Major League Soccer

MLS best players from reduced international weekend - ranked

Chris Smith
Kahlina was inspired in goal for Charlotte FC on Saturday.
Kahlina was inspired in goal for Charlotte FC on Saturday. / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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There was a reduced schedule in MLS this weekend thanks to the international break, but we still had plenty of action to sink our teeth into.

Charlotte FC built on their first-ever win by beating FC Cincinnati 2-0 in front of over 30,000 people at Bank of America Stadium while, later that day, Sporting KC picked up a late, hard-fought win over rivals Real Salt Lake.

And prior to the USMNT's resounding 5-1 World Cup qualifying win over Panama, the Portland Timbers and Orlando City played out a 1-1 draw at Providence Park.

That's how the six teams in action got on, but let's take a look at the best individual players of the week.


5. Junior Urso (Orlando City)

Orlando City's draw in Portland was a tight, choppy affair, but Junior Urso added more quality than most.

The Brazilian midfielder made a smart late run into the box to meet compatriot Alexandre Pato's chipped pass, and kept his composure to send the ball beyond Aljaz Ivacic for 1-0.

Urso was always bright and productive on the ball and, as always, got through his fair share of defensive work with a match-high six tackles, as well as eight recoveries, one clearance, and one interception.

4. Cristhian Paredes (Portland Timbers)

Urso didn't completely dominate the midfield battle at Providence Park however, with Cristhian Paredes giving him a run for his money.

The 23-year-old was more productive on the ball, creating two chances and completing two dribbles. He was just as robust defensively as well, with four tackles, two interceptions, and six recoveries.

But most importantly, right when his side needed him, Paredes drew a foul in the box from Andres Perea and then calmly rolled his penalty down the middle to level the scores on 80 minutes.

3. Johnny Russell (Sporting Kansas City)

It took Johnny Russell until the 81st minute to finally break the deadlock against Real Salt Lake on Saturday but, boy, did he deserve the goal when it came.

The Scottish winger was once again a menace down the SKC right, completing four dribbles, creating one chance, and trying his luck with four shots good for an xG value of 0.51 in the end.

His goal was trademark Russell too, battling off two defenders and slotting home into the bottom corner with ultimate composure. Sure, he needed a little luck with a fortunate deflection sending the ball back to him, but Russell had earned that luck with a fine performance.

2. Kristijan Kahlina (Charotte FC)

Kristijan Kahlina has been rapidly growing in confidence between the sticks for Charlotte FC and against FC Cincinnati on Saturday, he was one of two absolutely crucial pieces in another win.

Despite the 2-0 scoreline, Cincy actually controlled large parts of the match and enjoyed the better chances with the visitors outshooting their hosts 14-10 and generating 1.61 xG to Charlotte's 1.00.

But there was a big Croatian in their way, hellbent on keeping his first MLS clean sheet. Kahlina came up with a couple of massive one-on-one saves but his most impressive stop was a sprawling, stretching dive to keep out a powerful Lucho Acosta effort from distance.

If he carries on like this, Kahlina might have an MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award case.

1. Karol Swiderski (Charlotte FC)

A fight may (probably not) break out between Charlotte FC and the Poland national team after Karol Swiderski was declared injured for international duty, only to then play 89 minutes of this match. Things seem to be smoothed over on that front, anyway.

But removing the noise and taking this match in isolation, Swiderski was the hero once again for Charlotte.

Just as he did against the Revs a week previous, the 25-year-old striker opened the scoring early, sneaking in at the far post to tap home another excellent Ben Bender delivery in the sixth minute.

Swiderski continued to cause havoc from there, testing Alec Kann a couple of times, dropping deep to link play, and being a brilliant overall focal point for Miguel Angel Ramirez's side.

But his finest moment of the season came in the 55th minute, when Swiderski unleashed an incredible free-kick from 30 yards out, lashing the ball into the far corner beyond a helpless Kann.

Kahlina lined Cincy up with his saves, but Swiderski absolutely tore them down to win the battle between the Queen Cities.

Honorable mentions: Ben Bender, Luciano Acosta, Andreu Fontas, Alexandre Pato, Tim Melia, Zac MacMath.

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