MLS Player Power Rankings: Dempsey, Altidore Fight for Top Spot After Week 1

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 10, 2015

MLS Player Power Rankings: Dempsey, Altidore Fight for Top Spot After Week 1

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The first week of action in Major League Soccer may not be the best we see all season, but we did see glimpses of brilliance from some of the league's top players. 

    Fourteen different players found the back of the net over the three-day stretch of games, including Robbie Keane, Kaka, Jozy Altidore, Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey

    Based off their contributions to their respective clubs, all five of those players are high on the list of the top 20 players in MLS. 

    This list will be similar to a club power ranking, as the hottest players in MLS will be closer to the top spot. As the weeks move on, cumulative performance will be added into our selection criteria. But for now, we are just judging these players off their Week 1 showings. 

    Continue reading on to see who topped the first MLS Player Power Rankings of the 2015 MLS season.

Near Misses

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    The following players delivered quality performances in Week 1, but they barely missed the top 20. They are listed in no particular order. 

    Amadou Dia (Sporting Kansas City)

    Ray Gaddis (Philadelphia Union) 

    Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City) 

    Chris Schuler (Real Salt Lake) 

    Jose Villarreal (LA Galaxy) 

    Joe Bendik (Toronto FC) 

    Khiry Shelton (New York City FC)

    Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)

    Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo) 

20. Clint Irwin, GK, Colorado Rapids

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    Clint Irwin's fourth and final save at PPL Park on Saturday afternoon handed the Colorado Rapids a valuable point on the road. 

    Irwin's 86th-minute denial at the near post of a Conor Casey header preserved a 0-0 draw between Colorado and the Philadelphia Union. 

    The 25-year-old goalkeeper was one of nine players at his position to earn a clean sheet this weekend. He also recorded the fourth-most saves of any man in between the pipes. 

    The standout showing handed Irwin the lead in his competition at the position with Philadelphia loanee Zac MacMath.

19. Mix Diskerud, CM, New York City FC

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    The first goal in New York City FC franchise history was netted by United States international Mix Diskerud in the 76th minute of the club's 1-1 draw with Orlando City. 

    Diskerud stepped up in the box and fired home a David Villa pass into the right side of the net to open the scoring at the Citrus Bowl. 

    If you look closely at the replay, it appears that the former Rosenborg player was fixing his hair just seconds before he powered a curling shot past Orlando goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.

    Outside of his goal, Diskerud did not have a dominant debut in the middle of the park for Jason Kreis' side. One has to assume the strike will help his confidence a bit as NYCFC finds its footing in the league.

18. Jairo Arrieta, FW, D.C. United

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    With Fabian Espindola out for the first six games of the season due to a suspension, the door is wide-open for Jairo Arrieta to star up top for D.C. United. 

    In his first match for the Black and Red, Arrieta contributed the lone goal in the 1-0 win over Montreal.

    Arrieta took advantage of an error in judgment by Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush and poked the ball into the net in the 58th minute.

    The 31-year-old also contributed three key passes in D.C.'s first home win of the new campaign.

17. Giles Barnes, FW, Houston Dynamo

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    Giles Barnes rifled his first goal of the 2015 season into the top of the net in the 66th minute of Houston's 1-0 victory over Columbus on Saturday night. 

    The former Derby County player, who has scored 20 goals over the past two seasons, connected with a Kofi Sarkodie cross to open his 2015 account in style. 

    Barnes was the only player in an orange shirt to take more than one shot at BBVA Compass Stadium, as he attempted three shots, two of which were on goal. 

    If he is able to be productive up top during the first half of the season, Barnes could form a deadly partnership with Erick "Cubo" Torres when he arrives from Mexico this summer.

16. Lloyd Sam, RM, New York Red Bulls

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    With 2014 Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips taken out of the picture by the Sporting Kansas City defense, Lloyd Sam stepped up to net the first Red Bulls strike of 2015. 

    In the 54th minute of Sunday's match, Sam darted through the midfield, cut back to his right and powered home a goal into the right side of the net. 

    Sam showed a terrific amount of skill on the buildup to the goal, as he turned Sporting center-back Matt Besler around to create space to shoot. 

    If opposing defenses continue to shut down Wright-Phillips, the pressure will be on Sam to create more chances in the final third as the Red Bulls search for a solid start.

15. Tyrone Mears, RB, Seattle Sounders

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    On a weekend when many powerful goals were struck, Tyrone Mears delivered one of the most impressive assists in Seattle's 3-0 win over New England. 

    After he made a terrific run down the right wing, Mears sent in a rocket of a cross onto the head of Obafemi Martins. 

    Mears also provided the Seattle defense with a solid outing on the right flank of a back four that features a few new faces. 

    While most Seattle fans are used to seeing a right-back thrive in attack thanks to DeAndre Yedlin, Mears should leave many pleasantly surprised with his defensive efforts in 2015. Most critics believed that Yedlin's biggest flaw was defending.

14. Octavio Rivero, FW, Vancouver Whitecaps

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    Vancouver Whitecaps fans were able to forgive Octavio Rivero for his brutal eighth-minute miss after he found the back of the net 11 minutes later. 

    The new signing slotted the ball past Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik to hand Vancouver a temporary one-goal lead at BC Place. 

    The 23-year-old Uruguayan ended the 3-1 defeat with two shots on target and two aerial duels won.

    If he continues to produce up top for the Whitecaps, Rivero will be able to fill a major void that was left wide-open throughout the 2014 season.

13. Nick Rimando, GK, Real Salt Lake

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    The Wall of the Wasatch was up to his normal tricks in goal for Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Providence Park. 

    Nick Rimando denied five shots in the Claret and Cobalt's season opener, which ended in a 0-0 draw with the Portland Timbers. 

    Rimando will most likely terrorize Rodney Wallace's dreams over the next few weeks, as the Portland winger was stopped on four occasions by the RSL goalkeeper. 

    The USMNT player's best save of the night came in the 52nd minute, when he made a reaction denial on a Wallace shot off a corner kick. 

12. Blas Perez, FW, FC Dallas

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    Blas Perez was the beneficiary of a wicked deflection in the waning moments of FC Dallas' win over San Jose at Toyota Park. 

    The Panamanian's head was in the right place at the right time, as it helped Moises Hernandez's attempt on goal find the back of the net. 

    Before he finished off his night in fine fashion, the forward was all over the place in search of his first tally of the new season. 

    Three of Perez's five attempted shots were sent on target, and he also won four aerial duels up top for the Hoops.

11. Kekuta Manneh, LM, Vancouver Whitecaps

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    One of the reasons why Saturday's all-Canadian affair at BC Place was so exciting for 90 minutes was the play of Kekuta Manneh.

    The 20-year-old, who now goes by his first name on the back of his jersey, was a menace on the left wing for the Whitecaps for the majority of the match. 

    Manneh tied Rivero for the most shots on target by any Vancouver player, while he also made three key passes in the dangerous Vancouver attack. 

    If Manneh continues to star week in and week out for the Whitecaps, they could turn into one of the most entertaining offenses in the entire league.

10. Victor Ulloa, CDM, FC Dallas

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    There's still plenty of time to hop on the Victor Ulloa hype train before everyone knows his name. 

    The FC Dallas defensive midfielder commanded the pace in the middle of the park in the Hoops' 1-0 win over San Jose. 

    The 23-year-old won four aerial duels, made four tackles and touched the ball on 60 occasions in his first match of 2015. 

    If we see more strong play out of Ulloa in the near future, he will add his name to the growing list of FC Dallas youngsters catching the eye of many across MLS.

9. Stefan Ishizaki, RM, LA Galaxy

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    There were a few questions surrounding the LA Galaxy's lineup before Friday night's clash with the Chicago Fire. 

    Stefan Ishizaki answered one of them, as he provided an incredible amount of production on the right wing for the defending MLS Cup champion. 

    One of the Swede's 13 attempted crosses created the first goal of the 2015 season, when it got past a few Fire defenders and found the feet of Jose Villarreal. 

    The 32-year-old totaled three shots in his season debut to go along with 54 touches and 73.3 percent pass accuracy.

8. Robbie Keane, FW, LA Galaxy

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    Robbie Keane secured three points for LA with a thunderous strike in the 81st minute, which opened his scoring account for the 2015 season. 

    After Baggio Husidic played the ball down to the ground in the middle of the box, Keane unleashed a volleyed attempt that flew past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson. 

    Keane was also one of the most active forwards in Week 1, as he made 47 touches in the 2-0 victory at StubHub Center. 

    Based off the first match, it looks like Keane will not suffer a drop-off in production due to Landon Donovan's retirement.

7. Ike Opara, CB, Sporting Kansas City

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    Few teams in the league were in need of a strong performance at a specific position more than Sporting Kansas City at center-back. 

    While many expected Besler to shine against the Red Bulls, it was Ike Opara who stole the spotlight in the 1-1 draw at Sporting Park. 

    Opara scored the lone Sporting KC goal of the match in the 50th minute, when he latched onto the end of a Benny Feilhaber cross with his head. 

    The center-back also limited Wright-Phillips to the fewest number of touches recorded by any of the 20 field players who started Sunday's match.

    Opara's influence in the back four will grow in Week 2, as he will partner 17-year-old Erik Palmer-Brown after Besler was sent off against the Red Bulls.

6. Obafemi Martins, FW, Seattle Sounders

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    The Seattle Sounders' boisterous supporters were treated to their first flip of the season in the 41st minute after Martins finished off Mears' cross. 

    Martins was also involved in the third Sounders goal of the night, as he was a part of a stellar six-pass sequence that led to Clint Dempsey's 67th-minute strike.

    The Nigerian forward earned his first assist of 2015 after he dumped the ball over to a wide-open Dempsey, who walked the ball into the net. 

    Following one week of play across the league, Martins is one of two players to have a goal and an assist to his name. It is no coincidence that Dempsey is the other star who has achieved that feat.

5. Tyler Deric, GK, Houston Dynamo

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    Before you raise a question about Tyler Deric ranking higher than stars such as Martins and Keane, we suggest you go back and watch the highlights of his match one more time. 

    Deric turned himself into a brick wall in front of the Houston net in the Dynamo's 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew. 

    The new No. 1 goalkeeper in Houston put on a show in between the pipes during the second half to hand manager Owen Coyle his first victory as an MLS manager.

    Deric tallied six saves in the victory, and he also played a strong game in the air by catching seven crosses.

4. Sebastian Giovinco, AM, Toronto FC

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    It is hard not to overreact to the impressive attacking showcase put on by Toronto FC at BC Place on Saturday night. 

    Sebastian Giovinco was the catalyst of many of the club's moves forward into the final third, as he attempted six shots and made two key passes. 

    The Italian's best move of the night came in the 32nd minute, when he danced around Matias Laba with ease to provide Jozy Altidore with a pass to set up the Reds' first goal. 

    Giovinco's ability to get around Laba with little difficulty shocked a few observers of the league who watched Laba thrive in his defensive midfield role for Vancouver in 2014. 

    After one week of play, it is hard not to assume Toronto's big splash of cash in the offseason will reap plenty of rewards this season.

3. Kaka, AM, Orlando City

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    With his team staring defeat straight in the face, Kaka delivered the first goal in Orlando City history to earn a 1-1 draw with NYCFC. 

    The Brazilian superstar laced his free-kick off the body of NYCFC's Jeb Brovsky and into the back of the net to spark a raucous celebration at the Citrus Bowl. 

    When Orlando fans look back on the milestone goal, few will remember how it actually rolled over the white line. All most of the purple contingent will remember is who the scorer of the first goal was.

    Outside of the goal, Kaka has a standout showing in his attacking midfield role for the Lions. He made four key passes and completed 81.8 percent of his 44 passes on the turf at the club's temporary home.

2. Jozy Altidore, FW, Toronto FC

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    Jozy Altidore put smiles on the faces of Toronto and USMNT supporters on Saturday, as he netted a brace in his return to MLS. 

    The top forward on the USMNT depth chart made sure Giovinco's brilliant piece of skill didn't go to waste in the 32nd minute, as he danced around Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted and scored. 

    Altidore also converted from the spot late in the second half on a risky Panenka that was incredibly pleasing to the eyes of those wearing red in attendance. 

    The two goals in one game tied Altidore's full total in 42 games with Sunderland, per ESPN's Paul Carr. Hopefully that is one of the final times that ugly statistic will be used in conversation.

1. Clint Dempsey, FW, Seattle Sounders

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    Before we delve into the specifics of Dempsey's Week 1 performance, we highly suggest you watch the video above of Seattle's third goal. 

    Dempsey finished off this work of footballing art with his second goal of the night against the New England Revolution. 

    The USMNT's captain created his first tally of the night in the penalty area, as his quickness was too much for Juan Agudelo to handle.

    After he was tripped by the Revolution forward, Dempsey launched his spot-kick into the top right corner of the net. 

    If Week 1 is any indication of what the Golden Boot race might look like, Dempsey and Altidore will be challenging each other for the top spot all season. 

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    All statistics obtained from MLSSoccer.com and WhoScored.com.

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