Week 16 of the 2021 Major League Soccer season has passed us by, but not without producing some stunning individual performances along the way.
From homegrowns to European imports, all manner of player have their say in this compelling, unpredictable league.
So, who were the best performers from the weekend? Let’s take a look.
Though they came from a goal behind, Philadelphia Union won’t be best pleased with their 1-1 draw against a Chicago Fire side with just nine away wins in MLS since 2014. Not least because the visitors had to cope with 10 men for 56 minutes after Wyatt Omsberg was dismissed.
It could have been much worse for the Union if not for the efforts of Kai Wagner. The German left-back was rock-solid defensively again, making three tackles and one interception, while ensuring not a single Fire player managed to dribble past him.
But it was his work in the final third that really caught the eye, with Wagner using his expertise from set-pieces to create no fewer than five chances on the day. Indeed, it was his free-kick – smartly drilled under the wall – which levelled the game in the 36th minute.
If we’re being polite, Gonzalo Higuain’s time in MLS so far has been a mixed bag. Fitness issues and wretched form from his teammates have combined to deny the Argentine his best form, but Saturday was definitely a night for him to cherish against CF Montreal.
Having gone 1-0 down to a first-half Joaquin Torres own goal, Higuain put Inter Miami on his back and dragged them to a first victory since May 16th with a second-half brace.
First, he helped older brother Federico win a penalty shortly after the break, feeding the ball the 36-year-old who was then clipped by Zorhan Bassong. Higuain made no mistake from the resulting spot-kick, sending James Pantemis the wrong way.
And just 20 minutes later, Higuain fired the Herons into the lead. Some relentless Miami pressing forced a mistake from Montreal’s Rudy Camacho and although Higauin’s left-footed effort was initially saved by Pantemis, its sheer power meant the goalkeeper could only temporarily keep it from going over the line.
After blowing us all away with his creative exploits at the end of last season, Emanuel Reynoso has suffered an underwhelming start to the 2021 campaign with no assists and just one goal across his opening 12 appearances.
But those totals now stand at two apiece with Reynoso finding the net against LAFC, either side of assists against Portland Timbers and, most recently, Vancouver Whitecaps, slipping the ball through to Ethan Finlay who made it 1-1 in an eventual 2-2 draw.
But the assist was just the tip of the iceberg for Reynoso’s performance, with the 25-year-old creating six of Minnesota’s 11 chances on the night, while he also completed a match-high five dribbles, helping the Loons drive forward with the ball.
The most striking thing about Reynoso is, despite all his creativity, he’s also a willing defender and, indeed, the Argentine ended the night with four tackles, perfectly illustrating that work rate.
Paxton Pomykal says he’s getting back to his best and if his performance during FC Dallas’ 2-1 win away at Sporting Kansas City at the weekend is anything to go by, he’s quite right.
The 21-year-old opened the scoring inside three minutes with a wonderful effort from the edge of the box, opening up his body to create space before drilling a powerful shot beyond Jimmy Maurer.
But Pomykal didn’t stop there. During his 77 minutes on the pitch, the one-capped U.S international showed both sides of his game, creating two chances while also making five tackles, two clearances and one interception.
Pomykal never at simply playing the odd nice pass here and there. He brings 100% for his team every single time and it’s no surprise to see Dallas picking up form just as he gets back to his best.
There’s a logjam at right-back for the United States right now, which is likely why Julian Araujo keeping his options open and refusing to rule out Mexico.
The 19-year-old was absolutely sensational for the Galaxy during their 4-1 win over Portland Timbers at the weekend, using his attacking thrust to provide two assists from three chances created while completing three of his four attempted dribbles.
Of course, Araujo kept things on lock defensively, too, and with form like this, Gregg Berhalter and Tata Martino might well end up fighting over the youngster in the near future.
Arguably more than any European import in MLS right now, Nani gets it. The Portuguese veteran would run through a brick wall for Orlando City if he could, such is his obvious commitment to the cause.
Of course, trying hard is nothing without talent, but Nani has plenty of that as well, and he showed it in Orlando’s 3-2 comeback win over fierce rivals Atlanta United.
Having already provided the corner that allowed Antonio Carlos to make it 1-1 in the first half, Nani finished the game in style with a diving header in the 87th minute, smart movement allowing the 34-year-old to get between the Atlanta centre-backs.
Nani now has eight goals and five assists in 2021 and is once again Orlando City’s talisman.
Is there a better MVP candidate than Carles Gil in MLS right now? If so, we’d like to know about him!
The Spaniard provided his 10th and 11th assists of the season as New England Revolution came from behind to beat New York Red Bulls 3-2 at the weekend, creating a further three chances in what was yet another sensational creative display.
Gil forced the issue all game, completing a match-high three dribbles and attempting three shots of his own, while his ability to drive the ball forward from deep meant the Red Bulls simply could not overcommit.
The Revs might well go on to seal the Supporters’ Shield come the end of the season and if they do, there’s no end to the credit Gil will deserve.
Honourable mentions: Valentin Castellanos, Keaton Parks, Gustavo Bou, Cristian Dajome, Thiago Andrade, Alec Kann