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Week 18 MLS Player Rankings: Josef Martinez leaps into top three

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez struck for his third consecutive brace in a 3-3 draw with the New York Red Bulls Sunday

May 29, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) celebrates after a goal against Minnesota United in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
Jul 3, 2019; Kansas City, KS, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) dribbles the ball against Sporting Kansas City defender Seth Sinovic (15) during the second half at Children's Mercy Park. (Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports)

It only took one week for Carlos Vela and Los Angeles FC to get back on track and reinforce their dominance on top of Major League Soccer. 

Vela’s historic scoring campaign has put him on top of the Major League Soccer Player Rankings for most of the 2019 season, and, after missing out on No. 1 last week, he has regained the position he has made home. 

LAFC once again has multiple players in the ranking of the top 20 in-form players in MLS, but it isn’t the only club with a handful of on-fire players at the moment.

Minnesota United’s recent scoring surge has led to three players joining the top 10 after Week 18, and the Loons trio is joined by a Philadelphia forward who can’t stop scoring and an Atlanta United midfielder lighting the net on fire. 

The MLS Player Rankings take into account the last four performances, with the most-recent outing carrying the most weight. 

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

Previous Ranking: 8

Jul 4, 2019; Frisco, TX, USA; D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) in action during the game between FC Dallas and the D.C. United at Toyota Stadium. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Wayne Rooney’s descent has to do with D.C.’s failure to score against FC Dallas Thursday and the rise of a handful of in-form scorers. 

The English forward entered Week 18 with goals in each of his last two games, but only managed one shot in his 90-minute shift at Toyota Stadium.

Next up for Rooney and the Black-and-Red is a meeting with a New England side he scored against May 25. 

19. Diego Chara, M, Portland Timbers

Previous Ranking: 9

Mar 31, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Chara (21) moves the ball ahead of LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget (17) during the second half at StubHub Center. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Diego Chara only made a small cameo in Portland’s trip to Yankee Stadium on Sunday night. 

The Colombian, who turned in a strong performance in Week 17, played 14 minutes in the 1-0 victory, which is a rare result without Chara in the starting lineup. 

18. Carles Gil, M, New England Revolution

Previous Ranking: 19 

Jul 4, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; New England Revolution forward Carles Gil (22) gets ready for a penalty kick during the first half against the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports)

Carles Gil added to his assist haul Thursday with a handout in the weather-delayed victory over the Colorado Rapids. 

The Spanish midfielder is now up to six assists in his inaugural seasons with the New England Revolution, and might be getting a new attacking weapon to partner with since the Gustavo Bou deal is close to being done

17. Brian White, F, New York Red Bulls

Previous Ranking: 17 

Brian White notched his third goal in four games for the New York Red Bulls in the chaotic 3-3 draw with Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The overall performance from the Red Bulls against their Eastern Conference rival was impressive after they were thumped on the road by the Houston Dynamo Wednesday. 

It will be interesting to see how White performs in the coming weeks with Bradley Wright-Phillips, who scored late on Sunday, working his way back into the squad. 

16. Nani, M, Orlando City SC

Previous Ranking: 12

Jul 7, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Orlando City forward Nani (17) against the Philadelphia Union during the second half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Nani recorded an assist on Sunday in Orlando City’s 2-2 draw with Philadelphia, but didn’t do much else over the span of two games against the Union.

The Portuguese winger was taken off at halftime of Wednesday’s game at Exploria Stadium and didn’t start Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium.

The lack of playing time happened on purpose since the Lions are playing in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals Wednesday against New York City FC. 

15. Nicolas Gaitan, M, Chicago Fire

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Jul 3, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire midfielder Nicolas Gaitan (20) controls the ball against the Atlanta United during the first half at Bridgeview Stadium. (Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)

Nicolas Gaitan and the Chicago Fire experienced a rollercoaster Week 18 by trouncing Atlanta United at home on Wednesday and then falling flat in attack in a 1-0 loss Saturday at Sporting Kansas City. 

In the 5-1 midweek victory, Gaitan played a role in four of the five Fire goals with one tally and three handouts. 

Wednesday marked the third time Gaitan has recorded multiple assists in a game since joining the club in March. 

14. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, F, LA Galaxy

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

All it took was a two-goal performance against Toronto FC to boost Zlatan Ibrahimovic back into the Player Rankings. 

The brace Thursday night was the third of the season for the Swedish forward, who is now up to 13 goals, nine away from his total a year ago. 

After failing to strike the back of the net in the first Cali Clasico of the season, Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy have a chance to enact revenge on the San Jose Earthquakes Friday night at Dignity Health Sports Park. 

13. Valentin Castellanos, M, New York City FC

Previous Ranking: 10 

Jun 29, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC midfielder Valentin Castellanos (11) celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Union during the second half at Yankee Stadium. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

After putting together his best game of the season in Week 17, NYCFC’s Valentin Castellanos turned in a productive shift in the midweek victory over the Seattle Sounders. 

Castellanos attempted nine shots, put two of them on target and handed out to key passes while earning an assist in the 3-0 win

The Argentinian cooled off a bit Sunday against Portland, as did the majority of the NYCFC attack.

12. Sam Johnson, F, Real Salt Lake

Previous Ranking: 13

Sam Johnson made the most of his 45-minute stint Wednesday night by netting his eighth goal of the season for Real Salt Lake.

The Designated Player did not participate in Saturday’s game at San Jose, but he bumps up a spot on the list thanks to three goals in his last two starts.

11. Ethan Finlay, M, Minnesota United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Ethan Finlay is one of two in-form Minnesota United scorers to break into a high position after Week 18.

The 28-year-old has experienced an uptick in production since the Loons returned to action from the Concacaf Gold Cup break with two goals and two assists in three games. 

Finlay, who scored in the 3-2 win over Montreal, has scored on both of his shots on goal during that span. 

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

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

It’s hard not to place multiple LAFC players in the top 10 with the way it has been playing all season. 

The Canadian midfielder returned from the Gold Cup and continued to make a massive impact in the middle of the park for the best team in MLS. 

Kaye also added to his scoring tally with his fourth goal of the season in Saturday’s 6-1 rout of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

9. Mason Toye, F, Minnesota United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Mason Toye isn’t letting go of his time in the Minnesota United lineup anytime soon. 

The second-year player had one goal and two assists as a substitute before Saturday’s win over Montreal, where he earned a start and bagged a brace. 

The two-goal performance was the first of Toye’s professional career and he’s brought an added element to a Loons offense that simply can’t stop scoring. 

8. Ike Opara, D, Minnesota United

Previous Ranking: 6

Jun 8, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; Colorado Rapids forward Kei Kamara (23) Minnesota United defender Ike Opara (3) battle in the first half at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Ike Opara followed up his Week 17 brace with an assist in Minnesota’s Wednesday victory over San Jose. 

In Opara’s last three starts, the Loons have conceded three goals to Colorado, FC Cincinnati and San Jose. 

The Loons receive a much tougher test Saturday when they welcome FC Dallas to Allianz Field. 

7. Brian Fernandez, F, Portland Timbers

Previous Ranking: 1 

Jul 7, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Portland Timbers forward Brian Fernandez (7) plays the ball during the second half against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in his brief MLS career, Brian Fernandez failed to score in a game for the Portland Timbers. 

Fernandez’s incredible scoring run of five straight league games came to an end in the hard-fought 1-0 win over NYCFC in which Sebastian Blanco recorded the lone goal. 

On Sunday, Fernandez has an opportunity to get back on the score sheet when the Timbers host the Colorado Rapids. 

6. Justin Meram, M, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 5

Just like his former Columbus Crew teammate Finlay, Justin Meram has struck a rich vein of form out of the Gold Cup break. 

The 30-year-old Iraqi international scored in his second straight game Sunday in the back-and-forth draw with the Red Bulls. 

Meram’s three goals are two more than he scored with Orlando and Columbus a year ago.

5. Diego Rossi, F, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Two goals and two assists in Week 18 catapulted Diego Rossi back near the top of the Player Rankings. 

While Vela is receiving the majority of the praise in the LAFC attack, Rossi has been deadly in front of goal as well with 10 goals and five assists. 

If he keeps performing at such a high level, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him linked with a move to Europe. 

4. Kacper Przybylko, F, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: 20 

Since the Philadelphia Union announced the signing of Andrew Wooten, Kacper Przybylko has scored five goals in four games. 

The 26-year-old striker bagged a brace Wednesday against Orlando City and then scored a late equalizer against the Lions Sunday. 

With Wooten eligible for Saturday’s clash against Real Salt Lake, it will be interesting to see how Przybylko combines with the German-American forward. 

3, Josef Martinez, F, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Josef Martinez returns to the list after a brace of his own Sunday against the Red Bulls. 

The Venezuelan forward is now up to 12 goals in the campaign, ahead of the other scorers on this list because he now has three consecutive two-goal showings.

Martinez’s four-game scoring streak started back on May 24 before he left to play at Copa America. 

2. Maxi Moralez, M, New York City FC 

Previous Ranking: 2

Jul 7, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Portland Timbers midfielder Andres Flores (14) battles for the ball against New York City FC midfielder Maximiliano Moralez (10) during the second half at Yankee Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

 The newly-crowned MLS Player of the Month deposited his sixth goal of the season into the back of the net  Wednesday night. 

Maxi Moralez is now up to six goals and 11 assists for the season, and has four goals and five assists in his last four games. 

Hopefully for NYCFC, that form translate into the Hudson River Derby with the Red Bulls on Sunday. 

1. Carlos Vela, Los Angeles FC

Previous Ranking: 3

Just the casual three-goal, two-assist week for Vela. 

The Mexican international was at the forefront of the two routs put together by LAFC in which it won by a combined 11-2 over Sporting KC and Vancouver. 

In four of his last five league games, Vela has recorded a goal and an assist. 

 

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