It’s business time in MLS with the end of the basic series only one week left.
The race for the playoffs is hot and neither conference is nearly resolved. In the West, it is a five-way battle for the last three places after the season, while the East still has six times fighting for three places.
If ever there was a time for players to stand up and count, it is now. And some really did their very best during week 34. Here are our top five individual performances:
Fragapane equalized in Minnesota United’s 2-1 win over Sporting KC. / Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports
As the season has passed, it has become increasingly clear that Franco Fragapane is the solution to Minnesota United’s long-standing problems on the left wing. This weekend, he proved once again why.
The Argentine winger hit home from inside the area to make the Loons level in his final 2-1 victory over SKC on Sunday. He also created a chance and made two dribbles, but it was perhaps his work on the other side of the ball that impressed the most, with Fragapane making a match-high nine tackles, six of which came inside the SKC half.
You would do well to find a fullback (or outside for that matter) in MLS who enjoys the prospect of going toe to toe with Fragapane right now.
?? Jack McGlynn (18) vs. FC Cincinnati:
☑️ 90 minutes? ️ 1 assist? 4 shots? 5 created chances? Beat woodwork? 11 ball recoveries? 73 touches? 2-0 win
McGlynn, yet another @ PhilaUnion product to take seriously these days. ? pic.twitter.com/fcnpfqfuH4
– Football Wonderkids (@fbwonderkids) November 1, 2021
Those union home-grown ones, huh?
With the playoffs already secured and FC Cincinnati at the bottom of town, Sunday night felt like the perfect time for Jim Curtin to throw in a load of his youth at once and, boy, was he rewarded.
Paxten Aaronson caught the eye with another fantastic goal, but Jack McGlynn was the greatest standout of all the young talents on show.
The 18-year-old drove the game with his assist for Aaronson’s blow, one of four chances created during the night, while completing the second-highest number of passes by any Philadelphia player and painfully came close to scoring with a shot that was drawn right next to it.
We all know what happens when Union youths put on a show and it will not be long before McGlynn begins to draw admiring glances.
THIS GOAL FROM CADE COWELL ?? pic.twitter.com/pVdHzefuaw
– USMNT only (@usmntonly) October 30, 2021
Speaking of 18-year-olds, anyone who wants to motivate Cade Cowell’s inclusion in this week’s column just needs to stop at his glorious solo goal against RSL this weekend. But we will make you a better one.
Cowell is raw but incredibly talented. When he’s on it, he has the ability to tear your defense to shreds. That’s what he did here with an assist to make Carlos Fierro’s goal go well alongside his own stroke, while finishing three dribbles and making the RSL backline look stupid at times.
And the teenager invested defensively on the hard yards and made four tackles – only Nathan (9) and Judson (5) succeeded more among Quakes players.
It’s been a tough few months for Cowell, but this was a timely reminder of what he’s really capable of.
Castellanos have scored the entire league with 18 goals so far this season. / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Taty Castellano’s position against Inter Miami finally places him at the top of the MLS Golden Boot position and it’s time, given that he has topped the xG lists for several months now.
To his credit, even when he is wasteful or frustrating, Castellanos always contributes, whether through his pace of work, the ability to make mistakes or create for others.
He did pretty much everything in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, assisting Talles Magnos’ offense to put the game to bed and fighting more offensive air duels than any other player on the field (3), while also attempting eight dribbles. Although he only managed two of them, Castellano’s direct nature scared the life out of the Miami defense.
“He has grown throughout the season. He is perhaps the best striker in the league,” NYCFC boss Ronny Deila explained after the game. Who are we to argue with him?
Another goal from distance for Lucas Zelarayan?
(via @MLS) pic.twitter.com/03WCwaug4G
– B / R Football (@brfootball) October 31, 2021
If the crew somehow manages the impossible and climbs over the playoff line, they will owe a great debt of gratitude to Lucas Zelarayan.
Armenia’s new national team player has been on fire recently and did it again on Saturday and scored two goals (his second was an absolute peach) to inspire a 3-1 comeback win at DC United.
Zelarayan also created six chances and could have left Audi Field another night with a hat trick of assist. As it looks, he has 11 goals and four assists during the season – and pushes up the MVP numbers in a team that has struggled to live up to its MLS Cup championship.
Honorable mentions: Paxten Aaronson, Daniel Gazdag, Hany Mukhtar, Will Yarbrough, Pedro Santos, Miguel Berry, Albert Rusnak, Chris Wondolowski.