MLS Player Rankings: Martins, Dempsey & Castillo Climb to Top
The ninth week of play in Major League Soccer taught us one valuable lesson that we should keep in mind from now until the MLS Cup Final.
Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey and Fabian Castillo are the top three players in the league at the moment, and they should be for the rest of the season.
The trio, who might be caught by Toronto FC's three designated players and Kaka at some point, produced a ton of class in their respective matches in Week 9.
Due to the impeccable quality of the three stars, they all catapulted to the top of our latest ranking of the top 20 players in MLS.
Continue reading on to see which one of the attackers claimed the No. 1 position in the Week 9 edition of the MLS Player Rankings.
On the Way Out
A suspension and three ineffective performances cost these four players their respective spots on the list after Week 9.
Players Dropped Out of Rankings
Blas Perez (FC Dallas; Week 8 Ranking: 17)
Justin Meram (Columbus Crew; 18)
Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew; 19)
Pedro Morales (Vancouver Whitecaps; 20)
20. Harry Shipp, AM, Chicago Fire
Week 8 Ranking: 8
A major drop was inevitable for Harry Shipp if he didn't string together a few strong performances following Chicago's 20-day layoff.
Shipp failed to produce a shot on target in the Fire's 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Sunday night, and he completed just 67.7 percent of his 34 passes.
In three of his last four matches, Shipp has not challenged the opposing goalkeeper with a shot. He also hasn't found the back of the net since March 22.
19. Charlie Davies, FW, New England Revolution
Week 8 Ranking: Not Ranked
We'll go ahead and say it now before it becomes a trendy topic over the next few weeks. Charlie Davies has a legitimate chance to make the United States Gold Cup roster.
Davies extended his scoring streak to three games with a header in the ninth minute of the New England Revolution's win over the New York Red Bulls.
If he continues to thrive over the next six weeks, he may find himself on Jurgen Klinsmann's 23-man roster for this summer's tournament.
18. Alvas Powell, RB, Portland Timbers
Week 8 Ranking: Not Ranked
For the second time this season, a full back has found his way into our list of MLS' best players.
Alvas Powell has arguably been the best Portland Timbers player in each of the club's last three contests.
In Week 8 against Seattle, the 20-year-old Jamaican silenced Lamar Neagle, and he continued that trend in Week 9 at Providence Park against Pedro Morales and Darren Mattocks.
Powell currently leads the league with 5.6 tackles per game, and he is 13th in interceptions per contest, with 3.7.
17. Mauro Diaz, AM, FC Dallas
Week 8 Ranking: Not Ranked
As if you needed another reason to enjoy watching the FC Dallas attack, Mauro Diaz provided us with that on Friday night.
The dynamic playmaker torched rival Houston for one goal and two assists in the Hoops' 4-1 romp at BBVA Compass Stadium.
If he finds a way to stay healthy for the entire season, Oscar Pareja's side has a chance to beat out Seattle and LA for the top spot in the Western Conference.
16. Gabriel Torres, FW, Colorado Rapids
Week 8 Ranking: Not Ranked
All of a sudden the Colorado Rapids, who couldn't buy a goal to save their lives in March, have a consistent scorer up top.
Gabriel Torres has struck the back of the net in four of his last five games, including twice in Colorado's difficult two-game span in Week 9.
Torres scored the lone goal in each of the Rapids' 1-1 draws this week with the Red Bulls and LA Galaxy.
15. Jozy Altidore, FW, Toronto FC
Week 8 Ranking: 14
Many expected Jozy Altidore to torch the Philadelphia Union defense on Saturday afternoon, especially after his two-goal outing against Orlando City in Week 8.
The exact opposite happened at PPL Park, as the USMNT forward attempted a single shot which flew off target in Toronto FC's 1-0 victory.
Altidore will play his first game in front of the home fans in Week 10, as the Reds host Houston at a refurbished BMO Field.
14. Lloyd Sam, RM, New York Red Bulls
Week 8 Ranking: 10
Lloyd Sam played 110 minutes across two matches in Week 9, as the Red Bulls earned a single point from games against Colorado and New England.
Sam led the Red Bulls in shots on target with two in the home draw with the Rapids on Wednesday, and he entered as a substitute in the 62nd minute during the 2-1 road loss to the Revolution.
The former Leeds United winger will take part in the first Hudson River derby on Sunday, when New York City FC visits Red Bull Arena.
13. Giles Barnes, FW, Houston Dynamo
Week 8 Ranking: 15
Before the FC Dallas duo of Diaz and Castillo finished off the Dynamo defense in the second half, Giles Barnes handed Houston a glimmer of hope in the 32nd minute.
Barnes scored his fifth goal of the season, and his third in two weeks, on a free-kick that landed in the top-left corner of the net.
The former Derby County man has two chances to better his goal tally in Week 10, as Houston takes on San Jose and Toronto in a five-day span.
12. Felipe, CM, New York Red Bulls
Week 8 Ranking: 13
Despite playing in two contests in four days, Felipe produced strong numbers in the Red Bulls midfield.
The midfielder had 144 touches, four tackles and four interceptions during his 180 minutes of play in Week 9.
11. Bradley Wright-Phillips, FW, New York Red Bulls
Week 8 Ranking: 7
Bradley Wright-Phillips netted his first strike since March 28 in Wednesday's draw at Red Bull Arena with the Rapids.
The 2014 Golden Boot winner followed up his solid performance against Colorado with a brief appearance off the bench in the Eastern Conference showdown with New England.
Wright-Phillips could be in for a massive week in front of goal if he finds a way to cut through the vulnerable NYCFC back four on Sunday night.
10. Mix Diskerud, CM, New York City FC
Week 8 Ranking: 9
Among all the chaos and uncertainty surrounding NYCFC at the moment, Mix Diskerud continues to deliver consistent play in the middle of the park.
Diskerud made three key passes in the final third, and he attempted three shots as he tried to spur the NYCFC attack forward in the second half against Seattle.
The USMNT player's toughest test of the season will come in Week 10, when he goes up against the pressing midfield trio of Felipe, Dax McCarty and Sacha Kljestan in the Hudson River derby.
9. Kaka, AM, Orlando City
Week 8 Ranking: 4
Kaka and his Orlando City teammates had a week off from league play, but some of them did see action on Saturday in a friendly against Brazilian side Ponte Preta.
Unfortunately for Kaka, his job will be a bit more difficult in the final third moving forward after Kevin Molino went down with a torn ACL in the friendly.
8. Octavio Rivero, FW, Vancouver Whitecaps
Week 8 Ranking: 2
Octavio Rivero failed to find the back of the net for the fourth consecutive match on Saturday night in his second Cascadia Cup showdown of the season.
However, Rivero did not hold on to his top spot in the Golden Boot race after Week 9, as Martins claimed that position.
7. Kei Kamara, FW, Columbus Crew
Week 8 Ranking: 1
The entire Columbus Crew attack fell flat in the 2-0 loss to D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Saturday night.
In the club's third defeat of the season, Kei Kamara failed to place any of his shots on target for the second time in 2015.
Kamara will look to discover his scoring touch once again in Week 10 in a potentially high-scoring affair with the Sounders at Mapfre Stadium.
6. Benny Feilhaber, CM, Sporting Kansas City
Week 8 Ranking: 6
Benny Feilhaber completed his transformation into a soccer-playing version of John Oates before he stepped on the field in Week 9.
The midfielder's play was far from out of touch in Sporting KC's 1-0 victory over Chicago, as he made three key passes, 61 touches and completed 91.5 percent of his passes.
Unfortunately Feilhaber lost his loving feeling in front of goal, as neither of his shots hit the target. He also failed to add to his lead atop the league assist chart.
Since he can't go for that inefficiency in the final third, we should expect Feilhaber to bounce back in Week 10 against D.C. United.
5. Omar Gonzalez, CB, LA Galaxy
Week 8 Ranking: 5
Omar Gonzalez kept the Colorado threat to a minimum on Saturday night, as he helped hold the Rapids to two shots on target at the StubHub Center.
The 26-year-old continued to make his case for a Gold Cup roster spot by making five interceptions, four tackles and four clearances in the Galaxy's fourth draw of 2015.
Gonzalez is also averaging a single foul per game through nine contests.
4. Sebastian Giovinco, AM, Toronto FC
Week 8 Ranking: 3
Toronto's most expensive designated player produced the highest bit of quality in the Reds' 1-0 win over Philadelphia.
Sebastian Giovinco struck a free-kick from 35 yards out into the left side of the net after his knuckling attempt fooled Union goalkeeper John McCarthy.
The goal was the fourth in four games for the Italian playmaker, who will finally get to show off his skills in front of the club's fans in Week 10.
3. Fabian Castillo, LM, FC Dallas
Week 8 Ranking: 16
Before the Sounders produced a high-quality attacking performance on Sunday, we were ready to boost Castillo 15 spots into the No. 1 position.
Castillo scored on one occasion and played the role of provider on two other goals during FC Dallas' 4-1 thumping of in-state rival Houston.
The Colombian's fourth goal of the season came in the 55th minute on an exceptional piece of skill in front of the Houston net. After he fooled the Dynamo back four, Castillo delivered a cheeky chip into the right side of the net.
2. Clint Dempsey, FW, Seattle Sounders
Week 8 Ranking: 11
Clint Dempsey once again proved his worth in the Seattle attack on Sunday night with a goal and an assist in the 3-1 victory over NYCFC.
Dempsey scored for the second straight week in the 58th minute of Seattle's fifth victory of the season. Eight minutes later, the USMNT player produced a clever backheel pass to the feet of Martins, who proceeded to finish off Seattle's third goal of the match.
In his last eight regular-season starts dating back to October 19, 2014, Dempsey has six goals and five assists.
1. Obafemi Martins, FW, Seattle Sounders
Week 8 Ranking: 12
Martins grabbed sole possession of the lead in the Golden Boot race thanks to a pair of goals in Week 9.
The Nigerian netted his first brace of the season thanks to strikes in the 23rd and 66th minutes at Yankee Stadium. Martins also earned an assist for the cross he lofted over to Marco Pappa in the buildup to Dempsey's second-half goal.
The last time Martins recorded two goals and an assist in a regular-season game was October 5, 2014 against Colorado.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.