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MLS Player Rankings Week 11: Vela overtakes Ibrahimovic, Fire pair debut after impressive week

After leading the Chicago Fire to back-to-back wins, Aleksandar Katai and Nicolas Gaitan have debuted in the MLS Player Rankings after Week 11

For the second consecutive week, the top spot in the Pro Soccer USA Major League Soccer Player Rankings has changed hands.

Although there are plenty of fresh faces climbing up the list, this week’s top in-form star is someone who is more than familiar with occupying the top position. 

Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela eclipsed LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic after Week 11’s games in which LAFC extended its lead atop the Western Conference over its crosstown rival. 

A handful of players impressed over two games in Week 11, with a pair of players from the Chicago Fire standing out the most. 

In addition to the two new entrants from the Fire, five more players moved into the ranking of the 20 best in-form players in MLS, including one from the defending MLS Cup champion and one each from the two best in-form sides in the Eastern Conference. 

Our ranking of the 20 best in-form players in MLS takes into account form over the last four games, with the most recent performance holding more value. 

20. Aleksandar Katai, M, Chicago Fire

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Aleksandar Katai played a role in three of the Fire’s seven goals in Week 11. 

The Serbian winger chipped in a pair of assists in Wednesday’s 5-0 win over New England that marked the end of the Brad Friedel era with the Revolution. 

Katai netted the second goal of his side’s 2-0 victory over Minnesota United on Saturday, a game in which he put four of his eight shots on target. 

The pair of victories boosted Chicago’s home mark to 4-1-2 and moved it one position out of the playoff places in the Eastern Conference.

19. Jamiro Monteiro, M, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Jamiro Monteiro is one of many unsung heroes who have starred during the Philadelphia Union’s three-game winning streak. 

The on-loan midfielder from Ligue 2 side Metz handed Jim Curtin’s side a statement victory at BMO Field by finding the back of the net in the 68th minute. 

Monteiro has also turned into a menace in the midfield with his quick play on the ball and recovery skill. 

The midfielder’s loan was originally for four months, but the Union have made it clear they have the option to extend his loan for the rest of the season and intend to do so in June. 

18. Heber, F, New York City FC 

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Heber continues to find the back of the net for one of the hottest teams in MLS.

The Brazilian forward struck for his third goal of the season in Saturday’s 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy.

As we have noted in this space before, no one is going to replicate the impact David Villa had on the New York City FC attack, but Heber seems to have softened the blow in the final third by scoring three times in five starts.

17. Cristian Roldan, M, Seattle Sounders

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Cristian Roldan hammered home an absolutely stunning goal for the second straight week in Seattle’s 1-0 win over Houston at home on Saturday. 

In addition to scoring beautiful goals in back-to-back weeks, Roldan helped the Sounders hold the Dynamo attack to one shot on target at CenturyLink Field in Week 11. 

Roldan made a pair of tackles and clearances and completed 89.2 percent of his 65 passes in Seattle’s fifth home win of 2019. 

16. Diego Valeri, M, Portland Timbers

Previous Ranking: 11

May 10, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Whitecaps defender Doneil Henry (2) goes for the ball against Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri (8) during the first half at BC Place. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Diego Valeri and the Portland Timbers weren’t able to extend their winning streak to four games, but the Argentinian tried his hardest to help his side find the back of the net on Friday in Vancouver. 

The 33-year-old handed out nine key passes and put one of his two shots on target in the 1-0 defeat to his team’s Cascadia Cup rival.

Valeri and Co. have two road games left before they open the newly-renovated Providence Park on June 1. The first of those two matches takes place Wednesday in Houston. 

15. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, D, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Apr 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (5) controls the ball against the Colorado Rapids in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and the Atlanta United defense have recorded four clean sheets in a row during the club’s four-game winning streak. 

On Wednesday against Toronto FC, the Five Stripes held Greg Vanney’s side without a shot on goal. 

In Sunday’s win over Orlando City, Frank de Boer’s side limited the Lions to four shots on target at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Gonzalez Pirez totaled five tackles, three interceptions and two clearances over 180 minutes in Week 11.

14. Fredy Montero, F, Vancouver Whitecaps

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

All Fredy Montero has ever done in MLS is score goals. 

The Colombian has started to round into form during Vancouver’s recent good run of results in which it has seven points from three games. 

Montero, who has scored over 10 goals in each of his five MLS seasons, struck the back of the net for the second straight game in Friday’s 1-0 win over the Timbers.

13. Nicolas Gaitan, M, Chicago Fire

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Nicolas Gaitan proved how valuable he can be to the Fire in Week 11 by providing two goals and two assists. 

The best goal of the four Gaitan played a role in came on a blistering counterattack against Minnesota United on Saturday.

Wednesday’s two-assist performance from the 31-year-old was his second in nine games for the Fire. 

12. Kei Kamara, F, Colorado Rapids

Previous Ranking: 7

May 11, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (8) and Colorado Rapids forward Kei Kamara (23) battle for the ball in the second half at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

After scoring twice from the spot in Week 10, Kei Kamara missed a penalty kick in Colorado’s 3-2 defeat to Real Salt Lake on Saturday. 

Kamara put multiple shots on goal for the sixth time this season, but he was unable to help the Rapids earn their first win of the season. 

The first victory for the Rapids might not come in Week 12 with a trip to the LA Galaxy ahead on Sunday. 

11. Alberth Elis, F, Houston Dynamo

Previous Ranking: 

May 11, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Houston Dynamo forward Alberth Elis (17) dribbles against the Seattle Sounders FC during the first half at CenturyLink Field. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

Alberth Elis was held without a goal or an assist for the first time since Week 1 in the Dynamo’s 1-0 loss to the Sounders. 

Elis won a pair of aerial duels and put one shot on target at CenturyLink Field, but he was unable to deliver a key pass on the right flank against Seattle left back Brad Smith. 

10. Nani, M, Orlando City SC

Previous Ranking: 3

 

Apr 27, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Orlando City forward Nani (17) during the second half against the New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

Nani sat out Orlando City’s defeat to Atlanta United with a calf injury.

The Portuguese midfielder was listed as day-to-day, but it may be hard for him to get ready for Wednesday’s trip to Seattle to face the Sounders. 

The owner of five goals and four assists would be better suited to square off against FC Cincinnati on Sunday in a game the Lions should win at home.

9. Mark-Anthony Kaye, M, Los Angeles FC

Previous Ranking: 17 

Mark-Anthony Kaye netted his third goal of the campaign in Los Angeles FC’s 3-0 road win over the Columbus Crew. 

The Canadian midfielder made a nice run into space on the right side of the box and slotted home the strike with his first touch. 

Kaye was one of three LAFC players to put two shots on goal at MAPFRE Stadium and he came in second behind Eduard Atuesta on the list of most touches with 82. 

8. Jack Elliott, D, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: 

Apr 27, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Philadelphia Union defender Jack Elliott (3) challenges Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert (31) during the first half at BC Place.(Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

The lone goal conceded by the Union back line in Toronto came on a beautiful free kick off the boot of Alejandro Pozuelo.

Outside of the set-piece strike, Jack Elliott and his teammates defended well against one of the top attacks in MLS. 

Elliott made six clearances and blocked a shot while holding the TFC attack to four shots on goal.

7. Josef Martinez, F, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 10 

May 12, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) kicks the ball out of his defensive end of the field against Orlando City during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Part of Atlanta United’s resurgence can be tied to the form of Josef Martinez.

After scoring twice in Week 10, the defending Golden Boot winner picked up a pair of assists in Wednesday’s victory over Toronto FC. 

In the last three games, Martinez has recorded two of his four goals and both of his assists for the 2019 campaign.

6. Sam Johnson, F, Real Salt Lake

Previous Ranking: 14 

Sam Johnson is the most in-form player in MLS that you are unaware of.

The striker has turned into a consistent force in front of the net for Real Salt Lake with four goals in his last five games.

None of Johnson’s tallies have been incredibly flashy, like the goals delivered by the league’s superstars, but he has to be commended for his ability to continuously finish past opposing goalkeepers. 

5. Kacper Przybylko, F, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: 

May 4, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward Kacper Przybylko (23) heads the ball past New England Revolution defender Michael Mancienne (28) during the second half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Kacper Przybylko failed to score in Week 11, but he still played an important role in a goal for the Union.

The German-born Polish forward delivered a perfect assist to Monteiro on the Union’s game-winning goal at BMO Field. 

Przybylko has been one of the most accurate forwards in MLS over the last month by putting 11 of his 16 shots on target.

4. Eduard Atuesta, M, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 6

May 4, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta (20) moves the ball against the Chicago Fire in the second half at Banc of California Stadium. The team played to a 0-0 tie. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Eduard Atuesta continued his strong season with a commanding midfield performance against Columbus. 

Atuesta was once again the most active LAFC player on the ball with 91 touches and he completed 87.3 percent of his 71 passes.

In 12 games, Atuesta has a pass-completion rate of 87.7 on an average of 85.8 passes. Atuesta is tied with Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley for the highest average of passes per game. 

3. Alejandro Pozuelo, M, Toronto FC 

Previous Ranking: 5

Pozuelo delivered one of the few bright spots in Toronto FC’s loss to Philadelphia on a 51st-minute free kick.

The goal was the fifth in eight games for the Spaniard, who broke a scoring drought of three games. 

Pozuelo should have plenty of opportunities to add to his scoring total in Week 12 with two matches against D.C. United and Real Salt Lake. 

2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, F, LA Galaxy

Previous Ranking: 1

May 11, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (9) moves in for a shot on goal against New York City during the second half at StubHub Center. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Ibrahimovic put his name in the headlines once again in Week 11, but it wasn’t because of a goal he scored. 

The Swedish superstar, who failed to score in two Week 11 games, was in the middle of controversy after he was only handed a yellow card for putting his hands to the face of NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Week 11 marked the first time since August in which Ibrahimovic failed to strike the back of the net in consecutive games.

1. Carlos Vela, F, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 

Vela created a little more separation for himself atop the Golden Boot race with his 12th goal of the season on Saturday night. 

The Mexican glided past a few defenders on the right wing before he fired into the back of the net from distance.

Vela heads into Week 12 with a three-goal advantage over Ibrahimovic in the Golden Boot race and a five-goal lead over Kamara.

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