Instead of faltering in a crucial game due to lack of rest, Matt Besler turned in one of his best performances of the season alongside a pair of rookies in the back four.
Besler recorded nine clearances and won three aerial battles in his side's 13th victory of the season.
CB: Omar Gonzalez, LA Galaxy
Before the LA Galaxy received a bit of their own medicine in stoppage time against the Sounders, Omar Gonzalez produced a sterling showing at center back for Bruce Arena's side.
Gonzalez made 16 interceptions next to center-back partner Leonardo, who made 18 of his own in the 1-1 draw in Seattle.
The United States international, who was excluded from the CONCACAF Cup roster on Saturday, added six clearances and five tackles to his impressive statistical night.
In the draw that clinched LA's spot in the playoffs, Gonzalez held the dangerous duo of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins to a combined three shots on goal.
CB: Matt Hedges, FC Dallas
The third United States international to make the Team of the Week at center back is FC Dallas' Matt Hedges.
Just like Gonzalez, Hedges helped his side lock up a spot in the playoffs with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
The 25-year-old Hedges made nine interceptions and eight clearances while limiting Houston's forward pair of Giles Barnes and Will Bruin to zero attempts on target.
The dominant 4-1 victory by the Hoops gave them plenty of momentum heading into Wednesday's crucial Western Conference showdown with Vancouver.
AM: Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire
For the first time in what seems like forever, Harry Shipp was a consistent threat in the Chicago Fire attack on Saturday.
Shipp handed out an assist on the Fire's opener as he played a ball over to David Accam in the middle of the pitch before the Ghanian netted the first of three Chicago strikes at Toyota Park.
On Chicago's second goal, Shipp took the ball away from Andrew Farrell thanks to some strong pressure and coolly shot the ball through the legs of Bobby Shuttleworth.
Shipp's 59th-minute goal was his first since May 30, when he scored against Montreal in a 3-0 Fire win.
CM: Luke Mulholland, Real Salt Lake
With his side in need of a go-ahead goal, Luke Mulholland unleashed one of the best strikes of the weekend in the 43rd minute at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Mulholland curled in a beautiful effort from the left side of the pitch into the right side of the net to put Real Salt Lake ahead for good in their 2-1 win over Colorado.
The 27-year-old Englishman also contributed six interceptions and four tackles on the defensive half of the pitch as RSL kept their playoff hopes alive for another week.
CM: Anibal Godoy, San Jose Earthquakes
Anibal Godoy commanded the central-midfield battle for San Jose in its 1-1 draw with Vancouver on Saturday night.
The summer acquisition came out on top in the difficult battle against Vancouver's duo of Matias Laba and Gershon Koffie, who usually dictate the pace of the match for the Whitecaps.
Godoy impressed in his role as midfield destroyer as he made six tackles and held the Whitecaps attackers to two shots on target.
AM: Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas
Before he left Texas to join up with Colombia for the second time in his young career, Fabian Castillo played a role in two of the four tallies earned by FC Dallas on Sunday.
The 23-year-old set up the first strike of the contest as he was pulled down in the box by Houston's Rasheed Olabiyi in the 24th minute. Castillo's effort allowed Mauro Diaz to put the Hoops ahead from the spot one minute later.
In the 53rd minute, Castillo played a nice ball in from the left wing in the direction of Kellyn Acosta, who powered home the home side's third strike into the roof of the net.
Unfortunately for FC Dallas, Castillo's international commitment will force him to miss the pair of vital matches with Vancouver.
But once he gets back from his time with Colombia, FC Dallas should be ready to make a deep push into the postseason with him at the helm of the attack.
FW: Gilberto, Chicago Fire
Gilberto was one of a few forwards across the league in Week 31 who brought a relentless approach to the final third.
The Brazilian, whose rights were traded to the Fire as part of the Didier Drogba deal, found a pocket of space at the near post in the 86th minute and pounced for his fifth goal in five games.
The strike capped off an eventful night for the forward, who put three of his seven shots on target in the Fire's surprising 3-1 win over New England at home.
FW: David Texeira, FC Dallas
David Texeira bagged a second-half brace in FC Dallas' playoff-clinching 15th win of the season.
Texeira opened his account on Sunday with a beautiful strike from long distance that easily beat Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric in the 51st minute.
With time winding down in second-half stoppage time, Texeira latched on to a pass from Michael Barrios and slotted home his team's fourth goal of the contest into the right side of the net.
The brace was the second in MLS for the Uruguayan, who also scored twice against Seattle on September 24, 2014.
FW: Fabian Espindola, D.C. United
Fabian Espindola put the New York City FC defense under pressure for the majority of D.C. United's 2-1 win over the expansion side on Friday night.
It took Espindola until the 73rd minute to level the match at RFK Stadium as he pounced on a rebound spilled by Josh Saunders right in front of the net.
The shot was one of eight attempted by the Black and Red's top forward, who scored for the third time in six games.
If United are to make a surge toward a higher seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs for the rest of October, Espindola must continue to be a heavy influence on the D.C. attack.
GK: Josh Saunders (New York City FC)
RB: Jackson (Toronto FC)
CB: Leonardo (LA Galaxy)
LB: Connor Lade (New York Red Bulls)
CM: Darwin Ceren (Orlando City)
CM: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas)
FW: Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC)
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.