The Major League Soccer regular season is over and the start of the MLS Cup playoffs is still a week away.
Filling that void are critical World Cup qualifiers and MLS is well represented there with nearly 70 players with their respective countries in a quest to book a ticket to Qatar next winter.
And while the eyes of the nation were on the United States’ massive 2-0 win over rival Mexico Friday night, MLS players are playing important roles around the globe in qualifying efforts.
Let’s take a look at seven big contributions and what lies ahead with more World Cup qualifiers this week.
Walker Zimmerman - United States
Watch the highlights of the United States’ historic Dos a Cero win and you’ll not likely see the Nashville SC center back. And that just speaks to how solid Zimmerman played.
The 2020 MLS Defender of the Year partnered with Miles Robinson from Atlanta United and helped quiet Mexico’s feared front three of Chucky Lozano, Raul Jimenez and Tecatito Corona.
Zimmerman also completed 78.2 percent of his passes and won 66.7% of his duels.
Up next: The United States have topped the group on goal differential, but they can’t afford a letdown in Kingston Tuesday against a desperate Reggae Boyz side.
Tajon Buchanan - Canada
The young winger hasn’t just been a standout for the Supporters’ Shield-winning New England Revolution, the 22-year-old’s star is ascending internationally as well. Buchanan has secured a regular starting role for Canada, which are third in the final round of Concacaf qualification. The top three teams in Concacaf book a spot in the World Cup, while the fourth-place side complete in a playoff.
Buchanan was arguably Canada’s best player in a 1-0 win over Costa Rica Friday night in Edmonton. After clattering the crossbar with an overhead kick in the 54th minute, Buchanan’s cross was fumbled by Costa Rica goalkeeper Leonel Moreira and Jonathan David cleaned it up for the lone goal.
Up next: Canada secured a huge point against Mexico at Estadio Azteca last month and will seek all three against El Tri Tuesday night back at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
Alex Roldan - El Salvador
The Seattle Sounders right back has made an immediate impact since being called into the El Salvador side ahead of the Gold Cup. The 25-year-old donned the captain’s armband Friday night and delivered the dramatic 90th-winner equalizer in a 1-1 draw against Jamaica at Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador.
Roldan connected with Jairo Hernandez’s cross and powered his header past goalkeeper Andre Blake of the Philadelphia Union for the dramatic tying goal.
Up next: El Salvador are seventh among the eight teams midway through the final stage of qualifying with six points, level with Jamaica and Costa Rica, and meet Panama on the road Tuesday.
Pedro Gallese - Peru
The Orlando City SC goalkeeper earned the clean sheet, making three saves in Peru’s 3-0 win over Bolivia in South American qualification Thursday night in Lima.
NYCFC defender Alexander Callens also started, but left the match at halftime with an apparent injury.
Up next: Peru are seventh in the grueling South American qualifying process, but while Brazil and Argentina have separated from the pack, there’s only six points between third-place Ecaudor and Peru in seventh. That puts the onus on three big road points when they meet last-place Venezuela Tuesday in Caracas.
The top four teams in South America earn safe passage to the World Cup, while the fifth-place team compete in an intercontinental playoff.
Robin Lod - Finland
The Minnesota United winger was one of the heroes for Finland in a huge 3-1 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina Saturday in Zenica. Lod scored what proved to be the match winner in the 51st minute. Lod took a ball rolled back to him by Teemu Pukki and blasted his first-time shot in from 14 yards out.
Lod’s fourth international goal doubled the visitor’s lead, but Menalo pulled the hosts to within a goal before O’Shaughnessy maintained the two-goal lead four minutes later.
It wasn’t such a memorable day for Lod’s club and country teammate Jukka Raitala, who was sent off in the 37th minute on a straight red card for a harsh challenge.
Up next: Finland keep their hopes of reaching the World Cup alive with the win, which kept them in second place in Group D in UEFA qualification behind reigning champions France, and two points adrift of third place Ukraine.
In the final match of the group, Finland host France Tuesday. The group winner earns automatic passage to Qatar. The second-place side enter a playoff.
Daniel Gazdag - Hungary
The Philadelphia Union midfielder scored for Hungary in a 4-0 victory over San Marino in UEFA’s Group I Friday in Budapest.
Gazdag struck in the 23rd minute — his second international goal in 10 caps — to increase Hungary’s lead to 2-0.
FC Dallas’ Szabolcs Schon was also in the starting lineup for Hungary, which tacked on a pair of insurance goals inside the final seven minutes.
Up next: England are in first and Poland are safe in second so fourth-place Hungary’s final group match will be largely for little more than national pride. They meet Poland in Warsaw Monday.
Albert Rusnak - Slovakia
The Real Salt Lake midfielder struck for a brace to help lead Slovakia to a 6-0 drubbing of Malta on Sunday.
Rusnak scored both of his goals inside the opening 16 minutes to set the visitors on their way. He would have been Slovakia’s man of the match had it not been for a hat trick by Ondrej Duda.
Up next: That was Slovakia’s final match of Group H.