MLS Team of the Week: Hat-Trick Heroes Giovinco, Dempsey Headline Week 22's Best
The two hat-tricks scored in Major League Soccer in Week 22 carried different meanings for the clubs of Sebastian Giovinco and Clint Dempsey.
Giovinco's three-goal performance at BMO Field moved Toronto FC even closer to the top spot in the Eastern Conference, while Dempsey's breakout showing handed the Sounders hope that a late run at the postseason is possible.
Two of Dempsey's teammates also join him on the list of Week 22's best players because of their work moving forward.
To accommodate the two stellar forwards and one of Dempsey's teammates, we aligned our MLS Team of the Week in a 4-3-3 formation.
Continue reading to see who else joined the hat-trick heroes in the latest Bleacher Report MLS Team of the Week.
GK: Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake
Nick Rimando saved his best for last as he locked up the top spot on the MLS all-time wins list on Saturday night.
The Real Salt Lake netminder made a vital double save from close range on Nick LaBrocca to finish off his four-save night in front of the home fans at Rio Tinto Stadium.
When the final whistle sounded, Rimando moved ahead of Kevin Hartman on the all-time wins chart with his 181st-career league victory.
The next milestone Rimando is set to break is the all-time saves record. He currently has 1,427 saves in his career. Hartman is first on the list with 1,474.
RB: Tyrone Mears, Seattle Sounders
Before Jordan Morris set up the final two goals of Dempsey's hat-trick, Tyrone Mears delivered the first Seattle assist of the night in the 14th minute.
In addition to contributing on the offensive end of the pitch, Mears made three interceptions and one tackle as the Sounders slowed down the pace of the Orlando attack at Camping World Stadium.
Mears also limited Brek Shea's production on the left wing as the United States international made just 33 touches in 66 minutes.
CB: Steve Birnbaum, D.C. United
D.C. United pushed for a late equalizer for the final 10 minutes of their match against the Philadelphia Union, but after Andre Blake's double save at the start of stoppage time, it appeared the Black and Red would come up short.
Instead of leaving the pitch with a disappointing loss, D.C. walked into the locker room in a jubilant mood thanks to a late strike off the head of Steve Birnbaum.
Birnbaum ran into space on the left side of the box and nodded the game-tying strike past an outstretched Blake to break the hearts of the visitors.
However, the draw didn't do much for D.C.'s playoff hopes as Ben Olsen's men still sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference on 24 points.
CB: Jermaine Taylor, Portland Timbers
A week after falling on the road to Sporting Kansas City, Portland returned the favor at home with a 3-0 victory over Peter Vermes' side at Providence Park.
Center-back Jermaine Taylor helped the Timbers record one of the few clean sheets of Week 22 as he made six clearances, four interceptions and blocked two shots in the Western Conference clash.
The Timbers defense also limited Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer to 29 touches and zero shots on target in his 90 minutes on the pitch.
The victory by Caleb Porter's men dragged them back above the red line in the Western Conference. Portland sits in sixth with 32 points after 24 matches played.
LB: Taylor Kemp, D.C. United
One of the high-quality goals taken out of the spotlight in Week 22 by Giovinco and others was the one scored by Taylor Kemp at RFK Stadium.
The left-back surged 70 yards down the left wing before powering a shot beyond Blake in the 16th minute to put D.C. in the lead at that time in the match.
On the defensive side of the ball, the D.C. left-back made four tackles against a dangerous Philadelphia attack.
MID: Marlon Hairston, Colorado Rapids
The breakout star on the Colorado Rapids roster continued his hot spell of form in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Vancouver.
Marlon Hairston produced a goal and an assist in the home win at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
The 22-year-old midfielder scored his third goal in four matches in the 44th minute off a Marc Burch assist.
Hairston switched over to the role of provider in the 60th minute as he set up Dominique Badji's strike.
The win by Pablo Mastroeni's side moved the club's home record to 9-0-3, and it kept the Rapids within three points of FC Dallas in the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield races.
MID: Tranquillo Barnetta, Philadelphia Union
Before the Union were left heartbroken by Birnbaum's late equalizer, Tranquillo Barnetta spurred a fantastic response to a rough first 45 minutes.
Barnetta sent the Union into the locker room with plenty of hope thanks to his stellar free-kick goal from 35 yards that fooled Bill Hamid.
The Swiss midfielder continued to search for chances in the second stanza as he handed out six key passes at RFK Stadium.
Despite coming up short on their travels once again, the Union left Washington, D.C. with plenty to build on as Alejandro Bedoya and Charlie Davies acclimate themselves to the squad.
MID: Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake
It's time to start watching out for Real Salt Lake.
Javier Morales helped boost RSL into third place in the Western Conference with two goals and an assist in Saturday's 3-1 win over Chicago at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The Argentinian's first contribution to the scoreboard came in the 14th minute as he assisted on Olmes Garcia's opener from the top of the box.
Morales put a tally in his personal goal column in the 28th minute as he knocked a penalty past a diving Matt Lampson.
The 36-year-old capped his night off in the 64th minute as he cut to the left and sent a shot off the left upright and into the back of the net.
FW: Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders
Clint Dempsey entered Sunday with three goals in 14 matches.
By the 48th minute, the United States international had doubled his total against Orlando City.
All three of Dempsey's strikes came from close range, starting in the 14th minute when he knocked in Mears' cross from the right wing.
The next two goals saw Dempsey benefit from the play of fellow American forward Morris. In the 37th minute, Morris dumped a short pass over to an open Dempsey to put Seattle in the lead.
Dempsey celebrated his hat-trick three minutes into the second half as he slid a shot from the center of the box into a wide-open net after Morris drew Joe Bendik off his line.
The three-goal showing was the first in MLS for Dempsey since April 5, 2014 against Portland.
FW: Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
Just when you thought Sebastian Giovinco ran out of impressive ways to score, he rocketed a pair of lasers into the back of the net on Saturday to start off his hat-trick.
The Atomic Ant started his tremendous evening in the 20th minute with a bullet of a shot that found the bottom-left part of the net.
Eight minutes later, the Italian perfectly placed a shot into the top of the goal from the top-left edge of the box.
Giovinco finished off his fourth-ever three-goal performance in MLS from the spot in the 79th minute.
The 4-1 win by the Reds moved them within one point of first-place New York City FC in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
FW: Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders
Morris made a pair of unselfish, smart decisions to distance the Sounders from Orlando City at Camping World Stadium on Sunday.
Both of the rookie's assists in the 3-1 win came after he drew attention to himself that allowed Dempsey to slide into plenty of space.
Morris' play on the final goal of the match was superb as he started the move on the right wing before dishing the ball off to Dempsey.
If Sunday is a turning point in the season for the Sounders, they may have a chance to sneak into the Western Conference playoff positions.
GK: Evan Bush (Montreal Impact)
CB: Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact)
LB: Ashley Cole (LA Galaxy)
CM: Jack Jewsbury (Portland Timbers)
CM: Sean Davis (New York Red Bulls)
FW: Olmes Garcia (Real Salt Lake)
FW: Matteo Mancosu (Montreal Impact)
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.