Inside MLS Team of the Week: Week 15
Goalkeeper: Stefan Frei (Seattle Sounders)
Seattle spent much of the first half on the back foot at CenturyLink Field. Frei played his part with a stunning, one-handed stop on Kyle Bekker shortly before halftime to allow Sounders FC to enter the break on level terms and retool in time for the second half. His contributions paved the way for yet another victory. Orlando City goalkeeper Tally Hall and New England starter Bobby Shuttleworth also provided steady presences as their sides registered shutouts at the weekend.
Defenders: Rafael Ramos (Orlando City), Aurelien Collin (Orlando City), Sean St. Ledger (Orlando City), Chris Wingert (New York City FC)
Orlando City places three out of the four members of its back four in the side this week after the shutout against D.C. United. … Ramos earns his place primarily through his overlapping endeavors on the right. His willingness to push forward created a necessary outlet and posed a consistent threat for the home side on the night. … Collin and St. Ledger form an uncompromising duo in the heart of the Orlando City defense. Both men coped well on the night with the particularly prickly threat presented by Fabian Espindola and established a firm base of operations. Their efforts played a large part in Orlando City’s first victory over D.C. United in three attempts. … New York City FC spent much of its time pushing forward on the left side of the field in the 3-1 victory over Montréal on Saturday. Wingert offered his usual, reliable presence in that position. The emergence of Shay Facey at center back allowed the veteran fullback to slide into a more comfortable spot a few weeks ago. His recent performances show the importance of those alterations.
Midfielders: Ned Grabavoy (New York City FC), Scott Caldwell (New England Revolution), Federico Higuain (Columbus Crew SC), Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution)
Tidy work in possession offers the common trait between the four midfielders included in the team this week. … Grabavoy plays a critical role in the recent success of NYCFC’s midfield diamond. He continually places himself in intelligent positions to retain possession adroitly. His precision in tight spaces (88.9 percent pass completion in the attacking half against Montréal, per Opta statistics) makes him a critical component for NYCFC’s deft work on the ball. … Caldwell continues to impress with his quietly effective work at the base of the Revolution midfield. He slides seamlessly from spot to spot and locates players in the correct positions. New England isn’t a particularly effective team in possession -- their best work is often done when the tempo is higher and the focus falls on playing quick combinations -- inside the attacking half, but there is a good base in place when the highest usage player (46 passes against the Fire) also completes his passes at such a high rate (91.3 percent passing accuracy). … Higuain routinely influences games with his incisiveness and his movement. He did not hit his usual lofty standards, but his uptick after the break ushered Crew SC toward a critical 1-1 draw against LA Galaxy. His goal ultimately lifted his side to a point, though he owed a portion of the ultimate success to good work from Ethan Finlay in the buildup. … Fagundez submitted his best overall match of the season in the Revolution’s 2-0 victory over Chicago. He linked up well with Lee Nguyen (another player with perhaps his most complete showing of the season against the Fire) and presented a mobile threat to the Fire defense. His sweetly struck volley and his clever chest trap in the buildup to the second punctuated a fine performance and ushered the Revs toward three vital points.
Forwards: Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders), David Villa (New York City FC)
Martins climbed off the bench in the second half and turned the game. His impressive goal -- a post-up move worthy of the NBA Finals, a clever turn and an immaculate finish -- salted away the game at 2-0. His robust hold-up work paved the way for Leo Gonzalez to round off the night in some style. Both moves reinforced Martins’ ability to use his low center of gravity and his willingness to do all of the hard work off the ball to make his side better. … Villa benefited once again from all of the tidy work in possession, but he consistently moved into positions where he could make the best use of it. The former Spanish international drifted free to turn home Mehdi Ballouchy’s inviting square pass without a Montréal defender in sight. His willing run in the late stages prompted Kwadwo Poku’s first MLS goal to secure the points.