[MLS: Starting XI] MLS has new leaders: New York in the Eastern Conference and Seattle in the Western Conference. They got winning goals over the weekend from Thierry Henry, back in the good graces of Red Bulls coach Mike Petke, and Obafemi Martins, back in the Sounders' lineup after missing the last four games with an ankle sprain. Here's who we'll be talking about and hope to hear from on Monday ...
11. VICENTE SANCHEZ. The Uruguayan,
whose mid-season arrival was overshadowed by Colorado's signing of Panamanian Gold Cup star Gabriel Torres, was involved in both goals as the Rapids moved into
third place in Western Conference with a 2-1 comeback win over FC Dallas. He took advantage of ball headed into his path by FC Dallas midfielder Je-Vaughn
Watson to even the score with his first MLS goal and then Dallas defender Matt Hedges knocked his cross into the Dallas goal to give Rapids the win.
10. CLINT IRWIN. Few goalies have broken into the starting lineup at an MLS club with as little experience as Irwin had. He spent the last two seasons in the Canadian
Soccer League and USL PRO before joining Colorado in 2013. Thrust into the starting role when Matt Perkins was injured and backup Steward Ceus got off to a shaky start, the 24-year-old Irwin ranks second in MLS with a 1.00 goals-against average and has already tied a club season record with 10 shutouts. He didn't
get a shutout against Dallas but made a huge save on Jair Benitez late in the game to preserve the Rapids' 2-1 win.
9. FEDERICO HIGUAIN. Once again, the Argentine showed why he among MLS's most dangerous players,
setting up both goals as Columbus came back to win, 2-1, at Montreal, keeping its slim playoff hopes alive and knocking the Impact out of first place in the Eastern Conference.
8. KELYN ROWE. New England teammates Diego Fagundez and Juan Agudelo may have gotten
more attention, but you can't ignore Rowe, who has shown an uncanny ability to strike from distance. His shot from 25 yards was deflected and beat Sean Johnson
in the Revs' 3-2 loss to Chicago for his fifth goal in the last first games.
7. CALEB PORTER. The first-year MLS coach will need to light a fire
under the Portland Timbers after they only managed a 1-1 tie at Chivas USA that dropped them into fifth place in the Western Conference. He certainly tried his best to get the attention of his players
from the sidelines. "To come out and make multiple amateur mistakes all over the field is just unacceptable at this point in the season," Porter told the Oregonian after the game. "It is surprising and it's not good."
6. JAY DEMERIT. It was thought that a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the 2013 opener meant the end of the season for the
Vancouver Whitecaps captain. But the 33-year-old center back whom 'Caps coach Martin Rennie had said earlier in the week was not ready to come back came on late
in the first half for injured Brad Rusin and helped Vancouver earn a 0-0 tie at San Jose. DeMerit's comeback could not have come at a more important time for
Vancouver, which was missing Johnny Leveron and Andy O'Brien, both also out with injuries.
5. OMAR GONZALEZ. This has been a big year for Gonzalez. The Galaxy made him the
first American defender to earn a Designated Player contract, and he has nailed down a starting job on the U.S. national team -- he's the only player to play every minute in the Hexagonal -- but he
continues to confound with momentary lapses that have cost the Galaxy. The latest: he was pick-pocketed by Chris Pontius late in the first half of the Galaxy's
game at D.C. United for the first of two times United came back as it earned a 2-2 tie.
4. BRUCE ARENA. The Galaxy coach is at his absolute best
when you can get him on an off-day to talk about all things MLS. Steven Goff of the Washington Post sat down with Arena at his D.C. hotel the day before the Galaxy's game
against United. Among the tidbits: reducing the number of MLS games doesn't make economic sense but something has to give with the MLS schedule; the Guinness International Champions Cup is here to
stay; artificial turf is a disaster; the league office needs to get out of the business of putting rosters together. On the issue of the Galaxy, he said, "We are, by far, not assured of the
playoffs.” And he was certainly right on the last point as it dropped to fourth place in the Western Conference when it only managed to tie D.C. United, MLS's worst team, 2-2.
3. MIKE MAGEE. One player the Galaxy certainly miss is Magee, shipped to Chicago in the deal that allowed the Galaxy to sign Robbie
Rogers. While Rogers has just one assist and played just nine games for the Galaxy, Magee has 10 goals and three assists in 16 games for the Fire. He scored his 16th goal overall this season --
second behind Marco Di Vaio's 17 for the MLS scoring lead -- in the 3-2 win over New England that moved the Fire into fifth place in the Eastern Conference,
ahead of Philadelphia on the first tiebreaker, wins.
2. OBAFEMI MARTINS. Injuries kept the Nigerian star
out of Seattle's last four games and limited him to 17 appearances this season, but he scored his eighth goal and added his fourth assist on Lamar Neagle's goal
as the Sounders beat Real Salt Lake, 2-0, to take the lead in the Supporters' Shield race for the first time this season.
1. THIERRY HENRY. Perhaps
the Frenchman and Red Bulls coach Mike Petke should go at it more often. New York has won three straight games since they nearly fought at practice, and Henry
has scored in both games since he was reinserted in the starting lineup. Petke says Henry's improved attitude has rubbed off on his teammates and it's resulted in the Red Bulls sliding into the lead
in the Eastern Conference. “I’ve seen an improvement in the overall attitude of this team, an overall understanding, a willingness to jump on board," Petke told reporters after Saturday's
2-0 win over Toronto FC.