MLS Player Rankings: Mancosu, Altidore Lead After 1st Weekend of Postseason

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistNovember 1, 2016

MLS Player Rankings: Mancosu, Altidore Lead After 1st Weekend of Postseason

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    A number of unexpected heroes appeared during the first week of the Major League Soccer playoffs. 

    The L.A. Galaxy, Seattle Sounders and Montreal Impact received significant contributions from a few players who were dormant in front of the net for long stretches of the regular season. 

    In addition to the unlikely stars of the week, a few of the league's big names continued their impressive seasons with strong performances for their respective sides. 

    Our postseason player rankings take into account showings from both the knockout round and Sunday's first legs of the conference semifinal round. We also trimmed our list to 10 for the postseason due to the smaller sample size we have to choose from.

    Continue reading to see who topped the first MLS Player Rankings of the postseason. 

10. Eriq Zavaleta, CB, Toronto FC

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    The Toronto FC defense had no trouble shutting down the David Villa-led New York City FC attack at BMO Field on Sunday. 

    Center back Eriq Zavaleta was a part of a back line that conceded just three shots on goal, two of which came from Villa. 

    The Reds enter the second leg at Yankee Stadium with a comfortable two-goal advantage, and with the possibility they won't face Villa, who could be retroactively suspended for a dangerous play from the second half of the first leg. 

    Regardless of Villa's presence on the pitch, the Reds need to play with the same confidence and avoid the mistakes that hurt them at the back end of the regular season to book a spot in the Eastern Conference Final. 

9. Alan Gordon, FW, LA Galaxy

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    Alan Gordon was thrust into the starting forward role for the Galaxy's first two playoff games with Robbie Keane still working back to full fitness. 

    The veteran striker had no problem replacing Keane's production as he recorded a goal and two assists in Wednesday's knockout-round match against Real Salt Lake. 

    Gordon's 14th-minute strike at StubHub Center was his second career postseason tally in 17 matches. The pair of starts were also his first two in playoff play. 

    The former San Jose man may receive the starting gig once again on Sunday since his physical style up top should cause trouble against the Colorado back line. If the Galaxy advance to the Western Conference Final, Gordon will most likely drop back to the bench in favor of a healthy Keane. 

8. Emmanuel Boateng, AM, LA Galaxy

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    The other surprise star of the week for the Galaxy was Emmanuel Boateng. 

    The speedy winger netted a pair of strikes against Real Salt Lake on Wednesday to send the Galaxy into the Western Conference Semifinal against the Rapids. 

    The threat of Boateng on the wing has opened the center of the park for Baggio Husidic and Sebastian Lletget to enjoy success on both sides of the ball. 

    If Boateng continues to work his way through the defense in the second leg against Colorado, the Rapids may be stretched too thin as they chase the series equalizer and winning goal. 

7. Nicolas Lodeiro, CAM, Seattle Sounders

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    Nicolas Lodeiro broke a dry spell in front of goal with a brace against FC Dallas during the eight-minute flurry of strikes produced by Seattle at the start of the second half. 

    The Uruguayan entered Sunday with one goal in his last five matches after contributing to at least one Seattle goal in eight consecutive matches. 

    Lodeiro's strikes in the 55th and 58th minutes gave the Sounders quite the cushion heading into the second leg at Toyota Stadium. 

    It should take one away goal to lock up a spot in the Western Conference Final, but we're not 100 percent sure of that since this is MLS. 

6. Michael Bradley, CM, Toronto FC

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    Michael Bradley was in control of midfield for 90 minutes in Toronto's 2-0 win over NYCFC.

    The American didn't let the NYCFC midfielders create many chances through the middle with Andrea Pirlo out due to injury.

    Bradley's defensive-midfield showcase was also a good sign for the United States men's national team with the pair of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica upcoming. 

    Bradley may face a tougher task in the second leg if Pirlo returns to the NYCFC lineup. Even if that happens, if Bradley can limit the Italian's influence on the match, the Reds should cruise to the next round. 

5. Jelle Van Damme, CB, LA Galaxy

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    Jelle Van Damme influenced the Galaxy's play on both ends of the pitch on Wednesday and Sunday. 

    With things under control in defense, the imposing Belgian made plenty of runs forward against Real Salt Lake and Colorado. 

    The center back's surges into the final third paid off in the buildup to the Galaxy's lone strike on Sunday, as he chased down a loose ball on the left side of the box and used some clever skill to get past a defender and set up Giovani dos Santos. 

    Van Damme and the Galaxy defense didn't let in a goal from the run of play in 180 minutes. RSL's goal on Wednesday came from the spot. 

4. Laurent Ciman, CB, Montreal Impact

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    No one has shut down Bradley Wright-Phillips like Laurent Ciman did on Sunday. 

    The Belgian center back forced the Golden Boot winner out of the match for long stretches with his terrific marking. 

    The Ciman-led back line also stopped Sacha Kljestan from creating a chance in the final third, which is something no one was able to do in the regular season. 

    If the Impact defense plays this well in the second leg, we should start talking about the possibility of the club winning MLS Cup. 

3. Jozy Altidore, FW, Toronto FC

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    Jozy Altidore's ferocious run of form continued into the postseason, as he netted a goal in each of Toronto FC's victories. 

    The United States international helped the Reds open their postseason account on Wednesday, as he took advantage of some poor defending by Philadelphia to feed Sebastian Giovinco.

    Altidore confirmed Toronto's passage into the semifinal round with a late strike at BMO Field. He scored in the same part of the match on Sunday to hand Toronto a valuable lead heading into Yankee Stadium.

    There's no doubt Altidore will get chances to score on Sunday to close out the series given the short field and NYCFC's tendency to make mistakes in defense. 

2. Nelson Valdez, FW, Seattle Sounders

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    One of the most frustrating players to watch in MLS turned into a postseason hero on Thursday. 

    Nelson Valdez, who failed to score during the regular season, banged in the game-winner that moved Seattle past Sporting Kansas City and into the Western Conference Semifinals. 

    The Paraguayan repeated his antics in front of goal in the 50th minute on Sunday, as he handed the Sounders a one-goal lead with a strike from close range. 

    The biggest key for Seattle in the second leg will be avoiding an early goal that gives FC Dallas momentum. Conversely, if the Sounders score first, we could witness a blowout at Toyota Stadium. 

1. Matteo Mancosu, FW, Montreal Impact

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    Montreal turned in a perfect 180 minutes of playoff soccer thanks to the performances put in by Matteo Mancosu. 

    The Italian forward, who has started in place of Didier Drogba of late, netted three of the Impact's five total goals against D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls. 

    Mancosu's brace on Thursday helped Mauro Biello's men distance themselves from lackluster D.C., while his 61st-minute wonder strike on Sunday stands as the difference between Montreal and New York entering the second leg. 

    The Impact should face more pressure from the title-hungry Red Bulls in the second leg. If Mancosu is able to strike fast for the visitors, the game could become wide open, which would give him ample opportunities to beat Luis Robles again. 

       

    Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    All statistics obtained from MLSSoccer.com