Week 19 brought about the start of MLS Rivalry Week and already, the drama has been high.
LAFC pulled off a dramatic 3-2 win over El Trafico foes LA Galaxy with Gareth Bale in the stands and Giorgio Chiellini on the bench. Another of the Friday night games saw the Philadelphia Union put seven past DC United, breaking a few MLS and club records in the process.
And on Saturday, the Seattle Sounders flexed their Concacaf Champions League win by unveiling a banner, only to have their party spoiled by the Portland Timbers, who traveled 170 miles back up the I-5 highway with a 3-0 victory.
Let’s try to make a little more sense of the drama with a look back at the top five players from Week 19:
Despite turning 35 in April, Alejandro Bedoya is having himself another great season.
The midfielder Philadelphia Union captain opened the scoring and added the fourth to help his side race into a 5-0 half-time lead on Friday – which, of course, they extended to 7-0.
Bedoya’s first saw him creep behind the DC United defense to meet a Jose Martinez pass, while his second was an instinctive header at the near post from a Kai Wagner delivery.
Goals aside, Bedoya provided excellent balance and thrust throughout his 73 minutes on the pitch in another performance that rolled back the years.
Derrick Etienne only came on at half-time for the Columbus Crew in Chicago on Saturday, but that’s all he needed to wreak havoc.
With his team 2-0 down, Etienne first met Lucas Zelarayan’s excellent pass behind the Fire defense to pull one back on 63 minutes, before starting and finishing a flowing team move in the 75th.
That set the stage perfectly for debutant and fellow substitute Cucho Hernandez to bag the winner with his first-ever Crew goal.
For the second game in a row, Valentin Castellanos helped himself to a brace as NYCFC beat the New England Revolution 4-2 in an end-to-end encounter.
The Argentine striker is the subject of transfer interest from Europe, as reported by 90min, and has admitted himself that he’s ready to make the jump.
Castellanos did his chances of earning that move no harm on Saturday in a performance where he won one penalty which he missed, but then won another and scored just 10 minutes later, before completing a well-deserved brace late on.
Taty’s movement and willingness to disrupt the Revs defense made him a constant threat throughout – as he always is.
The MLS Golden Boot holder is now the outright leader once again.
With Bale in the stands and Chiellini on the bench, there was a chance LAFC would get drowned by narratives in their Trafico clash with the Galaxy.
That was avoided, though, thanks largely to the efforts of Jose Cifuentes.
The Ecuador international was his usual robust self in midfield, making a quite remarkable nine tackles, as well as 13 recoveries, and two interceptions.
But it was at the other end where Cifuentues was most impressive, finding himself unmarked to score two headers, twice giving LAFC the lead in a game where their rivals just wouldn’t go away.
A man-of-the-match performance in, arguably, the league’s biggest rivalry; Cifuentes’ star continues to rise.
“Not once, not twice, but thrice.”
Homer Simpson didn’t get the message, but Julian Carranza certainly did as he helped himself to a hat-trick in that 7-0 win for the Union.
The pick of the bunch was undoubtedly his first to make it 2-0, pulling off a spectacular bicycle kick that showed no mercy to a miserable DC United defense.
But Carranza didn’t stop there, grabbing another two poacher’s goals to complete his hat-trick.
It was the sort of devastating attacking display that we’re becoming more used to seeing from Carranza since he swapped Inter Miami for the Philadelphia Union. Long may it continue.
Honorable mentions: Mikael Uhre, Ethan Finlay, Jaroslaw Niezgoda, Rayan Raveloson, Carlos Vela, Sergio Ruiz.