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MLS Week 12 Player Rankings: Carlos Vela still rules, Nani surges into top three

Vela extended his three-game scoring streak in Week 12 during a pair of games against FC Dallas

Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela has put Major League Soccer on record watch. The Mexican forward is almost halfway to the regular-season scoring record set by Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez a year ago. 

Vela extended his three-game scoring streak in Week 12 during a pair of games against FC Dallas, and the more remarkable part of his red-hot form is he has already eclipsed Martinez’s assist total from 2018. 

Vela is the top Designated Player taking MLS by storm, but there are a few others who deserve the spotlight, including Nani, who continued his excellent start with Orlando City SC on Sunday.

Thanks to their Week 12 performances and overall form, Vela and Nani lead the Pro Soccer USA MLS Player Rankings.

The player rankings take into account a player’s form from his last four games, with the most recent performance carrying more weight.

20. Stefan Frei, GK, Seattle Sounders

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

May 18, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei (24) reaches to make a save as Jonathan Campbell (3) defends the shot during the second half against the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Stefan Frei came up with a handful of impressive denials in Seattle’s 0-0 draw Saturday at Philadelphia. 

Frei made an incredible save in each half, including one from point-blank range in the second half, to help the Sounders earn a point against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. 

In four games in May, Frei has two clean sheets and has given up a goal to Orlando City and Minnesota United in the other two. 

19. Heber, F, New York City FC 

Previous Ranking: 18

Apr 6, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC forward Heber (9) fights for position against Montreal Impact defender Jukka Raitala (22) during the second half at Yankee Stadium. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

After beating the LA Galaxy in Week 11, Heber and his New York City FC teammates had an off week. 

The Brazilian forward, who has two goals and an assist in his last four games, should be able to add to his attacking totals before the Concacaf Gold Cup break with games against Chicago, Columbus and FC Cincinnati

18. Diego Valeri, M, Portland Timbers

Previous Ranking: 16 

May 15, 2019; Houston, TX; Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri attempts to play the ball against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

In Portland’s penultimate game before its home opener at Providence Park, Diego Valeri dished out six passes in a 1-1 draw with Houston on Wednesday. 

Valeri also put two of his three shots on goal during a game in which the Timbers earned their 10th point in a five-game stretch. 

17. Tesho Akindele, F, Orlando City SC

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

Tesho Akindele was one of two Orlando City players to hit the back of the net on two occasions during Sunday’s 5-1 win over FC Cincinnati. 

The former FC Dallas forward bagged goals in the 37th and 64th minutes to hand the Lions their first victory since April 20. The brace was the first since July 4, 2018 for the 27-year-old forward. 

16. Alberth Elis, F, Houston Dynamo

Previous Ranking: 11 

May 15, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Dynamo forward Alberth Elis (17) in action during a game against the Portland Timbers at BBVA Compass Stadium. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Alberth Elis handed out his sixth assist of the season Wednesday night against Portland, but he wasn’t able to contribute to a Houston goal Saturday. The Honduran forward left the match against D.C. United with a head injury.

Elis hasn’t scored since April 19, but he’s still been a force in the Dynamo’s attack and has assisted on a goal in three of his last five games. 

15. Jack Elliott, D, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: 7

May 18, 2019; Philadelphia, PA; Philadelphia Union defender Jack Elliott plays the ball past Seattle Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz at Talen Energy Stadium. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Jack Elliott and the Philadelphia Union defense picked up their fifth clean sheet of the season on Saturday, but it came against a Seattle attack that offered little moving forward. 

Elliott made four interceptions and two clearances, but faced little difficulty for long stretches versus a Sounders front line that put one of its six shots on target. 

14. Aleksandar Katai, M, Chicago Fire

Previous Ranking: 20 

It’s hard to be a bright spot for your team when you lose by three goals, but Aleksandar Katai stood out Saturday for the Chicago Fire in their defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes

Katai’s 83rd-minute consolation strike capped off a performance in which was the driving force of the Fire attack.

The 28-year-old placed two of his seven shots on target and handed out four key passes in his attempt to spoil Chris Wondolowski’s historic day. 

13. Miles Robinson, D, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

May 19, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) heads the ball during the first half against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Miles Robinson’s appearance on this list is long overdue. 

The third-year Atlanta United defender, who made the 40-man U.S. Men’s National Team preliminary roster for the Gold Cup, has been one of the breakout stars of the MLS season. 

Although Atlanta’s winning and shutout streaks came to an end on Sunday, Robinson still deserves praise for playing at an All-Star caliber level over the first three months. 

12. Romain Metanire, D, Minnesota United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Apr 24, 2019; Saint Paul, MN; Minnesota United defender Romain Metanire protects the ball from LA Galaxy defender Emmanuel Boateng at Allianz Field. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Minnesota’s Romain Metanire jumps back into the top 20 after another strong showing in his club’s 1-0 win over Columbus on Saturday.

Metanire produced three clearances and three interceptions while adding a pair of key passes to the attack. 

His play on the right defensive flank silenced the production of newly-acquired Columbus winger David Accam, who got off one shot and one key pass in 86 minutes. 

11. Memo Rodriguez, M, Houston Dynamo

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

After four weeks away from this list, Memo Rodriguez is back near the top 10.

The Dynamo midfielder produced a goal and an assist over two games in Week 12, during which his team took away four points. 

Rodriguez came on for the injured Elis on Saturday and produced a Man of the Match outing against D.C. United with a goal and three key passes in the final third. 

10. Josef Martinez, F, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 

May 15, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia; Atlanta United FC forward Josef Martinez watches play against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Josef Martinez found the back of the net on Wednesday for Atlanta United at BC Place in a 1-0 win over the Whitecaps. 

However, his game-winning strike to start Week 12 is the only goal he has scored in the last four games. 

Martinez has been productive in other aspects of the game for the Five Stripes with a pair of assists and countless attempts on target, but he needs to score more to sit higher up on this list. 

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

Previous Ranking: 

May 16, 2019; Los Angeles FC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye and FC Dallas midfielder Bryan Acosta battle for the ball at Banc of California Stadium. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Mark-Anthony Kaye continued his solid season in the LAFC midfield with a pair of strong performances against FC Dallas. 

During Thursday’s 2-0 win at Banc of California Stadium, Kaye completed 88.2 percent of his 68 passes, made three interceptions and put a pair of shots on target. 

On Sunday at Toyota Stadium, Kaye led the Black-and-Gold with 94 touches, handed out two key passes and completed 81.8 percent of his team high 66 passes. 

8. Sam Johnson, F, Real Salt Lake

Previous Ranking: 

May 18, 2019; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake forward Sam Johnson (50) prepares for their game against the Toronto FC at Rio Tinto Stadium. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

Sam Johnson was unable to continue his scoring streak on Saturday because he was left out of Real Salt Lake’s lineup for disciplinary reasons.

The 26-year-old has found the back of the net in four of his last five games and has a chance to extend that run at home on Friday against Atlanta United. 

7. Kacper Przybyłko, F, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: 

Apr 27, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Philadelphia Union forward Kacper Przybylko (23) celebrates his goal against Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau (16) (not pictured) during the second half at BC Place. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

The red-hot scoring form of Kacper Przybylko was brought to a halt by the Sounders on Saturday night. 

The 26-year-old, who had three goals and an assist in the four games leading up to Week 12, only mustered one attempt on target in the scoreless draw. 

The one attempt that reached goal was a headed shot near the left post that was turned away by Frei. 

6. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, F, LA Galaxy

Previous Ranking: 2

May 11, 2019; Carson, CA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic moves in for a shot on goal against New York City at StubHub Center. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

 A slide down the rankings is expected in the coming weeks for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 

Ibrahimovic served the first game of his two-game suspension on Sunday and the LA Galaxy missed him dearly. 

The Galaxy failed to get a goal past the worst defense in the league and left the field with a home loss to the Colorado Rapids. 

5. Chris Wondolowski, F, San Jose Earthquakes

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Few players in MLS this year have scored four times in an extended stretch.

Chris Wondolowski did so in a single game, and in the process, he broke the MLS all-time scoring record

The goals were the first of the season for Wondolowski and Saturday’s performance marked the first time he scored multiple tallies in a game since June 30, 2018.

4. Eduard Atuesta, M, Los Angeles FC

Previous Ranking: 4

May 4, 2019; Los Angeles, CA; LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta moves the ball against the Chicago Fire at Banc of California Stadium. The team played to a 0-0 tie. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Eduard Atuesta handed out his fifth assist of the season on Thursday in his lone appearance of the week for LAFC. 

In the victory over FC Dallas, Atuesta made three tackles and completed 89.3 percent of his 84 passes. 

Atuesta has been the second-most active passer in MLS this season with 85.6 passes per game, which sits two behind Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley.

3. Alejandro Pozuelo, M, Toronto FC 

Previous Ranking: 3

May 15, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC forward Alejandro Pozuelo (10) dribbles the ball against D.C. United at BMO Field. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Before he was sent off Saturday against Real Salt Lake, Alejandro Pozuelo did his best to put Toronto FC on the scoreboard. 

During Wednesday’s scoreless draw at home against D.C. United, Pozuelo recorded 12 passes and put two of his seven shots on target. The Spaniard added three key passes and a shot on target to his weekly total before he was handed his second yellow in the 61st minute at Rio Tinto Stadium.

2. Nani, M, Orlando City SC

Previous Ranking: 10 

Nani’s sixth and seventh goals of the 2019 campaign helped Orlando City trounce FC Cincinnati 5-1 at home Sunday. 

The performance from the Portuguese winger came after he missed a pair of games, including Wednesday’s trip to Seattle, with an injury.

Since the start of April, Nani has found the back of the net on seven occasions in six games. 

1. Carlos Vela, F, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 1

We’re running out of superlatives to describe Carlos Vela’s play in front of goal and it’s not even the end of May. 

Vela scored once in each of his two games against FC Dallas in Week 12 to bring his season scoring total to 14 goals. 

In Thursday’s game at home, Vela recorded a goal and an assist for a second straight contest. He has seven assists on the year as well. 

 

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