MLS Player Rankings: Villa Eclipses Giovinco for Top Spot After Week 16
One of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer is being powered by one of the top scorers in the world over the last 10 years.
David Villa has netted four of NYCFC's eight goals in the last four matches in which the expansion side has recorded 10 points.
Because of his exploits on the pitch over the last month, Villa earned the top spot in the latest MLS Player Rankings over the likes of Sebastian Giovinco and Kei Kamara.
Continue reading to see who joined Villa on the list of the 20 best players in MLS after Week 16.
On the Way out
We were handed quite the unique situation when addressing Clint Dempsey's position on the list. Since he has been suspended for three games and then is set to join the United States Gold Cup squad, we took him off the list with his prolonged absence in mind.
International duty also forced Giles Barnes off the list, while lack of quality and an injury kicked out Kaka and Obafemi Martins respectively.
Players Dropped out of Rankings
Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders; Previous Ranking: 4)
Kaka (Orlando City, 15)
Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo, 16)
Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders, 20)
20. Liam Ridgewell, CB, Portland Timbers
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Liam Ridgewell and the Portland Timbers are the owners of the longest winning streak in MLS at the moment.
Portland earned its third clean sheet in four matches with a 2-0 win over the Dynamo at Providence Park on Saturday.
In his latest successful match at the back, the former Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion man made five clearances, two interceptions and blocked a pair of shots.
19. Matias Perez Garcia, CAM, San Jose Earthquakes
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Matias Perez Garcia produced a terrific bit of individual skill in the buildup to his first goal of the season on Saturday in Seattle. The San Jose playmaker carved up the Sounders defense before placing the ball in the net past Stefan Frei.
A breakthrough in front of goal had been coming for the 30-year-old, who is averaging 2.9 key passes per contest.
Perez Garcia and the Earthquakes will face a difficult test in a feisty rivalry match against the LA Galaxy at Stanford Stadium in Week 17.
18. Fabian Espindola, FW, D.C. United
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Just like most of the players in the D.C. United squad, Fabian Espindola doesn't receive as much attention as he should for his exploits in the final third.
Espindola was a menacing presence in the Black and Red's attack on Sunday in the Eastern Conference clash with New England. His work rate finally paid off in the 70th minute, when he found Chris Rolfe at the left post.
Since the start of June, Espindola has recorded four assists in 315 minutes of action.
17. Javier Morales, CAM, Real Salt Lake
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Real Salt Lake was thrust into the national spotlight on Sunday and it delivered its best performance of the season to date.
Javier Morales was the catalyst of the Claret and Cobalt attack for 90 minutes, as he produced 10 key passes and two assists in the testy affair against Sporting Kansas City.
With Sebastian Jaime finally finding some confidence in front of goal and Joao Plata fully fit, Morales should reach the top of the league-assist leaderboard soon.
16. Krisztian Nemeth, FW, Sporting Kansas City
Previous Ranking: 10
Krisztian Nemeth produced one shot off target in 74 minutes of play for Sporting KC on Sunday night.
The performance was Nemeth's worst since May 3 against Chicago, when he recorded the same shot total during a 90-minute shift.
Nemeth will receive a golden opportunity to bounce back in Week 17 as Sporting KC faces lowly Colorado at Sporting Park.
15. Steve Birnbaum, CB, D.C. United
Previous Ranking: 19
Remember what we said about the D.C. United roster in the Espindola slide? That applies to Steve Birnbaum as well.
The United States international turned in another impressive shift at the back for the Black and Red in the 2-1 win over New England on Sunday.
Birnbaum made 13 clearances and won four aerial duels in the win over the second-place side in the East. Through nine matches in 2015, Birnbaum is averaging 5.2 aerial duels won and 6.3 clearances per game.
14. Michael Bradley, CM, Toronto FC
Previous Ranking: 17
Despite ending up on the losing end of the final result, Michael Bradley still turned in a solid 90-minute shift in the Toronto FC midfield against New York City FC.
The 27-year-old United States international made two key passes and completed 77.8 percent of his 45 attempted passes in the 2-0 defeat.
Week 17 presents Bradley and the Reds with two tough games against Montreal and D.C., which should be Bradley's last two before he departs for the Gold Cup.
13. Ethan Finlay, RM, Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: 13
Because the people who made the schedule at the league office hate to see a full slate of action in a single weekend, the Columbus Crew sat out play in Week 16.
That meant Ethan Finlay was unable to fend off Benny Feilhaber atop the league assist chart. Entering a busy Week 17 for the Crew, Finlay and Feilhaber are tied with eight each.
12. David Accam, FW, Chicago Fire
Previous Ranking: 11
David Accam and the Chicago Fire also sat on the sideline this weekend as the 18 other clubs in MLS took to the pitch.
The Ghanaian and his teammates will be back in action on Wednesday, when they host D.C. United. But in another weird scheduling quirk, the Fire have the weekend off.
11. Laurent Ciman, CB, Montreal Impact
Previous Ranking: 18
Over the last few weeks, Laurent Ciman has cemented himself as one of the top five defenders in the league.
While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing Omar Gonzalez in the Defender of the Year award conversation, he is making up ground at a rapid pace.
In Montreal's latest victory on Saturday, Ciman helped limit Orlando City to three shots on target while making seven tackles, three interceptions and three clearances.
10. Octavio Rivero, FW, Vancouver Whitecaps
Previous Ranking: 12
Octavio Rivero recorded an assist for the second straight game in Vancouver's 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
The Uruguayan forward dished the ball over Kianz Froese in the 77th minute on what would turn out to be the game-winner in the match at Red Bull Arena.
Although he hasn't found the back of the net since May 9, Rivero has found other ways to contribute to the Vancouver attack in recent weeks.
9. Charlie Davies, FW, New England Revolution
Previous Ranking: 14
Before D.C. took over the match at RFK Stadium, Charlie Davies put the Revolution ahead by way of a 10th-minute header.
The goal was the seventh of the season, and second in two weeks, for the United States international, who has turned himself into one of the top forwards in MLS.
Davies will have two chances to improve his scoring record in Week 17, as the Revolution face Columbus and Vancouver in a span of four days.
8. Chris Wondolowski, FW, San Jose Earthquakes
Previous Ranking: 5
Chris Wondolowski played all 90 minutes for the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, but he wasn't a major factor in the 2-0 victory.
Against the side he scored his first two goals of the season against on March 14, Wondolowski failed to hit the target with any of his four attempts.
In the five games before Saturday's match at CenturyLink Field, Wondolowski put eight of his 19 shots on goal.
7. Will Bruin, FW, Houston Dynamo
Previous Ranking: 6
Will Bruin's blazing-hot run of form ended on Saturday in Portland, as he attempted one shot that went off target in Houston's 2-0 loss to the Timbers.
The lackluster performance delivered by the Dynamo forward may not have come as a complete surprise to some since he was coming off a 15-day layoff and was without Barnes up top.
Bruin will be counted on to score at least a goal on Friday against a FC Dallas side that beat the Dynamo 4-1 in the first meeting between the rivals this season.
6. Fabian Castillo, AM, FC Dallas
Previous Ranking: 7
The lone bright spot in the lifeless match between FC Dallas and Colorado on Friday was Fabian Castillo.
Castillo broke the deadlock at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in the 71st minute on a curling shot that struck the top-right part of the net. The strike was the fifth of the season for the dynamic Colombian.
Unfortunately, Castillo's goal did not earn FC Dallas its first win since May 9 as Colorado equalized through Dillon Serna in the 88th minute.
5. Omar Gonzalez, CB, LA Galaxy
Previous Ranking: 8
As expected, Omar Gonzalez turned in a quality shift at the back for the LA Galaxy against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night.
In the 5-1 blowout win at StubHub Center, Gonzalez made six interceptions and five clearances while holding the Union to five shots on target.
Gonzalez also got in on the fun in attack in the 59th minute when he nodded his third assist of the season over to the feet of Stefan Ishizaki.
4. Benny Feilhaber, CM, Sporting Kansas City
Previous Ranking: 3
Is Jurgen Klinsmann 100 percent sure he can't use Benny Feilhaber at the Gold Cup?
Feilhaber handed out his eighth assist of the season on Sporting KC's lone goal at Rio Tinto Stadium on Sunday to reclaim his spot atop the league assist chart next to Finlay.
Despite all of his success in the Sporting KC midfield, Feilhaber doesn't expect to receive a call from Klinsmann anytime soon.
"I don't expect to get called in. Jurgen's showed in the past that he doesn't rate me as a player, at least doesn't fit me into his national team scheme," Feilhaber said ahead of Sunday's match, per MLSSoccer.com's Steve Brisendine.
3. Kei Kamara, FW, Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: 2
A week off cost Kei Kamara one spot on the list of the top 20 players in MLS this week.
The Golden Boot leader will be back in action on Wednesday against New England before the Crew make a trip out to Utah to face Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
2. Sebastian Giovinco, FW, Toronto FC
Previous Ranking: 1
Giovinco's two-week reign at the top of the MLS Player Rankings ends this week after a lackluster showing in a clash of marquee players at BMO Field.
The Italian playmaker failed to get into a rhythm on Saturday as the NYCFC defense hacked him down on every part of the pitch in Toronto.
The 28-year-old was limited to one shot on target, one key pass and 42 touches in the 2-0 defeat.
1. David Villa, FW, New York City FC
Previous Ranking: 9
NYCFC's recent four-game unbeaten run can be traced to the form of Villa.
During the current streak, the Spanish forward has found the back of the net on four occasions, including twice on Saturday against Toronto FC.
Villa converted from the spot in the ninth minute before he finished in the run of play in the 58th minute to complete his first-ever brace in MLS.
Villa's next match will be the most important in the club's young history, as NYCFC play host to the Red Bulls in the first Hudson River derby at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.