MLS Team of the Week: Lampard, Giovinco Star in Week 21
Just like it was a week ago, Week 21 in Major League Soccer belonged to a few of the world's best players.
Frank Lampard, who is in scorching-hot form for New York City FC, produced a hat-trick in the opening match of the weekend, while Sebastian Giovinco contributed to all three of Toronto FC's tallies against Columbus Crew on Sunday.
In addition to the stellar performances put in by two of MLS' megastars, a few young players shone up top for their respective sides and a debutant handed a struggling side some hope for the future.
Continue reading to see who was named to the Week 21 edition of the Bleacher Report MLS Team of the Week.
GK: Jake Gleeson, Portland Timbers
Rarely do we hand out this honor to a losing goalkeeper, but Jake Gleeson is more than deserving of this nod for his performance against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.
Gleeson delivered what was arguably the save of the season in the 56th minute, when he stretched out to stop Lawrence Olum's shot with his fingertips. Gleeson was moving to the left but adjusted to the right in time to get a piece of the attempt.
Three minutes later, Gleeson made a terrific double save on Dom Dwyer and Connor Hallisey. Despite Gleeson's phenomenal effort in between the pipes, the Timbers were unable to power an equalizer past Alec Kann.
The loss was an extension of the Timbers' poor form on the road. Portland is 0-5-6 on its travels in 2016. Only four other sides in MLS are without a road victory entering August.
RB: Atiba Harris, FC Dallas
FC Dallas extended their lead atop the Western Conference to six points in Week 21 thanks to a 2-0 home win over the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Colorado Rapids' loss to New York City FC.
Right-back Atiba Harris was a part of a back line that conceded just a single shot on target to a Whitecaps attack that is still figuring things out.
The 31-year-old defender made three interceptions, two tackles and held Pedro Morales to one shot on target in 72 minutes on the flank.
The schedule will get a bit tougher for FC Dallas in the next few weeks, as they begin play in the CONCACAF Champions League on Thursday and face the LA Galaxy in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals on August 10.
CB: Jelle Van Damme, LA Galaxy
Jelle Van Damme has turned into one of the top acquisitions of the MLS offseason.
The commanding Belgian center-back produced yet another solid performance for LA Galaxy in the 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
The 32-year-old kept the Galaxy in the match with a pair of off-the-line clearances. His first came in the 33rd minute on Clint Dempsey, and he came up big again in the 70th minute against Jordan Morris at the left post.
Van Damme also made four interceptions and three clearances to help the Galaxy earn their 14th road point of 2016.
CB: Jamison Olave, Real Salt Lake
It's hard for Jamison Olave to not be seen on the pitch given his 6'3", 209-pound frame, but he turned in a quietly efficient 90 minutes in Real Salt Lake's 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union on Sunday.
Olave and center-back partner Aaron Maund held C.J. Sapong's chances to a minimum in a physical tussle that lasted throughout the 90 minutes. The only slip-up by the RSL defense came right before half-time, when Maund conceded a penalty to Sapong.
Outside of that, though, RSL took Sapong out of the game with their marking and presence on the ball.
The win came at a crucial time for the Claret and Cobalt, as they entered Talen Energy Stadium with a 0-2-4 mark in their last six matches.
LB: Taylor Kemp, D.C. United
Despite a positive start to their match at RFK Stadium on Sunday, D.C. United fell short of three points, drawing 1-1 with the Montreal Impact.
Taylor Kemp was a key part for the strong opening by the Black and Red, as he produced an assist on the club's lone goal of the contest.
Kemp perfectly curled a cross from the right wing that found the head of Patrick Mullins in the 20th minute. The assist was the 26-year-old's second of the season.
The D.C. left-back also contained the threat of Montreal rookie Michael Salazar, holding him to zero shots on target and 25 touches.
RM: Nicolas Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders
If Nicolas Lodeiro's debut in rave green is a sign of things to come, the Sounders made a terrific signing during the summer transfer window.
The new acquisition was active on the ball in the 1-1 draw with L.A., as he made 124 touches, attempted four shots and handed out three key passes.
Seattle may not have left the pitch with the result it wanted, but it did finish the match with plenty of positives in the final third, which is something that hasn't been said much in 2016.
It's unlikely Lodeiro's impact will lead to a charge toward the playoffs since Seattle is nine points back of sixth place, but he could help set the foundation for 2017.
CM: Frank Lampard, New York City FC
Frank Lampard's impact on the NYCFC attack has been nothing short of immense since the Copa America Centenario break in June.
The Chelsea great continued to impress in sky blue on Saturday, as he recorded the first hat-trick in club history in the 5-1 win over the Colorado Rapids.
Lampard opened the scoring in the 28th minute with a finish from close range on the right side of the goal. In the 80th minute, Lampard started a fast counter down the pitch and finished it off with a nice finish into the right part of the net.
The midfielder completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot in the 84th minute, as he beat a diving Tim Howard with a shot into the left edge of the net.
Since June 18, Lampard has scored on eight occasions for the first-place side in the Eastern Conference.
CM: Tsubasa Endoh, Toronto FC
If you're looking for a dark horse to win the Rookie of the Year award, Tsubasa Endoh is your man.
Sunday could've turned out much worse for the rookie, as he got in the way of a Sebastian Giovinco blast from distance in the eighth minute. Luckily for the 22-year-old Japanese player, the deflection off his back sent the ball into the back of the net.
Endoh continued to put in a relentless effort after netting the opener in Toronto FC's 3-0 win over the Columbus Crew at BMO Field.
If he and a few other young players in the Toronto squad keep contributing like they have been of late, Greg Vanney's third-place side could march all the way to the top of the Eastern Conference table.
LM: Kevin Molino, Orlando City
It's becoming hard to ignore the talents of Kevin Molino.
The Orlando City winger bagged a brace in the Lions' 3-1 win over the New England Revolution on Sunday in Jason Kreis' managerial debut for the club.
In the 64th minute, Molino cut in front of a defender in the center of the box to nod in Brek Shea's cross from the right wing.
After breaking the deadlock, Molino went on to add an insurance goal in the 83rd minute following a nice passing buildup on the left wing.
Molino also handed out an assist on Cyle Larin's 46th-minute equalizer at the Citrus Bowl.
FW: Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
Any concern that lingered after Giovinco's dip in form during June and July was extinguished on Sunday.
The Atomic Ant played a role in all three of Toronto's strikes in its fairly easy Trillium Cup win over the Columbus Crew on Sunday.
After his effort in the eighth minute went in off Endoh, Giovinco put his name on the scoresheet in the 24th minute as he finished off a nice bit of play in tight space with Jay Chapman.
The dynamic Italian was involved with Jozy Altidore in the final third late in the match, and he dished out an assist to the forward, who is on the way to regaining full fitness.
FW: Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake
Joao Plata's full skill set was on display in RSL's win over Philadelphia on Sunday.
The Ecuadorian caused the Union back line trouble from the moment the opening whistle blew, and his relentless pursuit of the ball didn't end until the match concluded.
Plata produced one of two world-class strikes from the Claret and Cobalt, as he sent a beautiful shot off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
The goal was Plata's sixth of the season, and his team will take on his former MLS side, Toronto FC, on Wednesday.
GK: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
CB: Aaron Maund (Real Salt Lake)
CM: Matt Polster (Chicago Fire)
LM: Brek Shea (Orlando City)
LM: David Accam (Chicago Fire)
FW: Cyle Larin (Orlando City)
FW: Maximiliano Urruti (FC Dallas)
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.