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MLS Player Rankings Week 14: Vela remains on top, Martinez surges up list after four-goal week

While Carlos Vela maintains his top spot, there are a few debutants in this week’s MLS Player Rankings.

Jun 1, 2019; Portland, OR, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) celebrates with forward Christian Ramirez (21) after scoring a goal in the first half against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. (Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first three months of the Major League Soccer season, we’ve been transfixed by the superb form of Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela. 

Vela is already halfway to the single-season scoring record that was set a year ago by Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez, and he’s reached double-digit totals in both goals and assists. 

If the season ended today, Vela would be close to a unanimous Most Valuable Player for his contributions to the top side in the league. 

Vela has been on top of the Pro Soccer USA MLS Player Rankings for the majority of the season, but a new list of contenders for the top spot are lining up beneath him.

One of those players is the man whose record Vela is trying to break. Martinez is one of a few in-form scorers who have moved into the top five in hopes of stealing the top spot if the Mexican international has an off week. 

Our player rankings take into account the last four performances from a player, with the most-recent outing carrying a bit more weight. 

20. Johnny Russell, M, Sporting Kansas City 

Previous Ranking: 8

May 29, 2019; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell (7) kicks the ball as LA Galaxy defenseman Daniel Steres (5) defends during the second half at Children’s Mercy Park. (Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

Perhaps we’re being a bit harsh to Johnny Russell one week after he scored a hat trick, but if you look at his overall form, he hasn’t found the back of the net on a consistent basis.

Since April 20, the Scotsman only has the hat trick from Week 13 to his name after scoring on four occasions in his first six games. 

Russell failed to put a shot on target on Wednesday in Sporting KC’s loss to the LA Galaxy and didn’t play in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Houston. 

19. Michael Amir Murillo, D, New York Red Bulls

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

Jun 1, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls defender Michael Murillo (62) celebrates after scoring a goal against Real Salt Lake during the second half at Red Bull Arena. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

An argument can be made that the New York Red Bulls have the best fullback duo in MLS. 

During the club’s five-game unbeaten run, Michael Amir Murillo and Kemar Lawrence have enforced their will on opponents. 

Murillo produced a terrific all-around performance in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake. The Panamanian scored a goal, dished out three key passes and made a pair of tackles, interceptions and clearances in the defensive half. 

18. Franco Escobar, D, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

May 29, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar (2) celebrates after a goal with forward Josef Martinez (7) against Minnesota United in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

The Atlanta United defense picked up a pair of clean sheets at home against Minnesota United and Chicago in Week 14. 

Franco Escobar was the only player not named Josef Martinez to score for the Five Stripes by netting the opener on Wednesday against the Loons. 

Escobar was part of a defensive unit that conceded six shots on goal over 180 minutes in his team’s final games before the Concacaf Gold Cup break. 

17. Auston Trusty, D, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Jun 2, 2019; Saint Paul , MN, USA; Philadelphia Union defender Auston Trusty (26) celebrates after scoring a goal during the second half against Minnesota United at Allianz Field. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

We’re still trying to figure out how the Philadelphia Union escaped from Allianz Field with three points. 

Auston Trusty scored the game-winning goal in the Union’s 3-2 win and was a key part of the team’s incredible defensive effort inside the box in which they recorded 13 blocked shots. 

The 20-year-old center back made nine clearances, three interceptions and blocked a pair of shots for the first-place side in the Eastern Conference. 

16. Carles Gil, M, New England Revolution

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

May 11, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution forward Carles Gil (22) celebrates after scoring a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes during the second half at Gillette Stadium. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

While most of you were winding down from a long weekend, Carles Gil was busy carving up the LA Galaxy defense late on Sunday night. 

The 26-year-old Spaniard produced a pair of assists in New England’s 2-1 win over the Galaxy and dished out a total of six key passes on 92 touches. 

During New England’s four-game unbeaten run, Gil has produced a goal and two assists. 

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

Previous Ranking: 11

May 24, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye (14) moves the ball ahead of Montreal Impact midfielder Shamit Shome (28) during the second half at Banc of California Stadium. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

When you play in the league’s best midfield on the league’s best team, there are going to be weeks in which you don’t catch the spotlight as much as your teammates. 

That’s the case with Mark-Anthony Kaye, who took a backseat in the spotlight to a few of his teammates who we’ll get to in a minute. 

Keep an eye on Kaye at the Concacaf Gold Cup with Canada. He’ll be part of another strong midfield unit alongside Montreal’s Samuel Piette and Toronto’s Jonathan Osorio. 

14. Leonardo Jara, D, D.C. United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

May 4, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United defender Leonardo Jara (29) attempts a shot against the Columbus Crew during the second half at Audi Field. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

If you haven’t picked up on this by now, we are displaying our soft spot for defenders this week. 

D.C.’s Leonardo Jara has quietly been one of the better fullbacks in MLS all season and he took his turn in the spotlight on Wednesday with a pair of assists in the 3-3 home draw with Chicago. 

In total, Jara delivered five key passes in Week 14 from his right back position in 156 minutes. 

13. Latif Blessing, M, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

May 24, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC midfielder Latif Blessing (7) celebrates his goal during the first half against the Montreal Impact at Banc of California Stadium. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Latif Blessing has performed at a high level all season alongside Kaye and Eduard Atuesta in the LAFC midfield. 

In Saturday’s 3-2 win at Portland, Blessing netted the third LAFC goal and was accurate with his passing by producing two key passes and completing 89.2 percent of his 37 passes. 

Blessing has also put in a few immense shifts on defense, and he is averaging 3.1 tackles and 0.9 interceptions per game. 

12. Amro Tarek, D, New York Red Bulls

Previous Ranking: 14 

May 25, 2019; Cincinnati, OH, USA; New York Red Bulls defender Amro Tarek (3) reacts against FC Cincinnati in the first half at Nippert Stadium. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Before departing Saturday’s game at Red Bull Arena in the 73rd minute, Amro Tarek produced yet another solid performance in the middle of the Red Bulls defense. 

In the four wins the Red Bulls have achieved during their five-game unbeaten run, they have outscored opponents 8-1. 

Tarek, who played with Orlando City last season, should be in the running for the Most Improved Player in MLS. 

11. Alejandro Pozuelo, M, Toronto FC

Previous Ranking: 10 

May 31, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Toronto FC midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo (10) controls the ball against Vancouver Whitecaps forward Joaquin Ardaiz (9) during the second half at BC Place. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Alejandro Pozuelo did everything but find the back of the net in Toronto FC’s 1-1 draw with Vancouver on Friday. 

The Spaniard finished the game with 109 touches, which is incredibly high for an attacking midfielder, two key passes and a shot off the post. 

Pozuelo and his teammates have one more opportunity to earn their first win since May 4 before the Gold Cup break on Friday when Sporting KC comes to BMO Field. 

10. Andre Shinyashiki, F, Colorado Rapids

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

Say hello to the MLS Rookie of the Year favorite. 

Andre Shinyashiki, who scored 28 goals at the University of Denver in 2018, has been one of the most important attacking pieces for Colorado during its four-game unbeaten run. 

Shinyashiki assisted on the Rapids’ equalizer on Wednesday against Philadelphia and found the back of the net in Saturday’s 3-1 win over FC Cincinnati. 

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft has two goals and an assist in his last four appearances. 

9. Romain Metanire, D, Minnesota United

Previous Ranking: 4

May 25, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota United defender Romain Metanire (19) controls the ball as Houston Dynamo midfielder Matias Vera (22) gives chase during the second half of a match at Allianz Field. (Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports)

 Just as we sent Romain Metanire surging into the top five, he crashed out because of Minnesota’s shaky defensive performance against Philadelphia.

Metanire, who missed the Wednesday game against Atlanta due to yellow card accumulation, was part of a group that had trouble dealing with the Union’s counters and gave up three goals against a team the Loons outplayed. 

8. Miles Robinson, D, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 20 

Jun 1, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Chicago Fire forward Aleksandar Katai (10) fights for the ball with Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) (left) during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Two clean sheets in one week makes a world of difference when it comes to your position on this list. 

Miles Robinson dropped to the bottom of the top 20 after Atlanta United conceded twice against Real Salt Lake, but the entire Atlanta defense bounced back with two straight home shutouts. 

Robinson was immense in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Chicago. The 22-year-old won five aerial duels, made seven clearances, six interceptions and three tackles for Frank de Boer’s side. 

7. Eduard Atuesta, M, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 

Jun 1, 2019; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco (10) attacks the ball against Los Angeles FC midfielder Eduard Atuesta (20) in the first half at Providence Park. (Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports)

Eduard Atuesta’s four-spot drop has more to do with the players surging in front of him than his play in Week 14 against the Timbers. 

In the back-and-forth affair at Providence Park, Atuesta made three tackles and interceptions as well as a pair of clearances. 

In 15 games, Atuesta is averaging 83.2 passes per game and has a completion percentage of 87.5.

6. Nani, M, Orlando City 

Previous Ranking: 

Nani deposited his eighth MLS goal into the back of the net in Orlando City’s 3-0 road win over the Montreal Impact on Saturday. 

The strike at Stade Saputo was the third for the Portuguese winger in the last three games.

In 13 matches, Nani has scored on eight of his 18 shots on goal and handed out four assists. 

5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, F, LA Galaxy

Previous Ranking: 19 

This is really just another opportunity for us to link to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s bicycle kick goal from Sunday night. 

Ibrahimovic returned from his two-game suspension in Week 14 and promptly scored a goal in each of the LA Galaxy’s games to boost his season total up to 11. 

The Swede’s ridiculous bicycle kick goal took away the real headline from Sunday’s match. The Galaxy lost 2-1 to former boss Bruce Arena in his first game on the sidelines for the Revs. 

4. Brian Fernandez, M, Portland Timbers

Previous Ranking: 

Before Ibrahimovic unleashed his bicycle kick goal, Brian Fernandez netted an acrobatic goal of his own for the Timbers on Saturday night. 

In 205 minutes played over three games, Fernandez has found the back of the net on four occasions. 

3. Josef Martinez, F, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 9

It took a while for Josef Martinez to get going in front of goal this season, but now he can’t be stopped. 

The Venezuelan forward eclipsed the double-digit mark in the scoring column on Saturday by recording his second brace of the week. 

Martinez’s second and third multiple-goal outings of the season came against Minnesota and Chicago.

2. Chris Wondolowski, F, San Jose Earthquakes

Previous Ranking: 2

While many of the flashy new signings from the past few years are scoring goals at will, wily veteran Chris Wondolowski is keeping up with them at the moment.

The all-time leading scorer in MLS history pocketed his seventh goal in three games in San Jose’s draw with D.C. United on Saturday. 

Wondolowski now needs to score three more goals in order to extend his streak of double-digit goal seasons to 10. 

1. Carlos Vela, M, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 1

Plenty of players have tried to match Vela’s form for stretches of the season, but the LAFC midfielder has shown no let up since the start of the campaign. 

A year after producing 14 goals and 13 assists, Vela has already eclipsed that goal total and is four assists away from setting a new high in MLS. 

Vela’s goal against Portland on Saturday extended his scoring streak to five games, and during that stretch he’s also contributed five assists.

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