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Week 6 MLS Player Rankings: Vela, Rossi lead LAFC dominance

March 30, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) during the second half against the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Los Angeles Football Club is not only the top team in Major League Soccer, it has been the dominant force in the weekly Pro Soccer USA Player Rankings. 

In six weeks, six different LAFC players have graced the ranking of the league’s top 20 in-form players. 

Bob Bradley’s side is again represented by the most players in the list, as four LAFC players made the rankings. 

Most of the players near the top of the rankings have been there all season, while at the bottom half, a handful of newcomers are making noise. 

Our weekly player rankings are based off form over a four-game span, with the most-recent performance carrying an extra bit of weight. 

20. Kai Wagner, D, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: 19 

Apr 6, 2019; Philadelphia, PA; FC Dallas midfielder Michael Barrios (21) heads the ball against Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner (27) during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Philadelphia’s shutout streak ended at 210 minutes on Saturday night, but Kai Wagner and his teammates still produced a solid performance over 90 minutes. 

Outside of Reto Ziegler’s free kick goal, the Union held firm to earn a 2-1 win against an FC Dallas side looking to punch fast on the counter. 

In the last three games, Wagner and his defensive teammates have allowed 13 shots, but that will be tested in Week 7 by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy.

19. Saphir Taider, M, Montreal Impact

Previous Ranking: 

Apr 6, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Montreal Impact midfielder Saphir Taider (8) plays the ball against New York City FC midfielder Alexander Ring (8) during the second half at Yankee Stadium. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Saphir Taider’s slide down the rankings has to do with Montreal struggling in the attacking third without Ignacio Piatti. 

In the scoreless draw against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium, Taider’s creativity was limited to one key pass and he made three clearances while completing 82.5 percent of his passes. 

18. Latif Blessing, M, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Mar 30, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Latif Blessing (7) kicks the ball against the San Jose Earthquakes during the first half at Avaya Stadium. (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

Latif Blessing is the unheralded hero of the LAFC attack. 

Blessing didn’t pick up a goal or assist in the 4-0 win over D.C. United, but was all over the final third setting up attacks or creating space inside the D.C. defense with his pace.

The former Sporting Kansas City man ended the match with three key passes and the most touches of any LAFC attacker with 73. 

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

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Just like Blessing, C.J. Sapong returns to the player rankings after a short absence. 

The Chicago Fire forward notched his third tally of the season after he used a superb first touch to set himself up on the left side of the box in a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC. 

Sapong scored his third goal of the season at Toronto. Alex Bono put himself in no man’s land on the play, but Sapong now has three goals and an assist in five games.

— Pro  Soccer USA’s Dan Santaromita

16. Cristian Espinoza, M, San Jose Earthquakes

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

The first San Jose Earthquakes player to appear in the player rankings is more than deserving of his spot after his Week 6 performance. 

Cristian Espinoza picked up his second goal and first assist of the season in the 3-0 win over Portland.

What makes the 24-year-old’s performance even more impressive is he handed out seven key passes on 68 touches. 

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

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)

Previous Ranking: 7

Bill Hamid experiences a significant drop in the rankings after conceding on four occasions to LAFC on Saturday. 

Week 6 marked the first time the Black-and-Red produced a disappointing defensive performance, but luckily for them, they get to bounce right back on Tuesday against Montreal at Audi Field. 

14. Krisztian Nemeth, F, Sporting Kansas City

Mar 14, 2019; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting Kansas City forward Krisztian Nemeth (9) celebrates after scoring a goal with teammates Felipe Gutierrez (21) and Johnny Russell (7) during the second half against Independiente at Children’s Mercy Park. (Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports)

Previous Ranking: 10 

With Sporting Kansas City focused on preparing for a monumental task in the Concacaf Champions League on Thursday, Krisztian Nemeth was one of a few regulars taken out of the starting lineup by manager Peter Vermes. 

Nemeth made a 20-minute cameo for the Western Conference side in 1-1 draw with FC Cincinnati, but he wasn’t able to follow up on his Week 5 hat trick with a goal. 

13. Ike Opara, D, Minnesota United

Mar 30, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; Minnesota United defender Ike Opara (3) during the first half against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

Nemeth’s former Sporting Kansas City teammate Ike Opara is quietly putting together an impressive start in the Minnesota United back line. 

The 30-year-old center back made eight clearances and won three aerial duels in the Loons’ surprising 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. 

In Minnesota’s three victories, Opara and the defense have held opponents to three goals. 

12. Nicolas Lodeiro, M, Seattle Sounders

Previous Ranking: 20 

Nicolas Lodeiro was the only Seattle Sounders player to strike the back of the net in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake. 

The Uruguayan midfielder produced one of the best goals of Week 6, one-timing a cross with his left foot into the left side of the net. 

The 30-year-old playmaker has two goals and three assists in 2019, with goals coming in the last three games. 

11. Eduard Atuesta, M, Los Angeles FC 

Mar 30, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC midfielder Eduard Atuesta (20) controls the ball against San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Shea Salinas (6) at Avaya Stadium. (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

Previous Ranking: 12 

One of the most consistent players in MLS through six weeks continued to thrive in the middle of the park for the best team in the league. 

Eduard Atuesta completed 85.1 percent of his 67 passes and helped the LAFC defense hold D.C. United to four shots on target in a dominant road performance. 

10. David Accam, F, Philadelphia Union

Mar 23, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward David Accam (7) plays the ball past Columbus Crew defender Harrison Afful (25) during the second half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Previous Ranking: 

David Accam’s scoring streak ended at two games on Saturday night. 

The Ghanaian forward was taken off in the 68th minute while the Union were still looking for a way to break down FC Dallas’ defense. 

Although he didn’t score in Week 6, Accam has forced his way into Jim Curtin’s starting XI, which is a massive upgrade from an injury-laden 2018 campaign. 

9. Paxton Pomykal, M, FC Dallas

Mar 30, 2019; Sandy, UT, USA; FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal (19) and midfielder Ryan Hollingshead (12) celebrate after Pomykal scores a goal against the Real Salt Lake during the second half at Rio Tinto Stadium. (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports)

Previous Ranking: 5

Paxton Pomykal’s ability to influence the FC Dallas attack was taken away by a shift to bunker in after an early goal and a depleted forward line. 

The FC Dallas Homegrown Player was limited to one key pass by the Union defense in his least impactful performance of the season to date. 

8. Alejandro Pozuelo, M, Toronto FC 

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)

Previous Ranking: 11

Alejandro Pozuelo didn’t dominate the spotlight in Week 6, like he did in Week 5, but he still made a difference in the Toronto FC attack. 

Pozuelo recorded his second assist in a Toronto FC uniform on Jozy Altidore’s opening goal in the 31st minute. 

The Spaniard dished out a pair of key passes and was one of four Toronto FC players to record over 100 touches. 

7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, F, LA Galaxy

Previous Ranking: 15

 Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued to force his way up the rankings by adding a goal and an assist to his season haul against Vancouver on Friday night. 

The 37-year-old Swede has scored three of his four goals in the last two weeks, and his assist on Daniel Steres’ goal was his first of the season. 

Since joining MLS, Ibrahimovic has recorded 26 goals and 11 assists. 

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

Apr 6, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) dribbles the ball as Los Angeles FC defender Eddie Segura (4) defends at Audi Field. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Previous Ranking: 2

Wayne Rooney didn’t score for the third straight game because of LAFC’s stingy defense and an early exit from a red card. 

Rooney will serve the one-game suspension on Tuesday, when D.C. plays host to Montreal, but he should be back on the field for another showdown of world-class stars on Saturday, when the Black and Red visit Tim Howard and the Colorado Rapids. 

5. Zack Steffen, GK, Columbus Crew SC

Previous Ranking: 17

The first-choice goalkeeper for the U.S. Men’s National Team picked up his fourth clean sheet of the season in a 1-0 win on Saturday against the New England Revolution.

With the future Manchester City player in net, the Crew have conceded one goal in five games, while letting up three without him in goal against Philadelphia. 

Zack Steffen’s shutout streak is now at 444 minutes, second all time in Crew history. First place? Zack Steffen, at 525 minutes last season. Another shutout will break that record, and if he goes over 500 minutes scoreless, he’ll have a second streak in the all-time MLS top 10, becoming just the third player to achieve that feat twice.

— Pro Soccer USA’s Ben Ferree

4. Memo Rodriguez, M, Houston Dynamo

Mar 30, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; Houston Dynamo midfielder Memo Rodriguez (8) drives the ball away from Colorado Rapids defender Keegan Rosenberry (2) in the first half at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Previous Ranking: 4

 Memo Rodriguez remains at No. 4 after a week off for the Houston Dynamo. 

The Homegrown midfielder has four goals in his last three games, and he’ll look to keep that streak alive when the Dynamo return to the field against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.

3. Alberth Elis, F, Houston Dynamo

Previous Ranking: 3

Mar 30, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; Houston Dynamo forward Alberth Elis (17) chases down a loose ball in the second half against the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

 What we said about Rodriguez can be applied to Alberth Elis as well. 

The Honduran forward, who has played a major role in Rodriguez’s success, comes into Week 7 with two goals and three assists in his last two games. 

Although San Jose won in Week 6, the Dynamo attack should still be champing at the bit to get after a Quakes back line that’s conceded on 14 occasions.

2. Diego Rossi, F, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 14

The only reason Diego Rossi didn’t claim the top spot after Week 6 is his teammate is ahead of him in the Golden Boot race.

The Uruguayan one-upped Carlos Vela in the scoring column on Saturday with a hat trick that accounted for the final three LAFC goals. 

Five of Rossi’s six strikes have come in the last three weeks.

1. Carlos Vela, M, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 1

The king of the MLS Player Rankings has occupied the top spot for a month.

Even though Rossi got most of the praise for his performance against D.C., Vela produced a goal and an assist to boost his totals to seven goals and four assists in six games. 

The Mexican international was rightfully selected as MLS Player of the Month for his fantastic start. 

 

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