The French forward is having himself an MVP-caliber season so far.Week six looks like it will be one of the best weeks of the MLS season, as several top teams face off against each other. Arguably the top two teams in the league will match up, as Real Salt Lake will take on Sporting Kansas City, which could very well be an MLS Cup preview.
Also taking place this weekend will be the New York Red Bulls hosting the San Jose Earthquakes. The match will feature the top three goal scorers on the season, with New York’s Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper welcoming San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski to town.
Not coincidentally, the three forwards make up the top group in this week’s Best XI. In addition to those forwards, an up-and-coming team in Chivas USA made its way onto the team, represented twice throughout the roster. Also, a rookie head coach makes his debut on the team, leading his team to a historic win.
Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls: Henry is nearing a permanent spot in the Best XI, after yet another impressive performance against Columbus. He added two goals and an assist to his amazing start to 2012. Through five games, he is on pace for 47 goals. While that is unlikely, winning the Golden Boot, especially if he continues his form as of late, seems very likely.
Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes: Coming into Saturday’s match, the Vancouver Whitecaps had yet to allow goal all season. 23 minutes into the second half, Wondolowski ended the Whitecaps’ record-breaking streak of 427 minutes without allowing a goal to start a season. Ten minutes later, he bagged a brace after knocking in a Tressor Moreno free kick.
Kenny Cooper, New York Red Bulls: Coming into the season, there was plenty of skepticism regarding the Red Bulls’ decision to acquire Cooper from Portland. Just five games into the season, Cooper is erasing all doubts. After notching two goals in the first half against Columbus, Cooper took the lead in the Golden Boot standings, albeit it was only for a few minutes, as teammate Thierry Henry stole the spot after netting two later in the game.
Ryan Smith, Chivas USA: A halftime substitution, Smith did not take long to take hold of the match in Portland, as he knocked in a dangerous cross in the 47th minute to Alejandro Moreno, who headed in the goal. He notched a second assist, which proved to be the game-winner, later in the match. The former Arsenal Gunner, who made his way to MLS two years ago for Sporting Kansas City, has yet to experience consistent success since joining the league.
Luis Gil, Real Salt Lake: While stars Kyle Beckerman and Fabian Espindola have had their share of the spotlight this season, Gil has shown to be the catalyst. Gil was seen all over the field against Colorado, which struggled with Real Salt Lake’s efficiency on offense. He also had an assist in the match, one which in the end seems questionable, as Espindola seemed to knock the cross down with his arm.
Kei Kamara, Sporting Kansas City: Another impressive display on Saturday came from Sporting Kansas City, which is off to a spectacular 5-0-0 start. Facing the Los Angeles Galaxy at Livestrong Park, SKC put on a clinic, which was most evident with Kamara’s header to take the lead in the 40th minute. On the breakaway, Bobby Convey found an open Kamara, who shook past Galaxy defender Sean Franklin to head in the goal.
Seth Sinovic, Sporting Kansas City: Teammate Kamara may have knocked in the winning goal, Sinovic was just as crucial on Saturday. Despite being a left back, Sinovic was moving up field quite a bit, which caused the Galaxy fits. In addition to the constant formation changes, Sinovic and co. shut out the Galaxy offense, as they were unable to register a shot on goal.
Ugo Ihemelu, FC Dallas: With FC Dallas looking at a draw against New England at home on Thursday, Ihemelu knocked in the game-winning goal in the final seconds of the match. After consistently stopping Saer Sene on the night, Ihemelu was dealing with cramps throughout the second half. He decided to stay in, which proved to be the right decision, as he headed in the winning goal for FC Dallas’ second win on the year.
Heath Pearce, Chivas USA: The former Portland Pilot returned home and left Jeld-Wen field with his Chivas USA side a winner. Aside from a mistake from James Riley, who was run into by Dan Kennedy, which allowed the Timbers’ Kris Boyd to score, Chivas kept the Timbers out of the box. Pearce was a large reason why.
Tony Beltran, Real Salt Lake: The right back notched his second assist of the season, knocking in a beautiful cross to Alvaro Saborio to take the lead. Along with Jamison Olave, the pair kept Rapids forward Omar Cummings from doing much of anything throughout the match, as RSL was able to impose its will on its Rocky Mountain rivals.
Michael Gspurning, Seattle Sounders: The Austrian had huge shoes to fill coming into this season, as he replaced legendary keeper Kasey Keller. DC United was coming off an impressive win over FC Dallas the week prior and looked dangerous. Even though the Sounders were unable to score, Gspurning lead Seattle at RFK Stadium and allowed them to leave with a point in the scoreless draw.
Bench: Fabian Espindola (Real Salt Lake), Nick DeLeon (DC United), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), A.J. Soares (New England Revolution), Ramiro Corrales (San Jose Earthquakes), Donovan Ricketts (Montreal Impact)
Jesse Marsch, Montreal Impact: The former MLS midfielder led the expansion Montreal Impact to their first win on Saturday, defeating Canadian rivals Toronto FC at Olympic Stadium. After losing to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, Marsch made multiple changes, including starting Sinisa Ubiparipovic in the midfield, which paid immediate dividends. The Bosnian scored the game’s opening goal, followed by number one draft pick Andrew Wenger knocking in his first career goal. Yes, a win over Toronto won’t clinch a playoff spot, but the first win in Impact history is still something to celebrate.
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