MLS Team of the Week: Dempsey, Roldan Shine for Surging Sounders
The last three days of play in Major League Soccer produced a plethora of unexpected results that set up the league's playoff races for more drama than expected.
After wins by Seattle, Chicago, Columbus and Houston, the biggest gap between sixth and 10th place in the league is eight points between Portland and Houston in the Western Conference.
The Sounders stole the headlines for their victory over rival Portland to close out the weekend. The two sides meet in a week's time and another win could land Seattle a spot above the red line, which is something no one expected to see when Sigi Schmid was fired.
Chicago and Columbus also added intrigue to the Eastern Conference race. The Fire, who were already written off by many, are not out of the postseason race by any stretch of the imagination as they sit six points back of sixth-place D.C., while the once-struggling Crew are all of a sudden five points back.
All three of the biggest winners from Week 24 in MLS have a pair of players in our latest Bleacher Report MLS Team of the Week.
Continue reading to see who joined the likes of Clint Dempsey and David Accam in our best XI from the weekend.
GK: Steve Clark, Columbus Crew
For the first time in a few weeks, a handful of goalkeepers could've laid claim to this honor in our weekly best XI.
Steve Clark made five saves, including a brilliant denial on the line in the 82nd minute, to bring Columbus back to life in the Eastern Conference playoff race on Saturday.
The 30-year-old American netminder earned his first clean sheet since June 18 against the Montreal Impact, and he helped the Crew pick up their first win since May 28.
Thanks to their three points on the road and results elsewhere going their way, the Crew enter the final weekend of August five points back of D.C. United in sixth place.
CB: Michael Parkhurst, Columbus Crew
The second key player in the Crew's vital 82nd-minute off-the-line clearance was Michael Parkhurst.
The American center-back fended off an incoming Juan Agudelo to help Clark preserve the clean sheet and keep the Revolution's comeback attempt from starting.
The 32-year-old defender made 11 clearances and a pair of tackles in the 2-0 victory in which Columbus kept out all six of New England's attempts on target.
If the Crew can find a way to put together a string of solid performances in the back, then they could sneak into the top six of the Eastern Conference just as the playoff race heats up.
CB: Jamison Olave, Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake relied on a contribution from their behemoth of a center-back on the offensive end of the field to pick up a critical 1-0 win over FC Dallas.
Jamison Olave powered a shot into the roof of the net in the 78th minute to hand the Claret and Cobalt three points at home over the top team in MLS.
Saturday's win in front of the RSL faithful at Rio Tinto Stadium placed RSL five points back of FC Dallas in the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield races.
CB: Drew Moor, Toronto FC
Toronto FC asserted their authority in the Eastern Conference with a 3-1 win over Philadelphia at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday.
Center-back Drew Moor dealt one of the two knockout blows to the hosts with his tally off a diving header in the 30th minute. Jozy Altidore's 44th-minute tally silenced Philadelphia for good.
The 32-year-old league veteran survived a physical battle on the defensive side of the pitch against C.J. Sapong, as he made six clearances and won four aerial duels.
The win by head coach Greg Vanney's men allowed them to keep pace with New York City FC in the race for first in the Eastern Conference. The Reds are one point behind City with 40 points.
RM: Jacob Peterson, Sporting Kansas City
The main highlight involving Jacob Peterson on Saturday revolved around him being in the right place at the right time on his 39th-minute strike.
Although the 30-year-old winger only made 39 touches in Sporting Kansas City's 2-0 win over Vancouver, he made an impact when he was on the ball.
Peterson put three of his four attempts on target and recorded a key pass for head coach Peter Vermes' side at Children's Mercy Park.
The victory pushed Sporting KC further away from the pack fighting for the final two Western Conference playoff positions. Sporting sit in fourth with 38 points after Saturday.
CM: Benny Feilhaber, Sporting Kansas City
Benny Feilhaber was at the center of one of the most controversial moments of the weekend as he scored from the spot after David Ousted was whistled for stepping over the goal line.
Feilhaber missed his original penalty kick in the 64th minute, but he was given another chance after Ousted jumped off his line to make the original save. The American took advantage of his second opportunity by slotting the ball into the left side of the net.
The 31-year-old central midfielder also picked up an assist on Peterson's opener as he provided the initial cross to Nuno Coelho on a corner kick.
CM: Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders
Cristian Roldan is rapidly moving himself into the United States men's national team discussion with his play in the middle of the park for the Sounders.
The 21-year-old, who is also eligible to play for Guatemala, set up Clint Dempsey's second strike of the match in the 80th minute before he scored in the 83rd.
Although the USMNT depth chart is crowded at central midfield, manager Jurgen Klinsmann would be wise to hand a call-up to an in-form young player who is ready to start building his future in the international game.
LM: David Accam, Chicago Fire
The Chicago Fire stunned the entire league with their 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo on Saturday.
The club's best player, David Accam, played a role in two of the three tallies earned by the worst team in the Eastern Conference.
Accam provided Luis Solignac with an assist on the first strike of the contest and then he deflected a shot into the back of the net in the 73rd minute to provide the Fire with some much-needed insurance.
Chicago's win on the road was its first since July 12, 2014, when it downed New England at Gillette Stadium.
FW: Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders
The Seattle Sounders are officially back.
Clint Dempsey led the latest step in the club's revival on Sunday as he bagged a brace in the 3-0 win over the Portland Timbers at CenturyLink Field.
The American knocked home his first tally of the contest from the spot in the 61st minute to put the Sounders into the lead for good.
Dempsey solidified three points for the Sounders in the 80th minute as he struck the bottom-right side of the net from just outside the top of the penalty area.
The win placed the once left for dead Sounders two points back of the Timbers for sixth place in the Western Conference.
FW: Luis Solignac, Chicago Fire
Chicago's trade for Luis Solignac at the end of the summer transfer window reaped rewards on Saturday in the club's unlikely victory.
The 25-year-old Argentinian, who was acquired from Colorado, beat Evan Bush from the left side of the box in the 15th minute for his first tally in a Fire shirt.
Solignac continued to be a key cog in the Fire machine throughout the contest as he remained active in the final third against one of the teams expected to qualify for the postseason out of the Eastern Conference.
As crazy as it sounds, the Fire are only six points back of sixth place in the East following their win in Quebec.
FW: Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
Bradley Wright-Phillips extended his terrific string of form into Sunday in the New York Red Bulls' Atlantic Cup match against D.C. United.
The Englishman scored his 15th goal of the season from close range in the 38th minute to hand the visiting side at RFK Stadium a one-goal advantage.
Wright-Phillips also played a role in the second goal of the match in the 64th minute as he found Felipe with a pass from the right side of the box.
The 31-year-old striker has six goals in his last five games for head coach Jesse Marsch's side.
GK: Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
CB: Jefferson Mena (New York City FC)
LB: Ronald Matarrita (New York City FC)
RM: Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew)
CM: Matt Polster (Chicago Fire)
FW: Patrick Mullins (D.C. United)
FW: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.