Thierry Henry (above), 34, played 262 minutes in a six-day span to help the New York Red Bulls earn seven crucial points.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
In the heart of transfer season, with big-name signings taking place all over the world, here is a Designated Player-heavy look back at Week 20 in MLS:
1. MLS: Country for Old Men
For all of the gripes and complaints that Thierry Henry and David Beckham hear for either getting special treatment or not being able to play multiple games on short rest, the two DP elder statesmen and MLS All-Stars deserve a tip of the cap for their performances and grit over the last week. Henry and Beckham each labored through three-game weeks, helping carry their squads to important seven-point hauls in those games and further solidifying their places in the postseason hunt.
The 34-year-old Henry played 262 minutes in a six-day span, doing so while coming off assorted hamstring and calf injuries that caused him to miss seven games since the end of April. He broke his extended scoring drought with a highlight-reel volley from a tight angle against Chicago, and capped his week with a pinpoint cross for Kenny Cooper's second goal against Philadelphia, proving his All-Star worth days before he is slated to take on Chelsea. The fact that all three games were at Red Bull Arena made playing in all three more manageable, but playing nearly all of Wednesday's matinee against the Fire in brutally hot temperatures and on two days rest was a surprise development and reinforced Henry's commitment to the club.
On the other end of the continent, the 37-year-old Beckham also played 262 minutes, doing so in a seven-day span. More unusual for Beckham, though, is that he played two games away from home on non-grass surfaces and emerged no worse for the wear. He posted three goals and four assists in wins over Portland and Chivas USA and a last-gasp draw against Vancouver. With his goal against Vancouver, he set his personal high for goals in an MLS season with six, and the Galaxy still have 12 games to go. After playing inconsistently and sluggishly for the first half of the season and being snubbed by the Team Great Britain Olympic soccer squad, Beckham is back to his Best XI form of 2011. Coincidentally, so, too, are the Galaxy.
2. TFC states intentions with Hassli trade
Toronto FC is not going down without a fight.
The club could have easily just called it a day on this season, one that appeared to be a lost cause after a historically poor start that resulted in a coaching change and a recent turnaround that was met with the loss of star striker Danny Koevermans to a torn ACL. Instead, the Reds have made a statement that they won't rest until they are mathematically eliminated by going out and trading for lumbering striker Eric Hassli Friday night to fill Koevermans' role going forward.
That TFC went out to acquire him by giving up a 2014 first-round pick and an international roster slot shows its commitment to winning now, something that must be a refreshing development for TFC fans who have suffered for the majority of the franchise's MLS life. Even though Hassli has not proven to be as nearly as efficient as Koevermans in his time in MLS (12 goals in 44 games compared to Koevermans' 17 goals in 26 games), he is still capable of being as dynamic a player and as much as a handful for opposing center backs with his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame.
TFC still sits in last place, 12 points out of a playoff spot with 14 games to go while needing to make up ground on five teams, so the likelihood of reaching the postseason is still faint. But the deal keeps the club relevant and resurgent under Paul Mariner, who has transformed the culture and aura around the club in a very brief time and is 4-2-4 in his first 10 games at the helm.
For Vancouver, the trade marked the second straight Friday night that the Whitecaps completed a blockbuster deal, with this one coming on the heels of trading Sebastien Le Toux to New York for Dane Richards and allocation money. The addition of Scottish DP striker Kenny Miller made Hassli expendable and was the latest in a line of personnel moves that shows that, despite having success, Martin Rennie was far from satisfied with the roster he inherited upon taking over as coach.
3. Impact's Di Vaio still scoreless
The Montreal Impact are still waiting on Marco Di Vaio to fulfill his end of the DP deal.
Di Vaio Watch is now at seven games and counting without a goal, and the forward who scored 65 goals in his last four seasons at Serie A club Bologna appears to be pressing. Always looking to get in behind the defense, Di Vaio has been caught offside 12 times while forcing the issue, and the Impact's attack has sputtered as a result. In his seven games, Montreal has just six goals and has been shut out in three of those matches.
Prior to Di Vaio's arrival, Bernardo Corradi was carrying the load up top until he tore his ACL, and after he went down, rookie Andrew Wenger took the torch and scored in a pair of games before missing time with a hamstring injury. His pending return will help provide support for the 36-year-old Di Vaio, who has been the focal point of Montreal's attack but has yet to deliver.
Montreal had a golden chance to get Di Vaio going in a mid-week win over New England after Sanna Nyassi drew a first-half penalty. As he has done for the club this season, Patrice Bernier did the honors from the penalty spot and converted. With the club looking to get Di Vaio going, though, one can't help but wonder whether Bernier and coach Jesse Marsch should have deferred to the Italian veteran to get him on the score sheet.
It is nothing new for foreign DPs to come to MLS and take a little while to find their bearings. D.C. United's Hamdi Salihi, for example, didn't score until 10 games into this season, and he is up to five goals while playing a mostly reserve role. Like Salihi, Di Vaio's track record indicates that his time will come, but it may arrive too late for the Impact in their expansion year, with the club seven points behind fifth-place Chicago while having played three more games.
4. RIP Jack Reyna
The U.S. Soccer community was saddened Thursday with the passing of Jack Reyna, the 13-year-old son of former U.S. national team captain, first American DP and current U.S. Soccer youth technical director Claudio Reyna. Jack had been battling brain cancer for two years before his tragic passing.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Reyna family during this most difficult time, and anyone who wishes to lend support for the Reynas can make a donation in Jack's honor to The Making Headway Foundation (makingheadway.org), a charity dedicated toward children with brain and spinal cord tumors.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Bill Gaudette (New York Red Bulls)
Defenders: Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Boswell (Houston Dynamo), Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders: David Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Barry Robson (Vancouver Whitecaps), Marvin Chavez (San Jose Earthquakes), Jackson (FC Dallas)
Forwards: Calen Carr (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)
|Week 20 MLS Power Rankings|
||San Jose Earthquakes (W/L/T: 13-5-4)
The Earthquakes may have four All-Stars, but the club is limping a bit into MLS' clash with Chelsea on Wednesday. The Earthquakes were fortunate to not have settled for a draw with FC Dallas after a last-second miss from the penalty spot, and their late-game heroics never came in Vancouver Sunday night. If Chris Wondolowski misses out on Roy Lassiter's goal record by one, he can have a long look at fellow teammate and All-Star Justin Morrow, whose needless encroachment on Wondolowski's PK against FCD wiped a goal off the board.
||New York Red Bulls (11-5-5)
Wins over Chicago and Philadelphia have the Red Bulls atop the Eastern Conference standings, with the club returning to the formula of more unheralded performances by Dax McCarty and Connor Lade being combined with a Thierry Henry-Kenny Cooper-led attack to get the job done. Sebastien Le Toux's recent acquisition stole the headlines, but the work done by Bill Gaudette has been equally important, with the veteran goalkeeper turning in consecutive clean sheets to account for a seven-point week.
||Sporting Kansas City (11-6-4)
A home slip-up cost SKC its place atop the East, with the club failing to get a goal by Matt Reis and New England at Livestrong Sporting Park. The lack of quality chances on goal is cause for concern for Sporting KC, which is not getting the same night-in, night-out greatness from playmaker Graham Zusi that had been a given earlier on in the season.
||Real Salt Lake (12-7-3)
The Rocky Mountain Cup will stay at Rio Tinto Stadium after a pair of opportunistic goals buried the rival Colorado Rapids -- a win made more impressive considering that RSL got the job done without suspended captain Kyle Beckerman. The match was a prime example of how difficult RSL can be to beat when streaky strikers Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola are both on their games.
||Houston Dynamo (9-5-7)
The club's floundering attack has come alive with the shift to a 4-3-3, scoring nine goals in the last three games. DP right winger Oscar Boniek Garcia has made all the difference for Houston, but so too have undervalued forwards Mac Kandji and Calen Carr, who have combined for four goals in the last two matches. The club is thriving despite the looming Geoff Cameron transfer, going unbeaten in six matches, including three straight wins.
||D.C. United (10-7-3)
A frustrating July is over for D.C., which only had two matches during the month and lost them both without registering a goal while falling from first to fourth place in the East. The loss to the Crew comes two weeks before the club's next league game -- a rematch with Columbus that kicks off a hectic August. Prior to that, though, is a visit from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his new friends, as French power Paris-St. Germain invades RFK Stadium.
||Chicago Fire (9-7-4)
The Fire missed out on a golden chance to solidify their place in the playoff picture, dropping three points to New York and remaining at the edge of postseason positioning instead. The lack of a killer instinct when Sebastian Grazzini is not on the field is quite noticeable, and even if he has defensive shortcomings, the club is much better off when the Argentine playmaker get his chances to create.
||Seattle Sounders (8-5-7)
Some say these mid-summer friendlies are nothing more than cash grabs, but Fredy Montero rediscovering his scoring touch in the Sounders' loss to Chelsea is a positive development for a club in need of someone else beside Eddie Johnson to put the ball in the back of the net with regularity.
||Vancouver Whitecaps (9-6-7)
The Whitecaps likely should have had a two-win week, but succumbing to two super L.A. goals meant getting just one point from their mid-week matchup. New DP arrival Barry Robson is finding his comfort zone in MLS after a rocky beginning, turning in his best two performances as a Whitecap thus far aganst L.A. and San Jose.
||Los Angeles Galaxy (9-10-3)
After another game in which the team's three-headed DP monster did some serious damage, claims that the champs are back are becoming much more legitimate. On the other end of the player spectrum, how about the debut goal by 18-year-old Jose Villarreal? There is talent in the pipeline for when the reign of Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Robbie Keane is over.
||Columbus Crew (7-7-4)
Chris Birchall hardly scores goals -- two in four years in MLS to be exact -- but his match-winner against D.C. United keeps Columbus in the hunt for the fifth and final playoff spot in the East. The Crew have two games in hand on fifth-place Chicago and trail by six points. Both face daunting tasks this weekend, with Columbus going to Sporting KC and Chicago playing at San Jose.
||New England Revolution (6-9-5)
For a team that has struggled mightily on the road, the Revs did well to squeak a point out of a trip to Livestrong Sporting Park and put an end to a two-game losing skid. New England is at a perilous point in its schedule, though, needing a win over resurgent Philadelphia this coming Sunday just to keep pace with the teams ahead while avoiding the hard-charging Union and Toronto FC, who are making things interesting at the bottom of the conference standings.
||Philadelphia Union (6-10-2)
The Union's three-game winning streak ended at Red Bull Arena, where Freddy Adu's non-injury absence raised questions as to the whereabouts of the club's playmaker. Perhaps some answers will arise as the eyes of the league turn to Philadelphia and PPL Park for Wednesday's MLS All-Star Game.
||Chivas USA (6-8-5)
The Goats' four-game unbeaten run is over after a loss at the hands of the rival Galaxy, one that puts a dent in the club's charge for a playoff spot. If Chivas get the maximum points from their three games in hand on the Galaxy, then they can feasibly topple their cross-locker-room foes, but with a league-worst attack that has mustered just 13 goals, that seems like a longshot.
||Montreal Impact (7-13-3)
Sanna Nyassi's game-winning, near-post volley against the Revs Wednesday was of the utmost quality, almost a mirror image of Juan Mata's volley against Manchester United this past season in England. While that delivered another home win for the Impact, the club's 1-10-1 away from home is ultimately becoming its albatross and something that will prevent the side from reaching the playoffs in its expansion year.
||FC Dallas (5-10-7)
FCD's five-goal outburst against Portland was the first time the club scored more than two all season, and it showed how the club came together after the on-going Brek Shea saga took an odd turn with his spat with coach Schellas Hyndman in a mid-week loss to San Jose leading to his absence from the matchday roster Saturday night. FCD just needs to make sure Jair Benitez -- he of the no goals in 84 MLS matches -- comes nowhere near a penalty kick ever again.
||Colorado Rapids (7-13-1)
With losses in seven of eight games, the Rapids are drowning at an alarming rate. Their drop is a pretty stunning development considering that this roster is arguably more talented and deep than the one that captured the 2010 MLS Cup, but a handful of uncharacteristic defensive blunders in recent matches has ultimately led to the club's downfall. On a sad, off-field note, RIP Marisa Colaiano, the club's senior manager of community relations who lost her battle with Multiple Sclerosis this past week.
||Toronto FC (5-11-4)
This team is rallying around Paul Mariner, and the acquisition of Eric Hassli gives the club a bruising target up top to replace the injured Danny Koevermans. Defensive reinforcements are still necessary, and the club may have too big of a hill to climb to end its postseason drought this year, but what Mariner has done to change that team's outlook is nothing short of spectacular.
||Portland Timbers (5-11-4)
The Timbers have all the looks of a team that has thrown in the towel. Conceding five goals to goal-starved FC Dallas, not to mention the manner in which the goals were allowed, was downright inexcusable, as was leaving Kris Boyd on the bench to start the game. The passionate Rose City faithful look like they're in for a rough four months ahead.