MLS Player Rankings: Diaz Goes Top, Lampard Continues Surge Up List
The presence of Mauro Diaz, Frank Lampard and countless others in their respective Major League Soccer lineups has altered results over the last few weeks.
The majority of players listed in the Week 19 edition of the Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings carry the same game-changing qualities.
We also witnessed the opposite end of the spectrum with some stars in Week 19, especially in Portland and Montreal. Without their key playmakers in the lineup for specific games over the last seven days, both teams dropped points at home.
Our MLS player rankings take into account the last four performances from a certain player, with the most recent showing carrying the most importance. Since many clubs participated in midweek games on Wednesday in Week 19, some players were judged on matches in a short time span.
Continue reading to see who placed where in the latest Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings.
On the Way out
A lack of production and some poor results in recent action cost these five players their respective spots on the list.
Players Dropped out of Rankings
Juan Manuel Martinez (Real Salt Lake; previous ranking 11)
Bill Hamid (D.C. United; 12)
Kei Kamara (New England Revolution; 14)
Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC; 19)
Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy; 20)
20. Harrison Afful, RB, Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Columbus Crew right-back Harrison Afful went through an eventful two-game span in Week 19 as he played a hand in both of his side's tallies and was wrongfully sent off.
The 29-year-old Ghanaian knocked in a strike from distance in the Crew's 1-1 draw with Toronto FC on Wednesday. And before he was egregiously sent off on Saturday versus D.C. United, Afful handed out an assist on the lone tally netted by Gregg Berhalter's side.
Luckily for the right-back, his red card was rescinded on Monday by the MLS Disciplinary Committee. Afful made contact with the ball in a tackle against Marcelo Sarvas on Saturday night, but he barely caught the opposing player.
The week as a whole was deemed a failure for the Crew as they dropped four points in matches versus a pair of Eastern Conference opponents.
19. Fabian Castillo, LM, FC Dallas
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Fabian Castillo produced one of the best assists in MLS history on Saturday, but that's not the only reason he's on the list this week.
The 24-year-old had one of his best matches of 2016 in FC Dallas' 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire as he produced a pair of assists, including his ridiculous rabona in the 23rd minute.
Castillo's second handout came in the 92nd minute on Mauro Rosales' tally that halted the Fire's brief comeback attempt in its tracks.
The Colombian, who shouldn't be in MLS for much longer based on his skill set, has two goals and two assists in his last four starts.
18. Jordan Hamilton, FW, Toronto FC
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Jordan Hamilton has taken full advantage of his opportunities since the Copa America Centenario break.
The 20-year-old Toronto FC striker extended his form into Week 19 as he produced a goal and an assist for Greg Vanney's Reds during a week in which the squad earned just one point.
Since joining the starting XI on June 18, Hamilton has three goals and one assist in six starts.
17. Maximiliano Urruti, FW, FC Dallas
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
When you have Castillo and Mauro Diaz playing behind you, you better find a way to score goals.
Maximiliano Urruti has benefited from the magical play of his FC Dallas teammates as he's found the back of the net in two consecutive matches.
The Argentine's strike on July 8 against San Jose was his first since March 26. If he plays well consistently in front of the net as the playoff push heats up, Urruti may find himself among the top scorers in MLS in the Golden Boot race.
16. Steven Gerrard, CM, LA Galaxy
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Steven Gerrard's game-winner on Friday night against Houston was a welcome reward for the contributions he's made to the LA Galaxy attack over the last month.
The former Liverpool great notched his first tally in MLS since May 8 in the 66th minute to put the Galaxy ahead for good at StubHub Center.
The 36-year-old Englishman is turning into a quality member of the Galaxy midfield, just like his countryman, Frank Lampard, is at New York City FC. Gerrard has one goal and three assists in his last four appearances.
15. Robbie Keane, FW, LA Galaxy
Previous Ranking: 15
Robbie Keane failed to extend his scoring streak to three games on Friday night, but it wasn't without a few attempts that came close.
The former Premier League star uncharacteristically missed a penalty in the early stages of the Galaxy's 1-0 win over the Dynamo, and he missed a sliding chance at the right post by just a few inches midway through the opening stanza. Keane is 13 of 18 on penalty kicks in his MLS career, per LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano.
Despite his inefficiency in front of the net on Friday, the Galaxy kept pace with FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids in the Western Conference playoff race.
14. Roland Alberg, AM, Philadelphia Union
Previous Ranking: 10
The Philadelphia Union's riveting comeback at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday did not include Dutch midfielder Roland Alberg.
Alberg, who has six goals and one assist this season, was taken off the pitch by Jim Curtin two minutes before Chris Pontius earned a penalty in the 66th minute to revive the crowd in Chester, Pennsylvania.
The 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls kept the Union in second place, but they fell further behind New York City FC after their victory over Montreal on Sunday.
13. Benny Feilhaber, CM, Sporting Kansas City
Previous Ranking: 9
Sporting Kansas City went through a rough week as they suffered two consecutive 1-0 losses to the Fire and the Rapids.
Benny Feilhaber was one of the Sporting KC players who failed to get going in the final third at Toyota Park and Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Before the two-loss week, Feilhaber had played a role in at least one goal in four straight games.
12. Yura Movsisyan, FW, Real Salt Lake
Previous Ranking: 5
Yura Movsisyan and Real Salt Lake also experienced a string of bad results in Week 19 as they failed to score in matches against Vancouver and New England.
The Armenian forward tried his hardest to score a late goal at BC Place on Wednesday, but he was unable to beat David Ousted.
The 28-year-old only put one attempt on target in the goalless draw on Saturday with the Revolution at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The pair of poor results for Jeff Cassar's men in Week 19 added more frustration to a winless streak that now sits at five games.
11. Walker Zimmerman, CB, FC Dallas
Previous Ranking: 4
Squad rotation took a toll on FC Dallas' defensive record over the last seven days as Oscar Pareja's side conceded six goals in two matches.
Walker Zimmerman, who should have been named to the MLS All-Star squad as a reserve, only played in the 5-0 loss at the hands of Seattle on Wednesday night.
FC Dallas' goals-against tally of 30 may seem high, but 17 of those strikes conceded have come in four blowout defeats.
10. Jack Harrison, FW, New York City FC
Previous Ranking: 16
Jack Harrison's Rookie of the Year campaign strengthened on Sunday as he produced a wonderful individual goal in NYCFC's 3-1 win over Montreal at Stade Saputo.
Harrison worked his way around a few defenders before he curled a perfect shot into the bottom-left part of the net from the top-right area of the penalty box.
The 19-year-old Englishman has scored in every third game since the start of June.
9. Sacha Kljestan, CM, New York Red Bulls
Previous Ranking: 17
Sacha Kljestan contributed to a Red Bulls goal for the first time since May 28 on Sunday as he bagged a brace in the 2-2 draw with Philadelphia.
Both of the American's strikes came in the first half as Jesse Marsch's men dominated a lazy Union side. However, the tide turned in the second half as the third-place side in the Eastern Conference conceded twice.
The 30-year-old central midfielder is one of five players in MLS who have contributed to 14 or more goals in 2016. Sebastian Giovinco, Diego Valeri, Ignacio Piatti and David Villa are the others.
8. Diego Valeri, CM, Portland Timbers
Previous Ranking: 18
The return of Diego Valeri to the Portland lineup made a world of difference in Sunday's 3-1 win over Cascadia Cup rival Seattle.
The Argentine produced his eighth and ninth tallies of the season on a pair of impressive strikes that sent Providence Park into an uproar.
Valeri's masterful performance came after he missed three games with an injury. In his last game before that absence, the 30-year-old earned two goals and an assist.
7. Axel Sjoberg, CB, Colorado Rapids
Previous Ranking: 13
The Colorado Rapids picked up their sixth 1-0 victory of 2016 on Saturday at home against Sporting KC.
Axel Sjoberg, who was one of a few center-backs snubbed by the MLS All-Star selection process, continued his impressive season as he helped limit the visitors to three shots on target.
The win completed the season sweep of Sporting KC for the Rapids, who outscored Peter Vermes' men 4-1 over 270 minutes of Western Conference action.
6. Matt Hedges, CB, FC Dallas
Previous Ranking: 8
Matt Hedges' time on the pitch flip-flopped with that of normal center-back partner Walker Zimmerman in Week 19.
The 26-year-old American was an unused substitute in FC Dallas' loss to Seattle on Wednesday and played the full 90 in the 3-1 victory over Chicago on Saturday.
In the last four matches Hedges has started, FC Dallas have conceded once. The lone goal was let in during second-half stoppage time on Saturday.
5. David Villa, FW, New York City FC
Previous Ranking: 7
It's only a matter of when, not if, David Villa breaks the 20-goal threshold this season.
The Spanish forward struck for his 13th goal of 2016 on Sunday to break a two-game dry spell in front of the net for NYCFC.
In five career matches against the Impact, Villa has five goals and two assists. The 35-year-old has scored against 10 different teams during his superb second year in North America.
4. Ola Kamara, FW, Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: 1
Ola Kamara took one game off from goalscoring before he put his name back on the score sheet on Saturday in the Crew's 1-1 draw with D.C. United.
The 26-year-old Norwegian, who has been one of the few bright spots throughout the Crew's season, has found the back of the net in six of his seven starts since his May 28 hat-trick against Real Salt Lake.
However, Columbus has not been able to take advantage of Kamara's scoring prowess. The club's last win came on the same night the forward turned in a three-goal performance at Mapfre Stadium.
3. Frank Lampard, CM, New York City FC
Previous Ranking: 6
Two months after being proclaimed the biggest bust in MLS history by many critics, this one included, Frank Lampard scored for the third straight match.
The New York City FC midfielder has fit in well in Patrick Vieira's scheme, and he is nowhere close to relinquishing his spot in the starting XI.
In addition to earning success on a personal level, the Englishman is a part of a squad with the best road record in MLS. NYCFC are 6-3-1 on their travels on Sunday, but they have work to do on their home mark which stands at 3-3-5.
2. Ignacio Piatti, CM, Montreal Impact
Previous Ranking: 3
The Montreal Impact looked like two different teams in Week 19 due to the presence—and lack thereof—of Ignacio Piatti.
The dynamic Argentine moved his season goal total to 11 on Wednesday in the club's 1-1 road draw with Portland, but he was retroactively suspended for Sunday's clash with NYCFC due to a second-half tackle on Alvas Powell.
Without Piatti on Sunday, the Montreal attack looked out of sync, and Mauro Biello's men dropped a critical result in the Eastern Conference to NYCFC.
1. Mauro Diaz, AM, FC Dallas
Previous Ranking: 2
No one will stop FC Dallas' march to the Supporters' Shield as long as Mauro Diaz remains healthy.
The magical midfielder netted his third tally of 2016 on Saturday in his club's 3-1 win over Chicago. The performance extended a string of masterful showings in the final third for the creative midfielder.
In addition to his three goals and nine assists this season, Diaz is averaging 3.1 key passes per contest for the best team in MLS.
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.