Major League Soccer

MLS Week 32 best players - ranked

Chris Smith
Castellanos scored twice in NYCFC's 6-0 thrashing of DC United.
Castellanos scored twice in NYCFC's 6-0 thrashing of DC United. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It's business time in MLS with the playoffs just a few weeks away.

Now is the time for the individual difference-makers to stand up, dragging their side across the line at key moments. Whether it's a rocket from distance, an dominant midfield performance or a gravity-defying save from a goalkeeper, single moments can definte entire seasons at this point.

So, looking back at Week 32, who were the best individual performers? Here's our top five:

5. Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire)

The Chicago Fire put some gloss on an otherwise miserable season with a 1-0 win over playoff-chasing Real Salt Lake in front of over 31,000 fans on Saturday night. Key once again to their success was the rising star of United States goalkeeping: Gabriel Slonina.

Just 17 years old, Slonina already has four clean sheets to his name in nine senior appearances, he's been almost perfect since displacing Bobby Shuttleworth.

This latest shutout required five saves from him, three of which were inside the box, with RSL generating enough xG to reasonably expect an equaliser (1). Slonina had other ideas, increasing his rapidly rising popularity among the Fire fanbase.

4. Osvaldo Alonso (Minnesota United)

Alonso scored his first goal since 2019 on Saturday.
Alonso scored his first goal since 2019 on Saturday. / Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Osvaldo Alonso profited from some shoddy Jamal Blackman goalkeeping to score his first goal since 2019 on Saturday, earning Minnesota United a 1-1 comeback draw against LAFC. But that barely scratches to the surface of a performance that yielded seven tackles, three clearances, one chance created, one successful dribble and a pass completion rate of 96%. Alonso was every, at 35 years old no less!

At this point, it's probably best we sit back and let Loons head coach Adrian Heath do the talking.

“Another magnificent performance from him this evening," he told reporters after the match. "[He] defies logic at times when you look at the distance he covers in high-speed running. I think he had his fastest run in the league last week, for somebody who has been at it for a long 8, 12, 15 years. We can’t speak highly enough of him at the minute."

3. Taty Castellanos (NYCFC)

That Taty Castellanos has generated a league-high 20.53 xG but figures behind four players in this season's Golden Boot race tells you everything you need to know about how damn frustrating he is. But there is talent in those boots and when he's on it, he's on it. At the weekend, he was really on it.

The Argentine was a real driving force behind NYCFC's 6-0 smashing of DC United - a club record defeat for the Black and Red - scoring goas two and three inside the first 11 minutes. Okay, so Castellanos blazed one speculative effort well wide and missed another chance inside the box, but it wouldn't be Taty if he didn't frustrate the hell out of you even when stuffing it to the opposition.

Still, Castellanos led the line well and was as hard-working as ever. More of this and NYCFC should re-stabilise back above the playoff line.

2. Malte Amundsen (NYCFC)

Amundsen provided thrust down the left for NYCFC.
Amundsen provided thrust down the left for NYCFC. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Ronny Deila's clever tactical tweak of using James Sands at right-back, tucking inside when NYCFC moved forward, allowed Malte Amundsen ultimate freedom to bombard forward against DCU and, boy, did it pay off!

“Yes, this was part of the game plan," Amundsen confirmed after the match. "Shifting a little bit to the left, pushing James a little bit in and that made me able to go a little bit higher, so me and Thiago could be the wide guys. That was part of the game plan, and it worked.”

Indeed, the 23 Danish left-back was on hand to provide the assist for Thiago Andrade's opener in the first minute, firing a tempting low ball across the box. He also set up Alexander Callens to make it five just after the break with one of the best crosses you're likely to see all season, putting the ball right in that awkward spot behind the defensive line but too far in front of the goalkeeper. by full-time, he'd created a match-high four chances.

Keeping the door shut at the other end, Amundsen also made two tackles and an interception, and won four aerial duels.

Generating width at Yankee Stadium is tough, really tough. Deila deserves credit for the blueprint, Amundsen even more so for the execution.

1. Gonzalo Higuain (FC Cincinnati)

Yes, we hear you all screaming about the FC Cincy tax. But we're here to enjoy fun and fine performances, regardless of the opponent.

Gonzalo Higuain hasn't had a great time with Inter Miami. Oftentimes, it feels like he's dragging his teammates kicking and screaming while, at other points, it can seem like he's just physically done at a top-flight level.

But on Saturday, he set about ripping Cincy to shreds, restoring Miami's lead just after the break via an assist from his older brother Federico, who had opened the scoring. Incidentally, this is only the third time in MLS history two brothers have scored in the same game - they're also responsible for the second.

And Higuain Jr wasn't done there. The 33-year-old played a delicious through-ball to Lewis Morgan to make it 4-1 and finished the job by setting up Julian Carranza for the fifth.

Again, we know it's against Cincy. But you can only beat what's in front of you. This talismanic performance - Federico Higuain and Rodolfo Pizarro were excellent, too - keeps Miami's faint playoff hopes alive. Phil Neville will need much more of this between now and the end of the regular season.

Honorable mentions: Federico Higuain, Rodolfo Pizarro, Jozy Altidore, Adam Buksa, Nani, Braian Galvan, Kyle Duncan, Steven Moreira, Johnny Russell.