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MLS Player Rankings Week 8: Vela, Pozuelo, Zlatan top the chart

Apr 21, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; LAFC forward Carlos Vela (10) dribbles the ball against the Seattle Sounders in the second half at Banc of California Stadium. LAFC defeated the Sounders 4-1. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

If you assembled the 2019 Major League Soccer All-Star team right now, most of the players in that squad would be in the top half of the Pro Soccer USA MLS Player Rankings. 

Normally the best team in the league has the most representatives on an All-Star team, and that is the same case with this week’s list. Five of the 20 players after Week 8 come from Los Angeles Football Club

The top 10 is a who’s who of the league’s best, and 10 of the league’s top scorers are included in the 20-player rankings. 

The player rankings take into account form over the last four games, with the most-recent performance carrying extra weight. 

20. Johnny Russell, M, Sporting Kansas City 

Previous Ranking: 14

Apr 20, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell (7) controls the ball ahead of San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Jackson Yueill (14) during the first half at Avaya Stadium. (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

Sporting Kansas City surprised us all with its dreadful performance on Saturday in San Jose. 

But there were a few bright spots, including Johnny Russell, who produced three key passes and two shots on target in the 4-1 defeat at Avaya Stadium.

Peter Vermes’ side hasn’t won in three league games and needs to get back on track against New England in Week 9.

19. Krisztian Nemeth, F, Sporting Kansas City 

Previous Ranking: 13

Apr 20, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Sporting Kansas City forward Krisztian Nemeth (9) chases the ball ahead of San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Florian Jungwirth (23) during the second half at Avaya Stadium. (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

Krisztian Nemeth was a bit more active than Russell on Saturday by producing five shots and winning a pair of aerial duels. 

But the main statistic that will keep the Sporting KC scorers on this list after next week is goals. 

Since his hat trick against Montreal, Nemeth hasn’t found the back of the net in 200 minutes. 

18. Zack Steffen, GK, Columbus Crew SC

Previous Ranking: 10

Mar 30, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen (23) celebrates a 2-0 win over Atlanta United at MAPFRE Stadium. (Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew gave up more than one goal with Zack Steffen in net for the first time in 2019 on Saturday night. 

Steffen and the Crew dropped a 3-1 result to head coach Caleb Porter’s former team, the Portland Timbers

Steffen only came up with two saves in the defeat at MAPFRE Stadium. 

17. Latif Blessing, M, Los Angeles Football Club

Previous Ranking: 20 

Apr 21, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; LAFC forward Latif Blessing (7) and Seattle Sounders defender Gustav Svensson (4) battle for the ball in the second half at Banc of California Stadium. LAFC defeated the Sounders 4-1. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Latif Blessing continued to provide a steady hand to the LAFC midfield on Sunday while other players stepped into the spotlight. 

Blessing recorded the most touches of any LAFC player against Seattle with 99 and he came up with four tackles. 

Although he might not be involved in the attack every week, Blessing has carved out a valuable position for himself in Bob Bradley’s starting XI. 

16. Danny Hoesen, F, San Jose Earthquakes

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Danny Hoesen was one of a few multiple-goal scorers in MLS in Week 8.

What separates Hoesen from Jordan Hamilton and Albert Rusnak is that he’s found the back of the net on three occasions in the last three games for the Earthquakes. 

Hoesen scored his two goals on Saturday with both of his shots on target, and he recorded those numbers while only making 26 touches. 

15. Darwin Quintero, F, Minnesota United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Before Minnesota United’s defense fell apart at BMO Field, Darwin Quintero got back on the scoresheet with a pair of tallies. 

The 31-year-old, who scored in three of his first four games, found the back of the net twice for the Loons to open up a one-goal advantage over Toronto FC that was later erased. 

The Colombian playmaker is now up to five goals and three assists in six games played. 

14. Jack Elliott, D, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Apr 20, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Montreal Impact midfielder Michael Azira (32) and Philadelphia Union defender Jack Elliott (3) compete for the ball during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

The Philadelphia Union have quietly put together an impressive run of form, and they have their defense to thank for that. 

Center back Jack Elliott, who was a fourth-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, has been model of consistency at the back for the club. 

In the 3-0 win over Montreal, Elliott and the Union defense held the Impact to a single shot on target. In the last five games, Elliott has helped the Union earn three clean sheets.

13. Jesse Gonzalez, GK, FC Dallas

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Apr 20, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez (1) celebrates after his team scores against Atlanta United in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Jesse Gonzalez turned in a tremendous performance between the pipes for FC Dallas in its road win over Atlanta United

The U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper made seven saves in the 2-1 victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a performance that followed up a five-save showing against Portland.

If Gonzalez’s play continues to trend upward, he could be in the mix for one of the goalkeeping spots on Gregg Berhalter’s Concacaf Gold Cup roster. 

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

Previous Ranking: 18

C.J. Sapong has already matched his goal total from a year ago. 

The 30-year-old forward scored for the fourth time in a Chicago Fire shirt in their Week 8 victory over Colorado. 

Sapong, who has scored twice in the last three games, currently sits at four goals for the season, a number he earned for the entire 2018 campaign in Philadelphia. 

11. Ezequiel Barco, M, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 15 

Apr 20, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) dribbles against FC Dallas in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Ezequiel Barco did everything he could to push Atlanta United past FC Dallas on Saturday. 

Barco followed up his two-goal performance against New England with seven key passes, five shots and two shots on target. 

Although the Five Stripes still haven’t found consistent results, Barco appears to be rounding into form in Frank de Boer’s system. 

10. 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 produced one of the best individual performances of Week 8 by handing out three assists in LAFC’s win over Seattle. 

Kaye picked out Carlos Vela with a perfect pass to get the scoring started in the 12th minute, and then he assisted on goals by Eduard Atuesta and Christian Ramirez. 

Kaye hasn’t missed a beat in the LAFC midfield since recovering from a season-ending injury in 2018. He has two goals and five assists in eight games.

9. Diego Rossi, F, Los Angeles FC

Previous Ranking: 6

Apr 13, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Diego Rossi (9) moves the ball down the field past FC Cinncinati midfielder Allan Cruz (15) during the first half at Banc of California Stadium. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Diego Rossi had a rare quiet week up top for LAFC. 

The Uruguayan forward struck out in front of net on Wednesday in Vancouver and Sunday at home against Seattle. 

Rossi came close to catching Vela a few weeks ago on this list and in the Golden Boot race, but now he’s slipped four goals back of his teammate and fallen another few spots in this ranking. 

8. Jozy Altidore, F, Toronto FC

Previous Ranking: 

Apr 19, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) plays the ball against Minnesota United in the second half at BMO Field. (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Unfortunately, we likely won’t see Jozy Altidore on this list after Week 9. 

Altidore left Toronto FC’s win over Minnesota United with hamstring tightness and it looks like he’ll be out for a few weeks. 

The injury interrupts an impressive spell of form in which Altidore recorded five goals and two assists in his last five games. 

7. Eduard Atuesta, M, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 

Eduard Atuesta once again played a significant role in a LAFC win on Sunday, but this time around he directly contributed to the final score.

Atuesta scored his first goal of the season and handed out his fourth assist on Vela’s second tally against the Sounders. 

In total, Atuesta dished out three key passes and completed 93.3 percent of his 75 attempted passes. 

6. Kei Kamara, F, Colorado Rapids

Previous Ranking: 11

Kei Kamara’s form is the only thing going right for the Colorado Rapids. 

The 34-year-old forward scored in the fourth straight game for the Rapids by netting the club’s lone strike against the Fire. 

In the last four games, Kamara has accounted for four of the Rapids’ seven goals. 

5. Nani, M, Orlando City 

Previous Ranking: 7

Nani extended his scoring streak to three games in an unconventional manner on Saturday. 

The Portuguese winger jumped in front of a Sacha Kljestan shot and deflected it into the back of the net to hand Orlando City a 1-0 victory over the Whitecaps. 

Thanks to the contributions of Nani, who has four goals in his last three games, the Lions are up to fifth in the Eastern Conference. 

4. Alberth Elis, F, Houston Dynamo

Previous Ranking: 4

Alberth Elis struck the back of the net for the fourth straight game in Week 8. 

The Honduran forward recorded the lone Houston Dynamo goal at Dignity Health Sports Park on Friday night in the club’s loss to the LA Galaxy. 

Elis has an opportunity to score at home for the third straight game in Week 9 against Columbus. 

3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, F, LA Galaxy

Previous Ranking: 2

Another week, another Zlatan goal. 

Ibrahimovic extended his scoring run to four games by bagging one of the Galaxy’s two goals on Friday night. 

During that span, Ibrahimovic has converted on six of his seven shots on target. 

2. Alejandro Pozuelo, M, Toronto FC 

Previous Ranking: 3 

Alejandro Pozuelo put together another near perfect performance on Friday night at BMO Field. 

In addition to scoring twice in the first half, Pozuelo handed out an assist on one of his five key passes. 

In five games for Toronto FC, Pozuelo has four goals and five assists in 349 minutes. 

1. Carlos Vela, F, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 

Vela has been able to fend off all challengers for the top spot on this list by continuously scoring. 

After his brace against Seattle, Vela has 10 goals through nine games and legitimately has Josef Martinez’s single-season scoring record in his sights. 

Vela is already one-third of the way to the 31-goal mark set by Martinez a year ago, and he’s done so in dominant fashion for the best team in the league. 

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