Ranking the Top 50 Players in MLS in 2016

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 14, 2016

Ranking the Top 50 Players in MLS in 2016

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    The 2016 Major League Soccer season was a wild and unpredictable roller-coaster ride that perfectly personified the league. 

    The Seattle Sounders won MLS Cup over Toronto FC after both sides dispatched some of the best teams from the regular season to reach the championship match. 

    On an individual level, plenty of big-name designated players exceeded expectations once again, while a few underrated stars broke out in a big way over the course of nine months. 

    Our ranking of the top 50 players in MLS primarily focuses on performances from the regular season, but play-off showings were considered if applicable. 

    With that being said, here's our annual year-end list of the top 50 players to take the pitch in MLS this season.  

50. David Accam, Chicago Fire

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    The Chicago Fire experienced yet another season at the basement of the Eastern Conference, but there's signs of promise that a change will come in 2017.

    Ghanaian speedster David Accam was one of the more noticeable players on the pitch this season for the Fire, as he contributed nine goals and five assists in 24 matches. 

    The 26-year-old designated player scored 10 goals and added two assists in the same amount of matches in 2015. 

    With manager Veljko Paunovic building a foundation in 2016, the Fire could be a contender in the Eastern Conference in the near future, and Accam will probably be a big part of that success. 

49. Joevin Jones, Seattle Sounders

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    What many presumed would be the weakest position in terms of depth across the league took a massive step forward in 2016.

    Seattle Sounders left-back Joevin Jones was one of a few full-backs who enjoyed standout seasons at their respective clubs. 

    Jones was a vital part of the Sounders team that won MLS Cup, and he was able to make an impact on the international level with Trinidad and Tobago. The 25-year-old was employed further up the field on the wing for the Soca Warriors. 

    In addition to holding down the fort in the back four, Jones found the back of the net on two occasions and assisted on three other Seattle strikes in the regular season. 

    Jones added three more assists during the magical postseason run by Brian Schmetzer's men. 

48. Luciano Acosta, DC United

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    D.C. United finally infused some creativity into their attack in 2016 with the addition of midfielder Luciano Acosta. 

    The talented 22-year-old brought a dimension to the Black and Red front line that was needed in order to open up opposing defenses in the middle of the pitch. 

    Acosta, who signed on a permanent basis with the club in November, ended the season with three goals and 11 assists, with his best game coming on August 27 against Chicago when he produced a tally and three handouts. 

47. Micheal Azira, Colorado Rapids

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    The Colorado Rapids midfield may have been the most under-appreciated unit in 2016. 

    Offseason acquisition Micheal Azira stepped into a larger role with Jermaine Jones out for an extended time, and he thrived next to midfield partner Sam Cronin. 

    The 29-year-old helped the Rapids earn the best defensive record in the regular season while averaging 3.3 interceptions and 2.5 tackles per contest. 

    Unfortunately for the Rapids, their dream season ended in the Western Conference Final with a loss to the Sounders. 

46. Carlos Gruezo, FC Dallas

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    While we're on the topic of central midfielders who didn't receive enough love as they should've in 2016, let's talk about Carlos Gruezo.

    The 21-year-old Ecuador international was overshadowed by the performances of his center-back duo and the playmakers in front of him, but he had as good of a season as the stars on Oscar Pareja's team. 

    Gruezo, who is expected to be a star for years in MLS and beyond, averaged 3.1 tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game.

    The winner of two trophies in 2016 already has 17 appearances for Ecuador at his young age. 

45. Justin Meram, Columbus Crew

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    The Columbus Crew went from MLS Cup runners-up to Eastern Conference bottom-feeder in less than a year.

    Iraq international Justin Meram had a productive year for Gregg Berhalter's men, but most of his key contributions came during a last-ditch run at the play-off over the final two months of the campaign.

    Meram closed out the season with one goal and four assists in October and three goals and seven assists from August on. 

    The 28-year-old's sixth season with the Crew turned out to be his best yet, as he finished with five goals and 13 assists. 

44. Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders

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    Clint Dempsey would've been much higher on this list had he not been ruled out for the year with an irregular heartbeat. 

    In the time the American played for the Sounders, he netted eight goals and picked up two assists. 

    The bulk of Dempsey's production came right before he was forced to sit out the rest of the campaign, as he scored five goals in his final three matches. 

    The hat-trick against Orlando City on August 7 and brace versus Portland on August 21 helped propel the Sounders into the wave of form they rode all the way to MLS Cup. 

43. Patrick Mullins, DC United

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    No one benefited from a change of scenery in 2016 more than Patrick Mullins. 

    The 24-year-old forward was cast out of the starting lineup by Patrick Vieira at New York City FC before he was traded to D.C. United on July 20. 

    After his arrival in the nation's capital, Mullins led the Black and Red to a late-season run that resulted in the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. 

    The American striker scored all eight of his goals in 2016 in 14 games for Ben Olsen's side, including a hat-trick in the wild 6-2 win over Chicago on August 27. 

42. Ashley Cole, LA Galaxy

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    It seems odd for someone of his stature, but Ashley Cole had a quietly successful season at left-back for the L.A. Galaxy. 

    The former Chelsea and Arsenal man adapted well to the nuances of MLS and provided some stability in the back four alongside fellow newcomer Jelle Van Damme. 

    The 35-year-old Englishman averaged 2.2 interceptions, 2.2 clearances and 2.1 tackles per match in his first season stateside. 

    Cole was as defensive as they come at his position, as he only attempted eight shots, two of which went on goal. 

41. Dax McCarty, New York Red Bulls

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    The heart and soul of the New York Red Bulls continued his success under Jesse Marsch in the American's second season in charge. 

    Dax McCarty covered plenty of ground in the center of the park while his teammates surged forward in plenty of successful attempts to find the back of the net. 

    The 29-year-old, who could possibly receive a look from new USMNT boss Bruce Arena, averaged 2.6 interceptions and 2.4 tackles per match for the first-place team in the Eastern Conference. 

    Although he attacks the game with a physical style of play, McCarty only picked up three yellow cards in 27 matches. 

40. David Bingham, San Jose Earthquakes

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    The record of the San Jose Earthquakes doesn't indicate David Bingham had a successful year in goal, but if you look deeper you'd see the 27-year-old had a solid season. 

    Bingham recorded 106 saves and eight shutouts while picking up eight victories for Dominic Kinnear's side. 

    In addition to putting up strong numbers in a few stat categories, Bingham received a call-up from then-USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann for the October friendly against New Zealand. 

39. Luis Robles, New York Red Bulls

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    Luis Robles is still the most underrated goalkeeper in MLS.

    The New York Red Bulls netminder produced yet another solid season in between the pipes, but his achievements were overshadowed by the scoring prowess of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan. 

    Robles played every single minute of each regular-season match for the fourth consecutive season. He reached the 100-save mark for the third time in his MLS career and he tied a career high in shutouts with 11. 

    The 32-year-old had a goals-against average of 1.29 and a save percentage of 69.9 percent. 

    However, the only category in which Robles led the league was wins, as he had 16 victories for the top team in the Eastern Conference. 

38. Walker Zimmerman, FC Dallas

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    We all knew how good one half of the FC Dallas center-back pairing was entering 2016, but over the course of nine months we learned both central defenders are close to the best at their position.

    American Walker Zimmerman partnered with Matt Hedges to form one of the best defensive duos in the league, as they conceded on 40 occasions on their way to the Supporters' Shield. 

    The 23-year-old Georgia native also announced his presence in the box with four goals on 11 shots on target. 

    Based off his success in 2016, Zimmerman should receive a call into the USMNT January camp at the very least.

37. Shkelzen Gashi, Colorado Rapids

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    Colorado's acquisition of Shkelzen Gashi flew under the radar of many when it occurred in February. 

    By the time the Rapids' quest for MLS Cup ended in the Western Conference Final, Gashi was lauded as one of the top newcomers in MLS. 

    The Albania international brought some needed experience into the squad, and he stepped up with plenty of key goals during the stretch run of the regular season. 

    Seven of Gashi's nine regular-season strikes came after July 23, including a brace in the hard-fought 3-3 draw with Vancouver at BC Place on September 24. 

36. Kei Kamara, New England Revolution

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    Tumultuous is the word that best describes the season of Kei Kamara. 

    A year after bagging 22 goals, Kamara produced 12 tallies between two clubs in 2016. 

    Kamara was shipped to the New England Revolution in May after a dispute with Federico Higuain that spewed into the locker room and caused irreparable damage. 

    The Sierra Leone international scored seven goals after his move to Gillette Stadium, four of which came against the Montreal Impact. 

    Kamara scored six goals in four contests against the Impact with Columbus and New England. If he displayed the same scoring prowess against the other 19 teams, the Revolution might not have suffered from a such a disappointing season. 

35. Justin Morrow, Toronto FC

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    Toronto FC quelled the concerns about their defense that have lingered for years by giving up 39 goals in the regular season. 

    Justin Morrow was a key part of the revamped back line, as he turned in one of the best seasons by a full-back in MLS. 

    Morrow was the best two-way player a full-back could be, as he produced five goals and four assists for the Reds in 31 regular-season matches. 

    On the defensive side of the pitch, the 29-year-old averaged 2.6 tackles and two interceptions per contest and he was one of the most disciplined defenders in the league with only five yellow cards. 

34. Chris Pontius, Philadelphia Union

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    Chris Pontius recovered from a few injury-plagued seasons in D.C. to tie his highest goal total in MLS in his first season with the Philadelphia Union.

    The 29-year-old, who notched six goals in his last three seasons with D.C., scored 12 goals and added six assists for the resurgent Union. 

    Thanks to Pontius and the performances of a few star rookies, the Union found themselves in the postseason in the first year of the Earnie Stewart era. 

    The 18 goals Pontius contributed to were the most he's played a role in during his MLS career. 

33. Laurent Ciman, Montreal Impact

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    Laurent Ciman put himself in contention for Defender of the Year for the second consecutive year, as he anchored the Montreal back line with precision. 

    The Belgium international averaged 5.1 clearances and 4.3 interceptions per game in the back for a team that caught fire on their way to the Eastern Conference Final. 

    The best performance from the 31-year-old this season came over two legs against the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Semi-final. 

    Ciman and his teammates played a near-perfect 180 minutes of soccer before entering the chaotic East Final against rival Toronto. 

32. Frank Lampard, New York City FC

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    The worst designated-player signing in league history turned into one of the best stories of 2016. 

    After missing the first half of the season with injuries, Frank Lampard made a statement to all of his doubters by scoring 12 goals in 19 matches. 

    The former Chelsea legend caught fire during the summer, as he tallied eight goals in June and July, with his hat-trick against the Rapids on July 30 finishing off the impressive streak of form. 

    Lampard even shined in his last regular-season match in MLS by assisting on two goals in 17 minutes as a substitute in New York City FC's 4-1 win over Columbus on Decision Day. 

31. Jake Gleeson, Portland Timbers

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    Jake Gleeson turned into one of the most unexpected success stories in 2016 after Adam Kwarasey went down with an injury in April. 

    The New Zealand international waited five years on the Portland Timbers bench for his opportunity to start in goal, and once he finally received it, he impressed on multiple occasions. 

    Gleeson won 11 of his 27 starts and produced 118 saves to go along with his six clean sheets. 

    The 26-year-old had a pair of massive games against rival Vancouver in May to announce himself across the league, as he made 20 saves in two matches. 

30. Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy

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    Robbie Keane didn't see the field as much as he expected to in his final season with the L.A. Galaxy, but he still found a way to score in double digits. 

    The Republic of Ireland international bagged a brace on September 25 against Seattle to secure his fifth consecutive season with 10 or more goals. 

    Keane finished his Galaxy career with 83 goals and 45 assists in 125 regular-season games. He also added nine goals and six assists in 21 play-off contests. 

    The 36-year-old may not go down as the best designated player in MLS history because of Sebastian Giovinco's exploits in Toronto, but the Irishman is certainly in the discussion. 

29. Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes

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    The epitome of consistency in MLS had another successful season with the San Jose Earthquakes. 

    With his 12 goals in 2016, Chris Wondolowski recorded his seventh straight season with 10 or more goals. The striker's 2016 total was his second lowest of the streak. 

    Wondolowski moved past Ante Razov into fourth place on the league's all-time scoring chart in April. He ended the year with 121 career tallies in MLS. 

    The forward needs 13 goals to surpass Jaime Moreno for third and 14 to pass Jeff Cunningham for second. 

    Unless he unleashes a 25-goal season on the league in 2016, Wondolowski will have to wait two years to have a chance to take Landon Donovan's all-time scoring crown. 

28. Kevin Molino, Orlando City

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    Orlando City dealt with plenty of ups and downs in 2016, but one of the few consistencies the Lions had was the production of Kevin Molino.

    The 26-year-old Trinidad and Tobago international recorded 11 goals and eight assists in a year where the Lions sacked Adrian Heath and brought in Jason Kreis as the new manager. 

    Molino's best stretch of the season came in April and May, when he found the back of the net on six occasions over nine matches. 

    The winger ended the season on a high note, as he added a goal and an assist in Orlando's 4-2 win over D.C. United on Decision Day. 

27. Michael Bradley, Toronto FC

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    Michael Bradley's influence on the Toronto FC squad grew as the season progressed. 

    The United States international provided the Reds with stability in the middle of the park as the club made a surge into MLS Cup. 

    Bradley was a key part of the club's Eastern Conference Final win over Montreal that clinched home-field advantage in the championship match against Seattle. 

    The American saved his best performance of the year for the championship match, but despite his efforts, the Reds came up short in penalties. 

26. Ronald Matarrita, New York City FC

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    Ronald Matarrita helped boost the profile of full-backs across MLS with an impressive debut season at New York City FC.

    The Costa Rica international averaged 3.7 tackles and 2.6 interceptions per game for an NYCFC defense that lacked consistency at center back. 

    Matarrita turned himself into one of the young stars of the league in 2016, but there's a good chance he'll be off to Europe in the near future. 

25. Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake

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    Joao Plata was one of the few players on this list who started the season on fire. 

    The Real Salt Lake man produced four goals and four assists in his first six matches, including a brace in the season opener against Orlando City. 

    Although most of the RSL attack struggled at the end of the campaign, Plata still grinded out a respectable total of nine goals and 12 assists. 

    The Ecuadorian will be one of the few stars back at RSL in 2017, as the club will revamp the roster in the offseason in order to become a contender in the Western Conference again. 

24. Benny Feilhaber, Sporting Kansas City

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    Few closed out the regular season like Benny Feilhaber. 

    The 31-year-old went on a ferocious tear that included two goals and eight assists in his last nine matches of the regular season. 

    Feilhaber, who was exiled from the USMNT during the Klinsmann era despite his top form, came two assists short of matching his 2015 total of 15 handouts. 

    In addition to hitting double digits in the assists column for the second straight year, Feilhaber struck the back of the net on seven occasions. 

23. Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers

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    After a year of poor production in the goal and assist columns, Diego Valeri returned to double digits in the scoring category. 

    Valeri recorded 14 tallies and seven assists in a disappointing season for the Timbers that saw the defending MLS Cup champions fail to qualify for the postseason. 

    The Argentinian continued his role as the club's top playmaker by distributing 2.9 key passes per match, via WhoScored.com. 

    With Valeri and a few key pieces still in the picture in 2017, the Timbers will look to rebound and make the play-off in the contentious Western Conference. 

22. Andre Blake, Philadelphia Union

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    A strong argument can be made for and against Andre Blake winning the Goalkeeper of the Year award. 

    The Jamaica international bailed out the Philadelphia Union on countless occasions during the final few months of the regular season as the team sputtered in attack.

    Despite all of his fantastic denials, Blake still let in 50 goals in his 32 starts during the regular season and he conceded three more in the Eastern Conference knockout-round loss to Toronto. 

    Blake earned the honor because a good amount of his 99 saves were made in fantastic fashion. Blake is a star on the rise, but he may not be in MLS for much longer if European clubs get eyes on him. 

21. Kaka, Orlando City

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    Just like Orlando City did as a whole in 2016, Kaka went through a roller-coaster individual season. 

    The Brazilian matched his goal total from a year ago by striking the back of the net on nine occasions and he upped his assist tally by three as he hit the 10-assist mark with two on Decision Day.

    Kaka recorded the first two braces of his MLS career in back-to-back weeks against NYCFC and Montreal on August 28 and September 7, respectively. 

    The Brazilian legend will look to succeed more in both stat categories in 2017 as the Lions open their new soccer-specific stadium after two years at Camping World Stadium. 

20. Cyle Larin, Orlando City

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    Cyle Larin followed up his fantastic rookie season with a 14-goal campaign for Orlando City. 

    The Canada international also contributed three assists. The handouts were the first three of Larin's MLS career. 

    The 21-year-old has scored 31 times in 59 MLS matches, which has led to plenty of interest from abroad. 

    If he stays around for a third season, Larin will be counted on to be the main provider of goals once again as the Lions break in their new stadium and hunt for the postseason. 

19. Keegan Rosenberry, Philadelphia Union

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    The unexpected instant success of Keegan Rosenberry helped produce an impressive campaign in Philadelphia. 

    The Georgetown University product played every minute of the regular season for the resurgent Union, and he impressed with his one-on-one defending. 

    If it weren't for the superb play of Jordan Morris, Rosenberry would have been a runaway winner of Rookie of the Year. 

    Rosenberry is part of a young core that is being built by sporting director Earnie Stewart. With a foundation in place already, the Union are set up to take another step forward in 2017. 

18. Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City

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    One of the most consistent scorers the league has ever seen continued his tear in 2016.

    Dom Dwyer found his way into double digits in the goal column for the third consecutive season, as he struck the back of the net on 16 occasions. Half of those tallies came from two-goal performances, the first of which came in Week 2 against Vancouver. 

    The Englishman has bagged at least 12 goals in his three full seasons with Peter Vermes' side. 

17. Nicolas Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders

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    Nicolas Lodeiro redefined the standards for midseason acquisitions in MLS. 

    The Uruguayan started his MLS career on fire, as he produced four goals and eight assists in 13 regular-season matches. 

    The 27-year-old provided the Sounders with at least a goal or an assist in eight of his first nine games in the league. 

    Lodeiro continued his rampant run in the postseason, as he contributed four additional goals on the Sounders' way to MLS Cup. 

16. Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers

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    Rarely does a 16-goal season fly under the radar in MLS, but due to the struggles of the Portland Timbers, Fanendo Adi's impressive year didn't receive too much attention. 

    The lanky Nigerian, who also scored 16 in his first full season a year ago, ended the campaign on a strong note with six goals in his last 11 matches. 

    Adi entered the year as a master of the multiple-goal showing, as he had nine combined braces in 2014 and 2015. But the 26-year-old bucked that trend this season, as he only had a pair of two-goal performances, both of which came before May. 

15. Ola Kamara, Columbus Crew

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    Ola Kamara was unexpectedly thrust into the role of top scorer for the Columbus Crew after Kei Kamara was shipped off to New England in May. 

    The 27-year-old made an immediate impact in the starting lineup, as he produced a hat-trick in a 4-3 win over Real Salt Lake three games into his tenure as first-choice striker. 

    Kamara went on to find the back of the net on seven more occasions in his next eight contests before slowing down a bit. 

    After a five-game scoreless run, Kamara came alive at the back end of the season to score his final six tallies, including a duo of multiple-goal performances. 

14. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders

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    The importance of Jordan Morris to the Sounders lineup grew as the year progressed. 

    Morris moved into a starting role after the exit of Obafemi Martins to China, and then he was inserted up top by himself when Dempsey was ruled out for the year. 

    The 22-year-old didn't let any pressure get to him, as he came up with plenty of big goals, including the series-clinching strike in the Western Conference Final. 

    Morris had 12 regular-season strikes and an additional two in the postseason. He also produced a total of five assists. 

13. Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC

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    If Jozy Altidore played the entire season at the pace he did when he was healthy, he would've been in the MVP discussion.

    The American forward, who missed a lengthy stretch due to an injury, scored all 10 of his regular-season goals after July 30. 

    The 27-year-old designated player contributed five goals and four assists during Toronto's impressive run toward MLS Cup. 

    What would've been the sixth postseason strike for Altidore was denied by Stefan Frei's spectacular left-handed save in extra time before the Reds lost on penalties. 

12. Jelle Van Damme, LA Galaxy

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    There were plenty of concerns about how the L.A. Galaxy's offseason acquisitions would adjust to the intricacies of MLS. 

    We were wrong to think Bruce Arena wouldn't get the best out of players like Jelle Van Damme. 

    The towering Belgian had no problem easing into the league, as he earned the Newcomer of the Year award. 

    Van Damme averaged 4.7 clearances, 3.5 interceptions and 2.2 tackles per contest. He'll be expected to have an even bigger role in the locker room in 2017 with Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and Landon Donovan departing the club along with Arena. 

11. Sam Cronin, Colorado Rapids

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    There were quite a few quality players who flew under the radar in 2016, but none more than Sam Cronin

    The 30-year-old league veteran was the linchpin of the Colorado defense that let in the fewest tallies during the regular season. 

    Cronin's presence became more important when Jermaine Jones went down with a long-term injury.

    As Cronin and Azira grew into their partnership, they became the best duo in the league in defensive midfield. Cronin deserved a spot on the MLS Best XI, but he was snubbed due to the presence of more attacking midfielders. 

10. Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders

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    The gold standard for defensive midfielders in MLS had arguably his best season in rave green. 

    Osvaldo Alonso, the heart and soul of the Seattle Sounders, produced a masterful season that ended with gutty performance in MLS Cup. 

    The best passer in the league completed 90.9 percent of his 69.2 average passes in 2016. The completion rate was far and away the top mark in MLS, while only Michael Bradley attempted more passes per game than the Cuban-born midfielder. 

9. Matt Hedges, FC Dallas

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    One of two center backs to crack the top 10 delivered yet another fantastic season at the back for FC Dallas. 

    Matt Hedges anchored the FC Dallas back line that led the club to the Supporters' Shield and U.S. Open Cup. 

    The MLS Best XI honoree is more than deserving of a call-up to the United States men's national team. Hopefully Hedges' phone rings with Arena on the other end for the January camp. 

    Hedges is only going to get better as one of the leaders of the young FC Dallas core that has plenty more trophies in their future. 

8. Giovani dos Santos, LA Galaxy

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    Giovani dos Santos used a tremendous burst of form to move into double digits in both goals and assists in his first full season with the Galaxy.

    The Mexico international contributed six goals and three assists in a five-game stretch from August 24 to September 11.

    Dos Santos seemed to work best with Keane out of the starting lineup, which means he could find even more success in attack as the main man in L.A. in 2017. 

    But with the exit of plenty big-name talents comes more pressure on Dos Santos. How he responds to being further under the microscope will be massive for the Galaxy's continued success. 

7. Mauro Diaz, FC Dallas

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    If Mauro Diaz didn't get hurt at the end of the regular season, we may have seen some different results in the postseason. 

    The midfield magician was the X-factor to the success of Oscar Pareja's club, especially after Fabian Castillo departed for Turkey. 

    The 25-year-old assisted on 13 strikes and added five more goals of his own to FC Dallas' offensive tally. 

    Diaz had four multiple-assist performances, starting with his showing in Week 1 against Philadelphia. 

6. Axel Sjoberg, Colorado Rapids

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    The improvement of Axel Sjoberg in the center of defense was vital to the turnaround of the Colorado Rapids. 

    The 25-year-old Swede led the Rapids to the best defensive record in MLS. The Rapids only conceded on 32 occasions in 34 regular-season contests. 

    What's even more impressive about the Rapids' performance as a whole in defense is they won eight regular-season matches 1-0. 

    Although he put in a phenomenal season for the second-place side in the Western Conference, Sjoberg was beat out by Hedges for the Defender of the Year award. 

5. Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact

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    A strong argument can be made that Ignacio Piatti was the true MVP in 2016. 

    The Argentinian carried the Montreal Impact into the play-off, and he came one game short of bringing them to MLS Cup.

    The 31-year-old, who recorded 17 goals and six assists, may not have had the best numbers of anyone in the league, but he made the single biggest impact on his side over the course of nine months. 

    Piatti also thrived without a consistent goalscorer in front of him. Didier Drogba didn't play a massive role in the club's success, and Matteo Mancosu only got hot in time for the postseason. 

4. Sacha Kljestan, New York Red Bulls

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    A lot has been made about the big names being brought into MLS over the last two years, but the move that was met with little fanfare at first may turn out to be one of the best signings in league history. 

    Sacha Kljestan became the league's assist king with 20 handouts in 32 matches to go along with his six goals. 

    The American, who earned a well-deserved return to the USMNT in the fall, dished out 14 assists in his first year back in MLS a year ago. 

    Kljestan became the first player to reach 20 or more assists in a single season since Carlos Valderrama achieved the feat in 2000. 

3. David Villa, New York City FC

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    Each of the three players atop this list have a legitimate claim to be named the best player in MLS in 2016.

    David Villa was voted MLS MVP by those around the league, but he wasn't as magnificently consistent as the two stars above him. 

    The Spaniard closed the regular season on fire, as he found the back of the net on six occasions in four matches. 

    Villa and his NYCFC teammates suffered a disappointing loss over two legs in the Eastern Conference Semi-final to Toronto FC. 

    In order to improve on their poor play-off performance in 2017, NYCFC must add more pieces around Villa and build a sturdier defense. 

2. Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC

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    Sebastian Giovinco is the best player MLS has ever seen, but he wasn't good enough to earn the title of best player from the 2016 season. 

    The Atomic Ant recorded 17 goals and 15 assists in the regular season, but he was unable to be a major factor in MLS Cup on home soil. 

    Before exiting MLS Cup in extra time, Giovinco produced four goals and four assists in the postseason for a Toronto squad built to contend for years to come with the Italian at the forefront of attack. 

    In 61 regular-season games in MLS, Giovinco has totaled 39 goals and 31 assists. 

1. Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Bradley Wright-Phillips scorched the nets of MLS for the third year running to earn his second Golden Boot award. 

    The New York Red Bulls forward, who tied the single-season goal record with 27 tallies in 2014, came three short of his record-tying total in 2016. 

    Wright-Phillips used a two-goal performance against NYCFC on July 24 to ignite a scoring tear that lasted until Decision Day. 

    During his run to the Golden Boot, Wright-Phillips bagged four braces and scored in 11 of his last 13 matches. 

    The Englishman totaled seven multiple-goal performances, with his best two-game span coming at the end of May when he scored twice versus NYCFC and netted a hat-trick against Toronto.