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MLS Player Rankings Week 25: Zlatan Ibrahimovic tops Carlos Vela, Josef Martinez

Kai Wagner, Raul Ruidiaz, Gyasi Zardes, Kacper Przybylko, Maxime Crepeau, Zdenek Ondrasek and Maxi Moralez all enter this week’s rankings.

Jun 29, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (9) after a game against the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium. (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

Rivalry Week brought the best out of some of Major League Soccer’s superstars. 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Carlos Vela and Josef Martinez all scored against their respective regional foes in Week 25, making the decision to rank the top three in-form players across MLS even harder. 

Vela and Martinez have scored at a consistent rate all season, while Ibrahimovic has bagged goals in bunches, including his recent run for the LA Galaxy. 

The Mexican, Swede and Venezuelan are the clear-cut top three in the Pro Soccer USA MLS Player Rankings after Week 25, but there are other top performers worthy of recognition.

Once again, we experienced a good amount of turnover at the bottom of the list. The collection of new entrants is headlined by the league’s assist leader, who is back in the top 10 following an absence of a few weeks. 

The MLS Player Rankings take into account a player’s form over the last four games, with the most-recent performance carrying a bit more weight.

20. Julian Gressel, M, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 

Julian Gressel directs a teammate during Atlanta United's 3-2 loss to Toronto FC at BMO Field in Toronto on June 26, 2019. (Steve Kingsman-Atlanta United)

Julian Gressel directs a teammate during Atlanta United’s 3-2 loss to Toronto FC at BMO Field in Toronto on June 26, 2019. (Steve Kingsman-Atlanta United)

Julian Gressel still holds an important role within the Atlanta United squad, but others that have made their way up the list have outplayed him in the last week or two. 

The German midfielder dished out a key pass and completed 84.4 percent of his 32 passes in the Five Stripes’ 1-0 win over Orlando City Friday. 

Gressel and Co. head up to face Philadelphia Saturday in a top-of-the-table clash in the Eastern Conference. 

19. Diego Rossi, F, Los Angeles FC

Previous Ranking: 15

Jun 28, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Diego Rossi (9) controls the ball against Colorado Rapids defender Sam Vines (13) in the first half at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

 Diego Rossi’s goal and assist against San Jose last Wednesday kept him on the list. 

The attacking output versus the Earthquakes is the lone time in the last four games in which the Uruguayan directly contributed to a Los Angeles FC goal. 

He already eclipsed his strike total from a year ago and needs three more assists to match his first-season output. 

18. Ike Opara, D, Minnesota United

Previous Ranking: 10

Aug 17, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota United defender Ike Opara (3) fouls Orlando City SC midfielder Nani (17) during the second half at Allianz Field. (Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports)

Ike Opara and the Minnesota United defense did not give up a plethora of chances to Sporting Kansas City, but the Loons still conceded and left Children’s Mercy Park with a loss. 

In the defeat, the Defender of the Year candidate won three aerial duels, made two clearances and blocked a shot. 

17. Valentin Castellanos, M, New York City FC 

Previous Ranking: 14

Aug 21, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC midfielder Valentin Castellanos (11) scores on a shot against the Columbus Crew SC during the first half at Yankee Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Valentin Castellanos moved into the double-digit scoring club Wednesday with a strike against the Columbus Crew. 

The New York City FC midfielder has five goals in his last five matches, but he was unable to send a shot on target in the Hudson River Derby. 

16. Nemanja Nikolic, F, Chicago Fire

Previous Ranking: 11

Jul 6, 2019; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sanchez (6) heads the ball in front of Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic (23) during the second half against at Children’s Mercy Park. (Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in August, Nemanja Nikolic did not find the back of the net for the Chicago Fire. 

In fact, the Serbian striker did not place a single shot on target in the Fire’s 2-1 defeat at the New England Revolution. 

Before Week 25, the 31-year-old had five goals on five shots on target in August. 

15. Kai Wagner, D, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

May 29, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Colorado Rapids forward Jonathan Lewis (11) runs the ball past Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner (27) during the second half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Not only has Kai Wagner provided stability at left back for the Philadelphia Union, he has brought an added dynamic to the attack. 

In Saturday’s 3-1 triumph over D.C. United, the German defender picked up his seventh assist of the season. 

Wagner is one handout ahead of Minnesota’s Romain Metanire for most assists among defenders in MLS.

14. Raul Ruidiaz, F, Seattle Sounders

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Mar 16, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Seattle Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz (9) kicks the ball against the Chicago Fire during the second half at Bridgeview Stadium. (Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)

 Raul Ruidiaz hit the double-digit mark in goals for the second straight season with his tally against the Portland Timbers.

The Peruvian marksman has a two-game scoring streak to his name and also picked up his second assist in the Cascadia Cup win. 

The 29-year-old’s performance helped the Sounders get back on track after going winless in four. 

13. Gyasi Zardes, F, Columbus Crew SC

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Mar 16, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew SC forward Gyasi Zardes (11) against FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges (24) at MAPFRE Stadium. (Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)

Gyasi Zardes made up for his awful miss at the end of the first Hell Is Real match with a pair of tallies Sunday. 

With the brace at Nippert Stadium, the American forward picked up his second straight 10-goal season and the third of his career. 

Since the start of August, Zardes has scored four of the Columbus Crew’s eight goals. 

12. Maxime Crepeau, GK, Vancouver Whitecaps

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Aug 3, 2019; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau (16) reacts to the goal scored by midfielder Felipe Martins (8) against FC Cincinnati in the second half at Nippert Stadium. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Maxime Crepeau was record-breaking for Vancouver in Week 25. 

The Canadian goalkeeper turned away an MLS-record 16 shots from the San Jose Earthquakes, who peppered him with 19 attempts over 90 minutes. 

In two matches versus San Jose, Crepeau has 24 denials. He made eight saves in the July 20 meeting at BC Place. 

11. Kacper Przybylko, F, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Aug 24, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward Kacper Przybylko (23) reacts after scoring against the D.C. United during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

The Philadelphia Union’s top scorer produced his best overall performance for the club Saturday.

Kacper Przybylko provided the second-place side in the East with one goal and two assists in the victory over D.C. United. 

The 26-year-old has three tallies in his last four contests for Jim Curtin’s side. 

10. Zdenek Ondrasek, F, FC Dallas

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Aug 17, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; FC Dallas forward Zdenek Ondrasek (13) reacts after scoring a goal against the Montreal Impact during the second half at Stade Saputo. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

The biggest individual surprise of the last few weeks has been Zdenek Ondrasek. 

After playing sparingly for most of the season, the Czech forward has three goals and an assist in his last two games. 

His first brace in MLS occurred Sunday in the Texas Derby, and it could be a sign of things to come down the stretch for Luchi Gonzalez’s side. 

9. Latif Blessing, M, Los Angeles FC

Previous Ranking: 16

Jun 28, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Latif Blessing (7) controls the ball against Colorado Rapids defender Keegan Rosenberry (2) in the second half at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Latif Blessing set a new personal best in scoring in MLS with his two-goal output in El Trafico.

The 22-year-old bagged his fifth and sixth tallies of the campaign in the 3-3 draw with the LA Galaxy. 

Four of Blessing’s six goals have come over the last five matches, production that comes as an addition to the hard work he has been doing on both sides of the ball.

8. Miles Robinson, D, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 

Jul 21, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) runs for a ball in front of D.C. United forward Paul Arriola (7) in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

The Atlanta United defense has posted three clean sheets in its last four games. 

As a reward for that recent form and his season-long performance, Miles Robinson earned his first U.S. Men’s National Team call-up

Holding the Galaxy, Timbers and Orlando City scoreless are impressive feats, and now the Five Stripes look to do the same against the Union, who are the top scoring team in the East. 

7. Maxi Moralez, M, New York City FC 

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Jul 14, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York City FC midfielder Maximiliano Moralez (10) dribbles the ball against the New York Red Bulls during the second half at Red Bull Arena. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

Maxi Moralez is inching closer to joining the 20-assist club. 

The Argentinian handed out an assist in each of NYCFC’s Week 25 wins to move his league-leading total up to 18. 

In his three seasons with the club, the 32-year-old has 43 assists to go along with 20 goals. 

6. Carles Gil, M, New England Revolution

Previous Ranking: 6

Aug 17, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New England Revolution midfielder Carles Gil (22) plays the ball against New York Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis (27) during the second half at Red Bull Arena. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

The Carles Gil assist machine just keeps plugging along. 

New England’s Spanish midfield ace picked up his 12th assist in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire. 

Since the start of July, Gil has been responsible for a goal or assist in eight of nine games. 

5. Gustavo Bou, F, New England Revolution

Previous Ranking: 8

Jul 17, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution forward Gustavo Bou (7) reacts after scoring a goal during the first half against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Gillette Stadium. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Gustavo Bou found the back of the net for the third straight game Saturday, moving his season scoring total to five goals in seven games. 

That type of scoring efficiency could be enough to keep the Revs away from the red line in the final weeks of the regular season.

4. Heber, F, New York City FC 

Previous Ranking: 3

Jun 6, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC forward Heber (9) celebrates his goal against FC Cincinnati during the first half at Yankee Stadium. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Heber’s time in the top three was short-lived, but it had nothing to do with his personal form. 

The Brazilian scored his 13th goal of 2019 in the Hudson River Derby to make it four goals in four games. 

Due to the volume in which Ibrahimovic, Vela and Martinez have scored, the 28-year-old takes a small dip this week.

3. Josef Martinez, F, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 1

Aug 23, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA;Atlanta United FC forward Josef Martinez (7) celebrates after defeating the Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Aug 23, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA;Atlanta United FC forward Josef Martinez (7) celebrates after defeating the Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Martinez’s time on top is over — for now. 

The Venezuelan found the back of the net against Orlando City, but scoring once in a week is not going to give you the top spot. 

Martinez has scored in an MLS-record 12 consecutive league games, but in five of the last six contests, he only bagged a single goal. 

2. Carlos Vela, F, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 2

LAFC forward Carlos Vela (10) scores a goal against LA Galaxy in the first half at Banc of California Stadium. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

The difference between Martinez and Vela was the brace the Mexican scored in last Wednesday’s clash with San Jose. 

Unfortunately for Vela, his three-goal week was not enough to give LAFC the full six points from matches against the Quakes and Galaxy.

Sunday’s 3-3 tie at Banc of California Stadium means the second-year side is still searching for its first El Trafico win.

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, F, LA Galaxy

Previous Ranking: 5

Aug 17, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (center) is congratulated after scoring a second half goal against the Seattle Sounders at StubHub Center. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

Six goals in the last three matches have catapulted Ibrahimovic back to the No. 1 position.

The towering Swede stole the show in the first half of El Trafico, moving his season total to five goals against the Galaxy’s top rival. 

In the last two weeks, Ibrahimovic scored twice versus FC Dallas, Seattle and LAFC to overtake Martinez and Vela. 

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