With the playoff and Supporters' Shield races in full force as the MLS regular season winds down, a trio of U.S. men's national team stars stepped up to deliver valuable points to their teams.
Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones each scored game-winning goals over the weekend – and that's to say nothing of Landon Donovan's goal and three assists in the LA Galaxy's 4-0 rout of the New York Red Bulls – coming up in clutch situations and offering validation to the high sums each team is paying to have them don their colors.
Dempsey's was the least dramatic of the bunch, giving the Seattle Sounders a 3-2 lead over Chivas USA in a game that proved to be more troublesome than expected for the U.S. captain's side. He worked a slick combination play with Obafemi Martins to slot home from close range at the end of the first half, helping the Sounders to a 4-2 win and, more importantly, helping them keep pace with the Galaxy atop the Supporters' Shield standings.
Jones picked a perfect time for his first MLS strike, lacing a low shot from distance under little pressure from the Sporting Kansas City back line in the 85th minute and lifting the New England Revolution to a huge 3-2 win at Sporting Park. The Revs had blown a 2-0 lead, but the win catapulted them into a second-place tie with SKC in the Eastern Conference.
Bradley, meanwhile, might have kept Toronto FC's hopes at heading to the postseason for the first time alive with his 89th-minute free kick against the Portland Timbers. The set piece, which curled over everyone in the box and bounced by goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who appeared to misjudge the kick badly, capped a comeback from a 2-0 deficit and gave TFC a 3-2 win. Toronto is still a point out of the playoff places, but the goal could prove to be a turning-point in the Reds' season and provides much-needed momentum heading into a showdown with the Galaxy.
Jurgen Klinsmann has stated that he'd call on his strongest possible team for the October friendlies, but with MLS games involving all three players scheduled right in the middle of the FIFA international fixture window, it would be an inconvenience for those clubs who sorely need the contributions from their big-money stars.