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MLS Week 9 Player Rankings: Carlos Vela on top, Nani rises into top three

Apr 28, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) dribbles the ball against the Seattle Sounders FC during the second half at CenturyLink Field. (Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports)

Consistency is key to remain near the top of the Pro Soccer USA MLS Player Rankings. 

To say the players in the top five have been consistent is a bit of understatement. They’ve been fantastic through two months of the Major League Soccer season.  

Since the best players the league has to offer are performing at an incredibly high level, there isn’t much change in the top five this week.

However, there is plenty of fluctuation in the bottom half, where seven players have entered the top 20 after strong showings in Week 9, which was the first double match week for many stars. 

Our MLS Player Rankings take into account the form over the last four games of each player, with the most recent performance carrying a bit more weight than the others. 

20. Jack Elliott, D, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: 14

Apr 27, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Philadelphia Union defender Jack Elliott (3) challenges Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert (31) during the first half at BC Place. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Ahead of a six-game slate in May, Jack Elliott and the Philadelphia Union worked hard to take a point out of a lengthy trip to Vancouver. 

In the 1-1 draw at BC Place, Elliott made four tackles, three clearances and two interceptions, while allowing six shots on goal.

It wasn’t the best defensive performance from the Union, but it still was enough to pick up a road point. 

19. Romain Metanire, D, Minnesota United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Mar 9, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Minnesota United defender Romain Metanire (19) kicks the ball against the San Jose Earthquakes during the second half at Avaya Stadium. (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

Romain Metanire has quietly turned himself into one of the top fullbacks in the league in two months with Minnesota United. 

The 29-year-old helped the Loons earn a pair of clean sheets in Week 9 against the LA Galaxy and D.C. United. 

In Sunday’s win over D.C., Metanire chipped in on the offensive end with an assist on one of his three key passes. 

18. Heber, F, New York City FC 

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

In the three games Heber has started for New York City FC, the club has earned seven out of a possible nine points. 

The 27-year-old Brazilian added to his totals in Week 9 with a goal against Orlando City and an assist on the lone strike against the Chicago Fire. 

No one is going to be able to replace the all-around impact of David Villa in the NYCFC squad, but it appears the club found a solid goal-scorer who will at least help replace the Spaniard’s impact on the field. 

17. Jonathan Dos Santos, M, LA Galaxy

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Apr 24, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, USA; LA Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos (8) looks on during the second half against Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Jonathan Dos Santos had a monster week in the middle of the park for the LA Galaxy, and it led to him receiving some Player of the Week nominations. 

In the scoreless draw at Minnesota United on Wednesday, the 29-year-old Mexican made 115 touches and completed 92.4 percent of his 79 passes. 

Dos Santos followed that up with another strong showing on Sunday in a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake by completing 94.3 percent of his 53 passes, and he handed out a pair of key passes. 

16. James Sands, D, New York City FC 

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Apr 6, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC midfielder James Sands (16) plays the ball against the Montreal Impact during the first half at Yankee Stadium. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

James Sands has been one of the top young players and overall defenders in MLS through two months. 

The U.S. Under-20 National Team candidate has played well above his age in the New York City FC back line, and he’s making a case to be included in Tab Ramos’ U-20 World Cup squad. 

In Saturday’s draw with Orlando City, Sands was a part of a back line that conceded three shots and two shots on goal. 

15. Nicolas Lodeiro, M, Seattle Sounders

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Apr 24, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (10) dribbles against the San Jose Earthquakes during the second half at CenturyLink Field. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

One week after leaving the top 20, Nicolas Lodeiro is back in. 

Lodeiro dished out a pair of assists to help the Seattle Sounders come from behind and earn a 2-2 draw at home against San Jose on Wednesday. 

The 30-year-old Uruguayan has two goals and six assists in nine games for Brian Schmetzer’s team.

14. Johnny Russell, M, Sporting Kansas City 

Previous Ranking: 20 

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)

We’re still trying to figure out what exactly happened at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday night. 

Johnny Russell didn’t score in Sporting Kansas City’s 4-4 draw with New England, but he was an active part of the club’s attack. 

The Scotsman handed out four key passes and racked up his third assist of the campaign in the wild affair in which Peter Vermes’ side erased a 3-1 deficit. 

13. Shea Salinas, D, San Jose Earthquakes

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

The unlikeliest volume scorer of the 2019 MLS season shattered his career high for goals in a single season before the end of April. 

Shea Salinas followed up his Week 8 strike against Sporting KC with a brace in the Earthquakes’ midweek draw with the Sounders. 

Salinas, who has four goals in seven games, had a previous career high of three goals in a single season, which was set back in 2015. 

12. Evan Bush, GK, Montreal Impact

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Apr 28, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush (1) throws the ball during the first half at against Chicago Fire Stade Saputo. (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

Evan Bush added two clean sheets to his season total of five in Week 9. 

Bush and the Montreal Impact cleaned the floor with the Revolution in a 3-0 win on Wednesday at Gillette Stadium and finished up the week with a 1-0 home win on Sunday over Chicago.

In his last five games, Bush has four clean sheets. The lone exception was the three goals he conceded in Week 8 against Philadelphia. 

11. Kei Kamara, F, Colorado Rapids

Previous Ranking: 6

Apr 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Colorado Rapids forward Kei Kamara (23) is defended by Atlanta United midfielder Darlington Nagbe (6) and defender Julian Gressel (24) in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Kei Kamara’s four-game scoring streak came to an end in a 1-0 loss to the Atlanta United on Saturday. 

The play of the Sierra Leone international has been one of the few bright spots to the Colorado Rapids season. 

The Rapids head into May as the only team in MLS without a victory. 

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

Previous Ranking: 10 

Apr 28, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Los Angeles FC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye (left) goes for a header with Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (10) during the second half at CenturyLink Field. (Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports)

Mark-Anthony Kaye tried to follow up on his three-assist performance from Week 8 with another handout against Seattle, but he couldn’t do so with one of his three key passes. 

Kaye also made a pair of clearances and tackles in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders. 

The Canadian was one of many Los Angeles FC players active on the ball. Kaye made 91 touches, which was the third-best total on his team. 

9. Jesse Gonzalez, GK, FC Dallas

Previous Ranking: 13

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 picked up his second clean sheet of 2019 in FC Dallas’ 0-0 draw with San Jose on Saturday. 

Over the last three games, Gonzalez has turned away 14 of the 16 shots sent in his direction by the attacks of Portland, Atlanta United and San Jose. 

If he continues to play at this level, Gonzalez might be able to earn a spot on the USMNT’s Concacaf Gold Cup squad. 

8. Diego Rossi, F, Los Angeles FC

Previous Ranking: 

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

Diego Rossi boosted himself up a spot after picking up his second assist of the season on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

Sunday’s assist ended a three-game drought for the LAFC forward without a goal or an assist, which seems like an unusual run given how well he’s played in the final third for Bob Bradley’s side. 

Rossi should have plenty of opportunities to get back on the score sheet in Week 10 with LAFC hosting the Chicago Fire. 

7. Krisztian Nemeth, F, Sporting Kansas City

Previous Ranking: 19 

Krisztian Nemeth produced his second multiple-goal performance of the season in the wild eight-goal thriller at Children’s Mercy Park. 

Nemeth bagged a pair of goals to help Sporting KC come back from an awful first half in which it allowed three goals to the Revolution. 

In eight games, seven of which he has started, Nemeth has six goals and an assist. 

6. Eduard Atuesta, M, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 

Apr 21, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC midfielder Eduard Atuesta (20) celebrates his goal during the first half against the Seattle Sounders FC at Banc of California Stadium. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Once again, Eduard Atuesta bossed the middle of the park for the best team in MLS. 

Atuesta was the most active player on the ball in MLS in Week 9 by making 133 touches on Sunday against Seattle. 

Atuesta added three aerial wins, four interceptions, three tackles, two clearances and a shot on target to his all-around performance in midfield. 

5. Alberth Elis, F, Houston Dynamo

Previous Ranking: 4

Apr 27, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Dynamo forward Alberth Elis (17) attempts to advance the ball as Columbus Crew defender Waylon Francis (14) defends during the first half at BBVA Compass Stadium. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Alberth Elis once again proved how dynamic of a force he can be on the right wing in Houston’s 2-0 win over Columbus. 

Although his four-game scoring streak ended, Elis set up one of the two Dynamo goals. 

In his last five games, Elis has four goals and four assists. 

4. Alejandro Pozuelo, M, Toronto FC

Previous Ranking: 2

Apr 6, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo (10) runs with the ball in the second half against Chicago Fire at BMO Field. Toronto FC tied Chicago Fire 2-2. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Alejandro Pozuelo put two shots on target and handed out three key passes on Saturday, but he was unable to directly contribute to a Toronto FC goal in a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers.

Saturday marked the first time in five games with the Reds in which Pozuelo didn’t play a role in a strike. 

Part of that is because of the injury absence of Jozy Altidore, who partnered well with the Spaniard for the last month before going down in Week 8.

3. Nani, M, Orlando City

Previous Ranking: 

All Nani has done since entering the Orlando City lineup is find the back of the net. 

The Portuguese winger added to his scoring haul in Saturday’s draw at Yankee Stadium with NYCFC. 

Nani enters May with a scoring streak of four games and he has played a role in a strike in each of the last five games. 

2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, F, LA Galaxy

Previous Ranking: 3

Zlatan Ibrahimovic moves back up to No. 2 this week after scoring one of the Galaxy’s two goals against Real Salt Lake. 

The game-winning goal to close out the MLS weekend was the 30th of Ibrahimovic’s MLS career. 

In his last six games, Ibrahimovic has found the back of the net on seven occasions on nine shots on target. 

1. Carlos Vela, F, Los Angeles FC

Previous Ranking: 1

LAFC didn’t earn the result it wanted in Seattle on Sunday, but it was able to take a draw away from CenturyLink Field thanks to Carlos Vela’s 11th strike of the season. 

Vela also reached a milestone in Week 9 by scoring his 25th goal since joining the league last year. 

The Mexican is already one-third of the way to Josef Martinez’s single-season scoring record, and unless he experiences a scoring drought, he’ll likely come close to tying or breaking that mark. 

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