Week 16 of the 2022 MLS season is in the books and we’re about to hit the halfway point of the campaign.
LAFC stole the headlines but not for their 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls, which enhanced their position atop the overall standings. No, the Black and Gold only went and secured the signing of Welsh superstar Gareth Bale, who will join alongside Giorgio Chiellini in July.
Elsewhere, the Philadelphia Union beat reigning champs NYCFC 2-1 in a dramatic encounter at Subaru Park and the Seattle Sounders continued their recent upturn with a 3-0 thrashing of Sporting Kansas City.
Who were the players that made all this happen? Read on for our top five from week 16:
Matt Turner is now officially an Arsenal player, leaving Djordje Petrovic with some pretty big boots (and gloves) to fill.
Across his first three games for the New England Revolution, Petrovic conceded just three goals and helped his team remain unbeaten with two wins and a draw. But Sunday evening’s 0-0 draw away at the Vancouver Whitecaps was by far his best.
To keep a clean sheet, Petrovic had to make six saves from shots totalling 1.86 xGOT, keeping out a number of efforts he simply had no right to. The Serbian also looked assured with the ball, completed 25 of his 26 passes – including four out of five long balls.
“He played very well. He might have been the player of the match,” head coach Bruce Arena said of Petrovic, adding: “He made a couple of big saves in the second half. He’s doing very well. He’s going to be a very good goalkeeper.”
As mentioned, the Sounders are now hitting form with only MLS play to focus on, with SKC their latest victims at Lumen Field.
There were a number of standout performers in rave green, including Jordan Morris and Yeimar Gomez. But the pick of the bunch was probably Cristian Roldan.
The USMNT midfielder got things going early with a beautiful cross for Will Bruin’s opener on eight minutes – one of three chances created – and added a goal of his own in the 76th, finishing off a sweeping Sounders counter-attack.
But Roldan also completely shut down SKC’s left flank, making five tackles, four recoveries, and one interception.
Roldan’s switch to the right flank continues to look like an inspired move by Brian Schmetzer, with the midfielder excelling on both sides of the ball.
As you can see from the above tweet, Hany Mukhtar is once again tearing Major League Soccer to shreds.
The former Germany youth international got to work on DC United over the weekend, scoring twice to help Nashville SC run out 3-1 winners at Audi Field.
By his own standards, you could say Mukhtar was quite frustrating at times on Saturday, failing to create any chances or find success with his two attempted dribbles. And yet, the 27-year-old still managed to find two goals to deliver the win for Nashville.
That’s what MVP-level quality does.
The Portland Timbers have conceded a lot of goals this season, which makes their need for a regular goalscorer even bigger.
Jaroslaw Niezgoda is one of their most likely candidates but prior to week 16, had just three goals to his name. But the Polish striker extended that to five, helping himself to a brace in the Timbers’ 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids.
His first was an excellent takedown and finish from a long Bill Tuiloma ball behind the Colorado defense, making it 2-0 after Sebastian Blanco’s penalty. Niezgoda’s second saw him arrive at the back post to tap home Eryk Williamson’s delivery.
With Felipe Mora struggling back from knee surgery, the Timbers need more of this from Niezgoda.
Indiana Vassilev was only on the pitch for just over seven minutes against Minnesota United on Saturday, but that’s all he needed.
The Aston Villa loanee turned a third of his six touches of the ball into goals, equalizing in the 87th minute and then finding a winner in the 90th after Inter Miami had trailed since Luis Amarilla’s 65th-minute opener.
For the record, Vassilev is the first player in MLS history to score both a game-tying and game-winning goal after coming into the game in the 80th minute or later.
“I’m really, really proud of Indiana,” head coach Phil Neville said. “Since he’s come in, he’s totally livened up the place again. He’s a really good kid.”
A literally perfect substitute’s appearance.
Honorable mentions: Jose Martinez, Jordan Morris, Bill Tuiloma, Diego Palacios, Jonathan Bell, Justen Glad.