MLS Player Rankings: Villa Rises, Martins, Birnbaum Enter After Week 15
Due to the small slate of games in Major League Soccer in Week 15, a few players were able to shine with the spotlight solely focused on them.
The player who amazed us all this past weekend was David Villa, who helped drive New York City FC to a win at Yankee Stadium.
Thanks to his efforts in front of goal and the absence of some of the top stars from the pitch, Villa surged up our latest MLS Player Rankings. While not much changed near the top, Villa and a few other players climbed in the bottom half in our list of the top 20 players in the league.
Continue reading on to see where Villa and 19 other stars of MLS landed in the Week 15 edition of the MLS Player Rankings.
On the Way Out
Two players left the list of the top 20 players in the league this week after not stepping on the pitch in Week 15.
Players Dropped out of Rankings
Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders; Previous Ranking: 17)
Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers; 20)
20. Obafemi Martins, FW, Seattle Sounders
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
It only took Obafemi Martins 29 minutes to notch a goal and an assist in the Seattle Sounders' 3-0 win over FC Dallas on Saturday night.
On his seventh goal of the season, Martins displayed a ton of control in the penalty area before slotting the ball past Dan Kennedy.
The strike was the first for the Nigerian since May 3, when he notched a pair of tallies against New York City FC.
19. Steve Birnbaum, CB, D.C. United
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Since returning from an injury on May 28, Steve Birnbaum has delivered D.C. United with a few terrific performances at the back.
Not only has the 24-year-old dominated on the ground in possession, he has also turned himself into one of the top defenders in the air this season.
Through eight matches, Birnbaum has an average of 5.3 aerial duels won per game to go along with his 5.1 clearances per contest.
18. Laurent Ciman, CB, Montreal Impact
Previous Ranking: 19
Despite coming up on the wrong end of the final result in Week 15, Laurent Ciman still put in a strong 90-minute shift at center back for the Montreal Impact.
Ciman made eight clearances and five interceptions against the David Villa-led NYCFC attack at Yankee Stadium, and he picked up his first assist of the season on Wandrille Lefevre's goal.
The Belgian and his Montreal teammates will head back to Stade Saputo for the first time since June 3 in Week 16 to host expansion side Orlando City.
17. Michael Bradley, CM, Toronto FC
Previous Ranking: 13
Since he's been busy terrorizing opposing defenses on the international stage over the last two weeks, Michael Bradley fell a few spots due to his absence in league play.
Bradley should be back in the Toronto FC lineup on Saturday, when the Reds host NYCFC in an intriguing Eastern Conference showdown.
16. Giles Barnes, FW, Houston Dynamo
Previous Ranking: 12
We will not be seeing Giles Barnes in Houston Dynamo orange anytime soon due to his international commitments.
Barnes is currently competing in the Copa America with Jamaica in Chile, and he should be a part of the Reggae Boyz squad at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
While his team may not make much noise at the Copa America, keep an eye on Jamaica as a dark horse at the Gold Cup due to their favorable group that features Costa Rica, Canada and El Salvador.
15. Kaka, AM, Orlando City
Previous Ranking: 15
Brazilian legend Kaka benefited from a stroke of luck in front of goal in Orlando City's 1-0 win over D.C. United on Sunday.
In the 30th minute, Kaka saw his penalty saved by Bill Hamid, but he was able to nod in the rebound created by the D.C. goalkeeper.
Outside of his seventh goal of the season, Kaka didn't do too much to impress in the sweltering heat at the Citrus Bowl.
14. Charlie Davies, FW, New England Revolution
Previous Ranking: 14
Sadly our Charlie Davies to the Gold Cup campaign ended this week when he was left off the 35-man provisional roster that was unveiled on Wednesday.
The good news for Davies is he did knock in his sixth goal of the year in the New England Revolution's 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
The strike was the second in six matches for the forward, who scored on four straight occasions earlier in the campaign.
13. Ethan Finlay, RM, Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: 18
Ethan Finlay climbed to the top of the league assist chart thanks to a 66th-minute dish to Federico Higuain in the Columbus Crew's 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy at Mapfre Stadium.
The assist was the eighth of the season for the midfielder, who is flying under the radar once again this season due to the production of Kei Kamara in front of the net.
Although he's been successful as an individual this season, the Crew are in need of some luck at the moment, since they haven't recorded a victory since May 9.
12. Octavio Rivero, FW, Vancouver Whitecaps
Previous Ranking: 7
For the first time since Week 1, Octavio Rivero finds himself outside of the top 10 in the MLS Player Rankings.
Rivero's plunge into the bottom of half of the list was caused by his week off from play and his lack of production since his terrific start.
Since April 11, Rivero has one goal and an assist to his name, and he has failed to put a shot on target in his last two appearances.
11. David Accam, FW, Chicago Fire
Previous Ranking: 11
Thanks to his recent exploits in the Chicago Fire attack, David Accam earned a spot on Ghana's roster for Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Mauritius.
Accam came off the bench and netted his first career international goal in the Black Stars' 7-1 victory.
The Ghanaian forward will have to wait until June 24 to play his next league contest for the Fire, who have off in Week 16.
10. Krisztian Nemeth, FW, Sporting Kansas City
Previous Ranking: 8
Krisztian Nemeth was also out on international duty this weekend, as he was named to the Hungary squad for the nation's recent Euro 2016 qualifying match against Finland.
Nemeth left Europe with a victory as Pal Dardai's men defeated Finland 1-0 on Saturday in Helsinki.
If he continues his impressive form up top for Sporting Kansas City, we could see Nemeth on the roster for the games against Romania and Northern Ireland in September.
9. David Villa, FW, New York City FC
Previous Ranking: 16
The player making the biggest leap this week is pushing his team to new heights in its expansion season.
David Villa scored one of New York City FC's three goals on Saturday against Montreal as the young side extended its unbeaten run to three games.
In two of his last three contests, Villa has attempted seven shots. In his first MLS season, Villa has taken over five shots in a game on six occasions.
8. Omar Gonzalez, CB, LA Galaxy
Previous Ranking: 10
Omar Gonzalez recovered from an average showing against Vancouver in Week 14 with a strong 90 minutes against Columbus in Week 15.
Gonzalez made 10 clearances and four interceptions in the Galaxy's 1-1 draw at Mapfre Stadium against the Crew.
The United States international should face an easy task on Saturday, as the Galaxy look to take three points at home against Philadelphia.
7. Fabian Castillo, AM, FC Dallas
Previous Ranking: 9
Fabian Castillo was the lone bright spot in the FC Dallas attack on Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
The pacy Colombian almost scored in the first half against Seattle, but he drilled the right post with his shot from close range.
Despite failing to score, the 22-year-old displayed plenty of positives after starting on the bench with a knock in each of FC Dallas' last two games.
6. Will Bruin, FW, Houston Dynamo
Previous Ranking: 6
The only way to cool down Will Bruin at the moment is to keep him off the pitch.
Bruin and his Houston Dynamo teammates were one of many groups of players to have off in Week 15, with a busy schedule awaiting for the rest of June.
Houston will make its first trip to Portland this season in Week 16. In the first meeting between the two sides in 2015, Bruin bagged a brace for the Dynamo.
5. Chris Wondolowski, FW, San Jose Earthquakes
Previous Ranking: 5
Chris Wondolowski is another forward who will be looking forward to taking the field in Week 16 because of his recent success against San Jose's next league opponent.
Wondolowski and the Earthquakes will look to win in Seattle for the second time this season after they came out on top of their March 14 clash at CenturyLink Field. In the 3-2 victory, Wondolowski netted his first two strikes of the season.
4. Clint Dempsey, FW, Seattle Sounders
Previous Ranking: 4
Clint Dempsey experienced a quiet week in the final third in Seattle's 3-0 win over FC Dallas on Saturday night.
The United States captain took a backseat to Lamar Neagle and Martins as he failed to put a shot on target for the second consecutive start.
3. Benny Feilhaber, CM, Sporting Kansas City
Previous Ranking: 3
We're still trying to figure out why Jurgen Klinsmann has no use for Benny Feilhaber in the United States setup, but we'll have to put that issue on the backburner until the fall since he was left off the provisional Gold Cup roster.
Feilhaber and Sporting KC will face a difficult test in Week 16 as they travel to Rio Tinto Stadium to play Real Salt Lake for the second time this season.
2. Kei Kamara, FW, Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: 2
Kei Kamara had a chance to take back the top spot in the rankings this week, but he failed to hit the back of the net for the 11th time this season on Saturday.
Kamara did take four shots in the draw against the Galaxy, but only one of them challenged Jaime Penedo.
The Sierra Leone international will have a week to rest up before the Crew embark on a tough two-game stretch in Week 17 that pits them against RSL and New England.
1. Sebastian Giovinco, FW, Toronto FC
Previous Ranking: 1
Without Sebastian Giovinco on the pitch this weekend we felt a little bit empty inside, especially after the Italian's recent exploits for Toronto FC.
The 28-year-old has produced seven goals and six assists, and he will be back on the field for a star-studded showdown against Villa and NYCFC on Saturday at BMO Field.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.