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MLS Player Rankings Week 3: LAFC’s Carlos Vela claims top spot

Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports

Some of Major League Soccer’s top foreign and domestic stars have taken control of the major stat categories through Week 3. 

LAFC’s seven-point start has been fueled by Carlos Vela, who almost claimed the top position in our MLS Player Rankings a week ago.

Also on the climb up the list, which we’ve expanded to 20 – and that’s where it’ll stay for the rest of the regular season – are a trio of Seattle Sounders players and a legend at D.C. United who recorded a hat trick in Week 3. 

Our player rankings reward consistency over a span of games, with the most-recent performances from each player carrying an extra bit of weight.

Starting this week, and throughout the season, we’ve added analysis from our ProSoccerUSA writers who witnessed some of the best performances of the week firsthand.

20. Miles Robinson, D, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

Mar 17, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) plays the ball in front of Philadelphia Union midfielder Ilsinho (25) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports)

Miles Robinson has been one of the few bright spots on the field during Atlanta United’s frustrating start. 

He has forced himself into Frank de Boer’s starting XI, and if he continues to play well for the Five Stripes, he’ll force his way on to the U.S. Men’s National Team radar. 

On Sunday, he muscled a Union attack out of play on his own, used his speed to save a shot that snuck by an off-his-line Brad Guzan, and added to the attack with precise passing – Robinson was second in touches for Atlanta with 98 and completed 86 percent of his 85 passes. The U.S. men’s national team should be keeping an eye on Robinson’s rise. – ProSoccerUSA’s Mitchell Northam.

19. Gyasi Zardes, F, Columbus Crew SC

Previous Ranking: 11

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 followed up his two-goal performance in Week 2 by failing to put a shot on target in Columbus’ win over FC Dallas. 

Zardes played in a pair of key passes, but he wasn’t largely active in the final third, with only 36 touches for Caleb Porter’s side. 

Zardes’ focus now shifts to the USMNT, as one of a few forwards fighting for starting positions under his former manager Gregg Berhalter.

18. Paxton Pomykal, M, FC Dallas

Previous Ranking: 14 

FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal is preparing for the upcoming MLS season. (Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports)

Paxton Pomykal was once again active on the ball in the FC Dallas midfield on Saturday, but he didn’t make a significant impact moving forward like he did a week ago. 

After playing around experienced players to start the season, Pomykal will be tasked with more responsibilities in Week 4, as Luchi Gonzalez’s side deals with international absences against Colorado. 

He continues to impress with his two-way ability. On the ball, he is creative, as evidenced by his wonderful through ball on [Michael] Barrios’ chance in the second half. Off the ball and on defense, he continues to press and work very hard to obtain the ball. It has caught people off guard, but I feel like Pomykal has realized that this needs to be his big year and has shown off. He will be very important this upcoming week, with two  of FCD’s midfield on international duty. – ProSoccerUSA’s Arman Kafai

17. Eduard Atuesta, M, LAFC 

March 3, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC midfielder Eduard Atuesta (20) controls the ball against Sporting Kansas City during the second half at Banc of California Stadium. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Ranking: 7

Eduard Atuesta wasn’t as dominant in Week 3 as he was in LAFC’s first two games, but part of that has to do with the tight quarters on the Yankee Stadium field. 

Atuesta still led Bob Bradley’s team in touches with 75, but he only completed 66.1 percent of his 56 passes on the compact field. 

Atuesta is as natural a No. 6 as you will see in MLS. The perfect quarterback in a 4-3-3 or one holding midfielder setup. He can move the ball right or left, passes with all different surfaces and pace and is a very tough tackler/ball winner in the center of the park. – ProSoccerUSA’s Glenn Crooks.

16. Junior Moreno, M, D.C. United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Mar 16, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United midfielder Ulises Segura (8) celebrates with D.C. United midfielder Junior Moreno (5) after scoring a goal against Real Salt Lake in the second half at Audi Field. D.C. United won 5-0. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Junior Moreno was one of many D.C. United players who benefited from poor defending and red cards dealt to Real Salt Lake on Saturday. 

Moreno handed out a pair of assists in the 5-0 victory while delivering a pair of key passes and completing 96.3 percent of his 81 passes. 

The 25-year-old also made his presence known on the defensive side of the ball by making five tackles. 

15. Latif Blessing, M, LAFC

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Latif Blessing was a menace to the NYCFC defense for every second of his 90-minute shift on Sunday. 

Blessing used the small Yankee Stadium field to his advantage, as he made an impact in all facets of the game for LAFC. 

Blessing was at the center of everything LAFC did on Sunday. He buzzed around the small pitch at Yankee Stadium, causing havoc. He set up Carlos Vela’s first goal and had the most fouls suffered (7) of any player in the match, including the Ben Sweat kick out in the box that led to Vela’s equalizer from the spot. – ProSoccerUSA’s Dylan Butler

14. Alexandru Mitrita, F, NYCFC 

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

NYCFC’s new forward opened his scoring account in the 2-2 draw with LAFC on Sunday. 

Alexandru Mitrita’s first MLS goal was coming, as he’s attempted 19 shots in his first three league appearances. 

Mitrita is extremely difficult to contain as his statistics would suggest. He has a league-high 19 shots and when he gets more comfortable with MLS, his coaches, his teammates and his surroundings, I think he will be a Top 5 impact player in the league. – ProSoccerUSA’s Glenn Crooks

13. Alex Muyl, M, New York Red Bulls

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Alex Muyl made a massive impact off the bench in the New York Red Bulls’ 4-1 come-from-behind win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Muyl, who came on for Florian Valot in the 35th minute, recorded the first two tallies for Chris Armas’ side in the 51st and 71st minutes. 

Saturday marked the first time in Muyl’s career he recorded multiple goals in a single game. 

12. C.J. Sapong, F, Chicago Fire

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Mar 16, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire forward C.J. Sapong (9) controls the ball against the Seattle Sounders during the first half at Bridgeview Stadium. (Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)

Chicago Fire forward C.J. Sapong’s contributed to a goal in each of his first three games for the club.

After scoring a goal in the Fire’s first two matches, Sapong added an assist to his totals as he continues to prove his 2018 struggles in Philadelphia was just a fluke. 

After a down 2018 season, Sapong has been a pleasant surprise for the Fire. He has played both up top and in an outside attacking positions and has produced from both spots. He’s also been very strong in hold-up play and winning balls in the air to spark attacking play for the Fire. – ProSoccerUSA’s Dan Santaromita.

11. Nicolas Lodeiro, M, Seattle Sounders

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

The MLS assist leader is one of three Seattle attackers to be included this week. 

Nicolas Lodeiro recorded a goal and an assist in the Sounders’ third win of the season, a performance that came two weeks after he handed out a pair of assists against FC Cincinnati. 

It’s no secret that Lodeiro is one of the best playmakers in MLS. His through ball to set up the goal at Chicago on Saturday is one of the best assists you’ll see this season. – ProSoccerUSA’s Dan Santaromita.

10. Ignacio Piatti, M, Montreal Impact

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

All the most underrated player in MLS did in Week 3 was a bag a brace in a road win for the Montreal Impact. 

Ignacio Piatti hasn’t skipped a beat during his time in Major League Soccer, and he’s on track to once again hit double digits in goals and assists. 

The two-time MLS Best XI selection has scored three of Montreal’s six goals in 2019. 

9. Alberth Elis, F, Houston Dynamo

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Mar 16, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Dynamo forward Alberth Elis (17) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first half against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BBVA Compass Stadium. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Alberth Elis might not be as underrated as Piatti, but he certainly is deserving of more attention on a national level. 

The Honduran striker was a menace to the Vancouver defense on Saturday, scoring once and handing out a pair of assists to Memo Rodriguez to open his stat accounts for the 2019 season. 

In total, Elis attempted four shots, handed out three key passes, won three aerial duels and even chipped in with a pair of tackles in the 3-2 victory at BBVA Compass Stadium. 

8. Saphir Taider, M, Montreal Impact

Previous Ranking: 3

Mar 16, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; Montreal Impact midfielder Saphir Taider (8) against Orlando City at Orlando City Stadium. Montreal Impact defeated Orlando City 3-1. (Matt Stamey/USA TODAY Sports)

 One of the top performers from the first two weeks of the season dropped a few spots because he didn’t have the biggest impact on Montreal’s road win in Orlando. 

Saphir Taider was still the most active Impact player on the ball with 85 touches and he handed out three key passes while putting two of his three shots on target. 

In addition to his three key passes, Taider’s passing numbers were strong, as he completed 93 percent of his 57 attempted passes and had six accurate long balls. 

7. Memo Rodriguez, M, Houston Dynamo

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

If we were doing a ranking of the best Homegrown Players through three weeks, Memo Rodriguez would sit in the top spot. 

The 23-year-old midfielder scored twice for the Dynamo on Saturday to bolster his goal total to three. 

Although it’s still early, Rodriguez is front and center as one of the breakout star candidates for 2019. 

6. Darwin Quintero, F, Minnesota United

Previous Ranking: 1

Mar 16, 2019; Carson, CA, USA;Minnesota United forward Carlos Darwin Quintero (25) kicks the ball against the LA Galaxy in the first half at Dignity Health Sports Park. The Galaxy defeated Minnesota United 3-2. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time this season, Darwin Quintero failed to play a role in a Minnesota United goal over 90 minutes. 

The 31-year-old still handed out three key passes and put his only shot on target in the Loons’ 3-2 loss to the LA Galaxy on Saturday, but he wasn’t able to stop other top scorers from taking his top spot in the Player Rankings. 

Quintero is still a top candidate in the Player of the Month running, but he’ll need to add to his two goals and three assists in his next game against New England to lock it up. 

5. Bill Hamid, GK, D.C. United

Previous Ranking: 4

Mar 10, 2019; New York, NY, USA; D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid (24) sets up for a shot during the first half against the New York City at Yankee Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

Bill Hamid took a backseat to the D.C. United attack in Week 3, but he still recorded his third clean sheet of 2019. 

The USMNT goalkeeper made two saves on Saturday to send his season total up to 10, and he is already halfway to the number of shutouts he recorded in his last full season before leaving for Europe. 

4. Wayne Rooney, F, D.C. United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

 Wayne Rooney recorded his first-career MLS hat trick on Saturday against a depleted Real Salt Lake side that didn’t look too competitive when it had all 11 men on the field. 

Rooney scored from the spot, on a chip over Nick Rimando and from close range. He also dished out an assist on Lucas Rodriguez’s stunning second-half goal. 

With Rooney playing with a wealth of confidence in the final third and D.C’s defense looking up to the task, the Black-and-Red could turn into the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. 

3. Jordan Morris, F, Seattle Sounders

Previous Ranking: 15

Mar 16, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris (13) kicks the ball down field against the against the Chicago Fire during the first half at SeatGeek Stadium. (Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports)

Jordan Morris is experiencing a dream return to the field after missing the 2018 MLS season due to injury.

The forward, who was called into the USMNT camp for the March friendlies, bagged his third goal of the campaign off a beautiful assist from Lodeiro. 

In addition to the goal, Morris handed out his first assist of the season, which was only the sixth of his MLS career. 

2. Raul Ruidiaz, F, Seattle Sounders

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

We’re all about rewarding consistency on the list and no player has been as prolific in front of goal as Raul Ruidiaz recently. 

The 28-year-old Peruvian scored in his third straight game to open the season on Saturday, and he also chipped in with an assist. 

Ruidiaz is currently in the middle of a remarkable scoring streak. He’s found the back of the net in five straight regular-season games, and eight overall, including the postseason, dating back to the penultimate week of the 2018 season. 

1. Carlos Vela, F, LAFC 

Previous Ranking: 2

With three goals and two assists in three games, no player has been as important to his team than Carlos Vela at LAFC. 

The Mexican international bagged his fourth brace for the club on Sunday in the draw with NYCFC. 

Vela, Quintero and Rooney are the only three players in MLS to have a hand in five goals in 2019. 




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