By Liviu Bird
September 22, 2014

It took Bradley Wright-Phillips just 30 seconds and two touches to score on Saturday, putting back a rebound on the New York Red Bulls’ first possession of the match. He went on to score two more goals, making his third hat trick of the season in a 4-1 win over the Seattle Sounders.

That was also his third hat trick with New York, tying Amado Guevara’s club record. Wright-Phillips is the fourth player to score three hat tricks in one MLS season and the first since Diego Serna in 2000.

The reason Wright-Phillips has been so efficient in front of goal this season has been his pure finishing ability, personified by his three goals on three shots against Seattle, including a penalty in the 54th minute. His third goal was a one-touch finish on a bouncing cross from Roy Miller, also from right around the penalty spot.

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New York has five games remaining, and Wright-Phillips is on 24 league goals. If he can continue his pace from the rest of the season, he should be able to at least tie Chris Wondolowski and Roy Lassiter’s single-season record of 27.

Wright-Phillips is joined by 10 others on this week’s MLS Best XI:

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• Steve Clark (Columbus Crew): Clark finished with six saves in a 1-0 win over New England. The MLS newcomer made a couple impressive stops to preserve the shutout, including some in the last five minutes on Charlie Davies’ curling shots.

• A.J. Cochran (Houston Dynamo): In a scoreless draw against Philadelphia, Cochran blocked a whopping five shots for the Dynamo. He also recovered seven loose balls and made three clearances.

• Jámison Olave (New York Red Bulls): Olave made eight clearances and eight interceptions in a 4-1 win over Seattle. The big man — who won all four of his aerial duels — isn’t known for his foot skills, but he only misplayed two passes all night.

• Carlos Salcedo (Real Salt Lake): The 20-year-old Salcedo scored RSL’s final goal in a 5-1 win over Colorado on a corner kick on one end, and he completed 93 percent of his passes on the other. He’s had his ups and downs this season, but Friday’s game was one of his finest of the season.

• Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew): Tchani anchored the Columbus midfield on the defensive end in the Crew’s slim win over the Revs, with four clearances and 16 loose-ball recoveries. He also created one goalscoring chance on the other end.

• Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers): Valeri scored another thunderous goal and added an assist in Portland’s 3-0 win over Vancouver. His consistency has been impressive, as he has nine goals (tied for the team lead) and 14 assists (tied for second in the league) this season.

• Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers): Nagbe created two goalscoring opportunities against Vancouver, finishing with one assist, and completed 94 percent of his passes. It hasn’t been the easiest season for him, but Saturday marked a return to the form that saw Nagbe break out in 2013.

• Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy): Keane scored the first goal and assisted Alan Gordon’s winner in a 2-1 win over FC Dallas. He created four goalscoring opportunities total and checked off the front line to aid in combination play.

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• Gilberto (Toronto FC): Gilberto scored once and added an assist in a comfortable 3-0 win over Chivas USA. His efficiency in front of goal was a big reason for Toronto scoring three goals in a game for the first time since early August.

• Bradley-Wright Phillips (New York Red Bulls): Behind Wright-Phillips’ third hat trick of the season, the Red Bulls sank the visiting Sounders, 4-1, on Saturday. That took his league goals tally to 24, five more than  second-place Dom Dwyer’s 19.

• Fanendo Adi (Portland Timbers): Adi scored twice in the Timbers’ win over Vancouver. He now has eight goals this season, and they’ve all come in batches of two.

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