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Diego Luna, Gabriel Pec headline the Best of MLS for Week 19

By Justin Ruderman and Favian Renkel

Welcome back to week nineteen of Justin and Favian’s Weekly MLS Awards where SBI staff writers Justin Ruderman and Favian Renkel bring you a glimpse at the best of each week in MLS. As the schedule approaches the annual MLS All-Star game, chaos starts to ensue. This week that played out in the form of blowouts across the league.

Player of the Week

Justin Ruderman: Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake)

This is how you respond to adversity.

Mere hours after reports surfaced of Diego Luna shockingly being left off of the U.S. Men’s Olympic roster headed to Paris, the 20-year-old produced the game of his life with a hat trick of assists capped off by a wonderful goal to lead RSL to a 5-2 victory at home. 

From producing the fifth-fastest goal in MLS history with an assist inside 45 seconds to a couple of gorgeous set-piece deliveries to dancing for his son in celebration of his goal, Saturday was the perfect way to bounce back from devastating news for Luna.

With all that, it almost seems like a tidbit to add that he also produced the best goal of Matchday 24 to kick off his historic week on Wednesday (before being left off the Olympic roster). 

Nonetheless, I could not end this section any better than Max Bretos announced Luna’s goal on Saturday, so I’ll leave it to him:

Favian Renkel: Gabriel Pec (LA Galaxy)

The Galaxy scored three goals this week, and Gabriel Pec scored all three of them. 

Talk about a transfer paying off in its entirety ever so quickly. Gabriel Pec is simply becoming one of the best MLS players right in front of our eyes.

The 23-year-old is close to already having 20 goal contributions on the season, with nine goals and seven assists. If Pec stays in the league long enough, the Brazilian has the potential to go down as one of the best MLS players of all time. I will have to get used to writing this blurb about him week in and week out.

For now, let’s enjoy the beautiful way the young winger plays before we put all this pressure on him to be the best. Look at this move.

Young Player of the Week

JR: Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union)

Since he was 17 years old, Jack McGlynn has been fighting for minutes with the Philadelphia Union first-team amid stiff competition. Now 21, the homegrown product is having a career year as one of Philly’s most consistent contributors, if not the most consistent.

McGlynn began the week by running the show in midfield against the Chicago Fire, completing 65/75 passes, winning 4/6 ground duels, amassing 12 passes into the final third, and recording 6 ball recoveries while guiding home a gorgeous top-of-the-box finish to give the Union a 3-1 lead in the 49th minute.

Unfortunately, due to Philly’s cursed run of form at the moment, the Union still managed to lose the match 4-3. At least with McGlynn controlling the midfield again at the weekend for a scoreless draw against the New York Red Bulls, the team was able to pick up a point. Despite the Union failing to find the breakthrough in that one, McGlynn was the most accurate passer in the match (95%) while creating three chances for which his teammates were unable to capitalize.

Luckily, in contrast to the team struggles McGlynn is pushing through at club level, his career year has earned him recognition at the international level and a trip to Paris for the Olympics.

FR: Logan Farrington (FC Dallas)

If you know who Logan Farrington is, you probably play Sorare or Fantasy MLS because this is a player many MLS fans have never heard of. As the 3rd overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, Farrington already picked up his first MLS goal not too long ago and now has four assists on the season – not too shabby for a roster mechanism that is never guaranteed to pan out.

The 22-year-old had a crucial assist to help FC Dallas tie the match in the late stages and generally looks calm and collected when on the ball—something that many players his age struggle with. In a gloomy season for FC Dallas, Farrington is the bright spot keeping this fanbase believing that the future has more to hold.

Goal of the Week

JR: Gabriel Pec (LA Galaxy)

Sometimes goals are more about the assist than the finish.

In a week of MLS goals more focused on quantity than quality, I am using my GOTW nomination to focus on what has to be the assist of the season by Mauricio Cuevas to Gabriel Pec.

With Minnesota United leveling the score at DHSP on Sunday night through Teemu Pukki in the second half, Cuevas entered the action as a 79th-minute substitute with the hope of providing a winning spark. If only we knew that spark would become one of the most beautiful fireworks of the entire MLS season.

Still tied as the game approached stoppage time, Riqui Puig fed a pass into a streaking run of Cuevas down the wing who was looking for a crossing opportunity. As the ball arrived at his feet, Cuevas instinctually reacted by flicking the ball like a rainbow over defender Joseph Rosales in a piece of jaw-dropping skill with his first touch and playing a pinpoint, game-winning assist on the doorstep for Pec to tap in with his second touch.

Words genuinely don’t do this assist justice. Just view and enjoy. Personally, I can’t stop watching it.

FR: Luciano Acosta (FC Cincinnati)

When you put one of the best defensive midfielders the world has ever seen on skates to score a goal, the league is put on notice. Lucho Acosta is back and he’s playing as well as ever. Not only did this goal come at the perfect time – during a 6-1 rout against then Supporters’ Shield-leading Herons – but it was also a statement goal around the league. FC Cincinnati is here to win championships, even with Lionel Messi in the league.

Take a look at the goal for yourself; it’s good stuff.

Team of the Week

JR: FC Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati lost five starters from last season’s Supporters’ Shield-winning team in the offseason but have not missed a beat under reigning MLS Coach of the Year Pat Noonan.

Following an expected midweek win over last-place D.C. United in the nation’s capital, Cincinnati produced the marquee win of their season back at The Teek with a 6-1 shellacking over then top-of-the-table Inter Miami to snatch the league lead for themselves. And before anyone says anything about Miami missing their two biggest superstars on international duty, the Herons boasted a 4-0 record since Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez left for Copa America until they travelled to Cincy.

Sharing the wealth across five different goalscorers, Cincinnati became the third team this season along with Miami and LAFC to score six goals in a single match. It is hard to think it is a coincidence that those three teams also top the Supporters’ Shield standings after Matchday 25.

Make no mistake about it, however, with a one-point lead and a game in hand, FC Cincinnati are the favorites to repeat as Supporters’ Shield winners in 2024.

FR: Columbus Crew

Talk about the yellow and black machine, and no, I’m not talking about Borussia Dortmund. I’m talking about the Columbus Crew. This team from Ohio is completely bone-sawing through defenses like they are a piece of wood, all primed, labeled, and marked to be sliced up by Wilfried Nancy.

That’s exactly what the hardest-working three-man crew in MLS is doing. Diego Rossi, Cucho Hernández, and Christian Ramirez have combined to help the Columbus Crew score 15 goals in their last four games. I don’t believe there is any team in better form than the Crew right now. T-Rex celebrations and champagne soccer; it does not get much better than this.

Finally being able to focus on one championship, the Crew have gotten out of their early season slump when they were tying everyone and Cucho was violating team policy. Let bygones be bygones. That is all a thing of the past for Nancy and the Crew.

The Columbus Crew are not far off the Supporters’ Shield race and still have three games in hand to try to make up the difference of 9 points.

Best Thing We Saw This Week

JR: Darren Yapi scoring his first MLS goal

When Darren Yapi was 16 years old, he became the youngest player to ever sign for the Colorado Rapids, making his debut a year later at 17 years old with the eyes of the league on him. The talent was evident from minute one, but unfortunately, the ball just wouldn’t seem to hit the back of the net.

In 2022, Yapi saw limited minutes across eleven MLS matches (ten as a substitute) without recording a goal contribution. Last season, Yapi ramped up the minutes but not the goal contributions, recording his first and only MLS assist but again no goals. This season, it felt like more of the same with Yapi finding most of his minutes off the bench without netting a goal. Finally, on Sunday Yapi found that elusive first goal in the 90th minute to cap off a 4-1 Rapids win.

As you would hope, the moment was not lost on Yapi’s teammates or head coach as Chris Armas sprinted down the touchline from his technical area to join the team’s dogpile celebration in the corner for the biggest moment of their 19-year-old’s young career thus far.

FR: Peter Vermes getting his 200th MLS Regular Season Wins

In a season where Peter Vermes seemed to be on the hot seat as Sporting Kansas City was losing match after match, Vermes found a way to turn things around as of late.

Getting 200 wins in MLS is no easy feat, as there are only two other MLS coaches in the 200-win club: Sigi Schmid and Bruce Arena, two MLS head coaching legends. As they say in sports, everyone has a very short memory, and it’s easy to forget that Vermes has been dominant with Sporting Kansas City for so long.

However, his 200th win comes at a perfect time—it’s not too late to make a playoff push. Possibly, this accolade is the spark that lights a fire underneath Sporting Kansas City. Who knows? They might even upset a higher seed in the playoffs again this year. When you have a legend coaching you week in and week out, anything is possible.


  1. I feel excited about MLS and American soccer. By bringing in young, promising players who often turn into stars, the league is really on an upward path. Additionally, when you have games, like the LA El Traffico drawing over 70,000, it illustrates something I harped on for years whenever soccer specific stadiums were announced. They should have been built bigger. I never had doubts that attendance would rise as league quality did. The signs were there many years ago, with big attendance for summer friendlies between European teams from top 5 leagues. MLS teams need to look toward playing in larger stadiums, even thought that is something that may take quite a few years to realize.


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