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MLS Player Rankings Week 28: All hail Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Since August 14, Ibrahimovic has scored 10 goals to move two goals behind Vela with four games remaining. 

Sep 15, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (9) celebrates a goal during the second half against Sporting Kansas City at StubHub Center. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Carlos Vela and Josef Martinez have set themselves apart from the rest of the talent in Major League Soccer. 

The trio of goal-scorers have occupied the top spots in our MLS Player Rankings for most of the season, and they are now locked into a battle for the Golden Boot. 

Vela seemed like the runaway winner, but Ibrahimovic is within two and Martinez is four back with a handful of games left. 

Ibrahimovic left the biggest mark on Week 28 in the LA Galaxy’s thumping over Sporting Kansas City, but both Vela and Martinez found the back of the net as well.

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

20. Miles Robinson, D, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 13

May 5, 2019; Kansas City, KS, USA; Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) moves the ball during the match against Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

May 5, 2019; Kansas City, KS, USA; Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) moves the ball during the match against Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Atlanta United’s defense has had a few shaky weeks with the concession of six goals to Philadelphia and Columbus. 

Saturday’s home loss to the Crew was the more surprising of the two results given how poorly Caleb Porter’s team has played this season. 

Before the two-game losing streak, Miles Robinson and Co. put up three clean sheets in four games. They need to revert back to that form in Week 29 against FC Cincinnati and San Jose to secure a home playoff match. 

19. Carles Gil, M, New England Revolution

Previous Ranking: 14 

Aug 24, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution forward Carles Gil (22) passes the ball against the Chicago Fire at Gillette Stadium. (Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

Carles Gil dished out his 13th and 14th assists in New England’s 3-3 draw with Orlando.

The pair of handouts were a welcome sight for the Spaniard, who went two games without an assist, a rare drought in his debut MLS season. 

From July 17 to August 24, the 26-year-old had an assist in six of seven games. That form will be needed down the stretch for the Revs to secure a postseason berth. 

18. Ike Opara, D, Minnesota United

Previous Ranking: 

Jul 20, 2019; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Saucedo (23) and Minnesota United defender Ike Opara (3) battle for the ball in the second half at Rio Tinto Stadium. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

In three September games, Ike Opara and the Minnesota United defense have conceded a trio of goals. 

On Sunday versus Real Salt Lake, the Loons held the Claret-and-Cobalt to five shots on target in a 3-1 victory

The Loons rank third in goals against in the Western Conference, where they are third behind LAFC and Seattle.

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

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

Apr 17, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Los Angeles FC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye (14) passes the ball against the Vancouver Whitecaps during the second half at BC Place. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Mark-Anthony Kaye dished out four key passes and had the shot that helped create Carlos Vela’s goal in LAFC’s 1-1 draw at Philadelphia. 

The Canadian midfielder also recorded four tackles, a clearance and an interception against the second-place side in the Eastern Conference. 

On the season, Kaye has a pass completion rate of 83.9 percent and is averaging 2.2 tackles, 1.7 key passes and 1.3 interceptions. 

16. Luis Diaz, M, Columbus Crew SC

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Sep 14, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Columbus Crew midfielder Luis Diaz (18) celebrates his goal in the second half against the Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)

The acquisition of Luis Diaz flew under the radar because of the Crew’s struggles this season, but he has turned into one of the better midseason signings. 

The 20-year-old Costa Rican has two goals and an assist in his last three games, including a strike in the Crew’s road upset of Atlanta United. 

In 10 contests, the midfielder has two goals and three assists. 

15. Mauro Manotas, F, Houston Dynamo

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Sep 14, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Houston Dynamo forward Mauro Manotas (9) celebrates his goal against Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Zac MacMath (18) (not pictured) during the second half at BC Place. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Mauro Manotas added to his second-highest scoring season in MLS with a strike in each of Houston’s two Week 28 games. 

The Honduran forward, who should be poised for a move in the offseason, found the back of the net against Minnesota and Vancouver. 

Eight of Manotas’ 13 goals have occurred against Western Conference opposition. 

14. Darwin Quintero, M, Minnesota United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Sep 15, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota United midfielder Darwin Quintero (25) controls the ball against Real Salt Lake during the second half at Allianz Field. (Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports)

Darwin Quintero earned his second straight 10-goal season with a brace Sunday versus RSL. 

The 31-year-old Colombian scored in the 20th and 51st minutes to help Adrian Heath’s side rebound from a midweek loss to Houston.

The Loons need Quintero to continue scoring in a three-game stretch versus Portland, Sporting KC and LAFC in order for the club to host a postseason game at Allianz Field. 

13. Keaton Parks, M, New York City FC

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Sep 14, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC midfielder Keaton Parks (55) plays the ball against San Jose Earthquakes defender Marcos Lopez (27) during the first half at Yankee Stadium. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Keaton Parks has not received the love he deserves. 

The New York City FC on-loan midfielder rose into the spotlight with his first MLS goal Saturday in a 3-1 win over San Jose, and he has quietly been a rock in the center of the park. 

If Parks continues to thrive for Dome Torrent’s side, he may command a spot in Gregg Berhalter’s U.S. men’s national team.

12. Frederic Brillant, D, D.C. United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Aug 11, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Uriel Antuna (18) leaps in front of D.C. United defender Jalen Robinson (20) and D.C. United defender Frederic Brillant (13) to head the ball in the first half at Audi Field. D.C. United won 2-1. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Two clean sheets have helped D.C. United move four points above the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference. 

Frederic Brillant has turned in a pair of solid showings against Montreal and Portland. 

In the 1-0 victory over the Timbers, Brillant and the D.C. defense limited the home side to four shots on goal of the 23 attempted. 

11. Sebastian Lletget, M, LA Galaxy

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Sep 15, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget (17) reacts after a goal during the second half against Sporting Kansas City at StubHub Center. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

In his first game back from USMNT camp, Sebastian Lletget exploded for two goals and an assist in the LA Galaxy’s 7-2 rout of Sporting Kansas City. 

The midfielder’s brace occurred two minutes apart during a 16-minute stretch in which the Galaxy poured in four goals. 

The Galaxy will not score seven goals each week, but if they can continue to put pressure on opposing defenses, they will ease any concerns about their playoff hopes. 

10. Nani, M, Orlando City SC

Sep 14, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando City forward Nani (17) kicks the ball during the first half against the New England Revolution at Exploria Stadium. (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

From June 26-August 31, Nani recorded one goal for Orlando City.

In the last two games, he has three goals and an assist, but the increase in production was not good enough to power the Lions to victory. 

Orlando sits in a tough spot, four points below the playoff line with three games to play, so it needs to win out and some help to claw back into the top seven. 

9. Alexandru Mitrita, M, New York City FC

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Jul 20, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; New York City FC midfielder Alexandru Mitrita (28) controls the ball in the second half against the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Alexandru Mitrita has helped fill the scoring void left by the injured Heber. 

The 24-year-old Designated Player scored once in both of New York City FC’s victories in Week 28, and now has three strikes in the last four matches. 

With Heber out until at least Decision Day, the Pigeons need Mitrita to continue scoring in order to lock up the No. 1 seed. 

8. Jordan Morris, F, Seattle Sounders

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Aug 10, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris (13) pursues the ball against the New England Revolution in the second half at CenturyLink Field. The teams played to a 3-3 tie. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Jordan Morris has secured the Comeback Player of the Year with his September start. 

Morris, who missed all of 2018 with an injury, bagged his ninth goal and handed out his seventh assist in a 4-2 win over the New York Red Bulls Sunday. 

Since the start of August, the U.S. international has experienced an uptick in form that includes a goal and assist in two of his last three games. 

7. Chris Wondolowski, F, San Jose Earthquakes

Previous Ranking: 15 

Aug 31, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (8) reacts after scoring a goal against the Orlando City FC during the first half at Avaya Stadium. (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

While we’ve been fawning over the flashy scorers in MLS, Chris Wondolowski has brought his lunch pail and blue-collar mentality to continue to find the back of the net. 

Wondolowski moved his season total up to 14 with the opening goal in San Jose’s loss to NYCFC on Saturday. 

In the last four matches, the 36-year-old has four tallies to get up to his fifth-highest scoring total in MLS at 14. 

6. Kai Wagner, D, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: 12 

Jul 20, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner (27) in action against the Chicago Fire at Talen Energy Stadium. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Kai Wagner did what few defenders in MLS have done all season: frustrate Carlos Vela.

Vela still scored in the 1-1 draw at Talen Energy Stadium, but it occurred off a rebound in the box, not a moment of individual brilliance. 

Wagner leads defenders in assists with eight and has become one of the lock-down left backs in the league, something the Union will benefit from in their hunt for the No. 2 seed in the East. 

5. Kacper Przybylko, F, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: 8

Aug 31, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward Kacper Przybylko (23) takes a shot during the first half against the Atlanta United at Talen Energy Stadium. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Kacper Przybylko scored for the third straight game and fifth time in six games. 

The 14-goal scorer struck the back of the net in the third minute versus LAFC, a game in which the Union proved they could play with MLS’ best. 

Next up for Przybylko is a three-game road swing against the Red Bulls, Earthquakes and Crew. 

4. Gustavo Bou, F, New England Revolution

Previous Ranking: 

Aug 31, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution forward Gustavo Bou (7) reacts after scoring against the Toronto FC during the second half at Gillette Stadium. (Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

Gustavo Bou is now up to seven goals in 10 games. 

The New England forward netted one of his team’s three goals in the draw against Orlando City. 

While other forwards have scored in bunches, Bou has been Mr. Consistent, which is exactly what the Revs needed out of their big-money signing. 

3. Carlos Vela, F, Los Angeles FC

Previous Ranking: 5

Sep 14, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) celebrates with forward Diego Rossi (9) after scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Union during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Even though he spent most of Saturday night trying to get away from Wagner, Vela still impacted the game. 

The 30-year-old knocked in his 28th goal right before halftime to double his scoring total from a year ago. 

Vela is in possession of a five-game scoring streak that dates back to August 11. He and his LAFC teammates can clinch the Supporters’ Shield with a win over Toronto FC Saturday. 

2. Josef Martinez, F, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 2

Sep 14, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) celebrates his goal with midfielder Pity Martinez (10) in the first half against the Columbus Crew at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)

Speaking of scoring streaks, Josef Martinez is now up to 14 consecutive games with a goal.

The Venezuelan striker bagged Atlanta United’s only goal in a 3-1 defeat to the Columbus Crew Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In the last four matches, Martinez has deposited four goals into the net on six shots on target. 

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, F, LA Galaxy

Previous Ranking: 

Jul 4, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (9) and Toronto FC midfielder Richie Laryea (22) battle for the ball in the second half at Dignity Health Sports Park. The Gakaxy defeated Tornto FC 2-0. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

There is a real chance Zlatan Ibrahimovic steals the Golden Boot away from Vela. 

The towering Swede produced his fourth multi-goal performance in six games Sunday by notching a hat trick versus Sporting KC. 

Since August 14, Ibrahimovic has scored 10 goals to move two goals behind Vela with four games remaining. 

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