MLS Player Rankings: Columbus Crew Pair Hold Top 2 Spots After Week 18

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 7, 2015

MLS Player Rankings: Columbus Crew Pair Hold Top 2 Spots After Week 18

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    The Columbus Crew may not have the best record in Major League Soccer, but right now, they boast two of the top attackers in the league on their roster.

    Kei Kamara and Ethan Finlay, who both contributed to the two goals netted by the Crew in Week 18, have combined to play a role in 24 of the team's 27 goals, per Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch. Due to their tremendous output through 18 matches, the Crew's two leading goalscorers are the top two players in our list of the league's 20 best. 

    Kamara and Finlay aren't the only duo making noise in the MLS Player Rankings this week. Two stars from Sporting Kansas City and the Los Angeles Galaxy also feature in the top 10.

    Continue reading to see which 20 players earned spots in the latest MLS Player Rankings. 

On the Way Out

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Six players fell out of the MLS Player Rankings after Week 18 for a wide range of reasons. Three United States men's national team stars dropped from the list since they will miss a month of action in MLS. The other three are forwards that either didn't produce or had off this weekend. 

    Players Dropped Out of Rankings

    Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; Previous Ranking: 7)

    Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy; 9)

    Michael Bradley (Toronto FC; 12)

    Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo; 15)

    Charlie Davies (New England Revolution; 16)

    C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union; 18) 

20. Josh Saunders, GK, New York City FC

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    Over the last few weeks, Josh Saunders has been able to mask New York City FC's deficiencies at the back with stellar performances between the pipes. 

    The latest standout showing from the goalkeeper came on Saturday, when he denied eight of the shots sent his way by the Montreal Impact. 

    Saunders, who ranks second in the league in saves with 63, has conceded one goal in four of his last five matches. In those matches, NYCFC has earned 12 points, including six against the Impact. 

19. Darlington Nagbe, AM, Portland Timbers

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    Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 19

    Although he wasn't as successful in front of goal as he was in Week 17, Darlington Nagbe still had an impact on the Portland attack in Week 18. 

    Nagbe made three key passes and 59 touches in the Timbers' 1-0 win over the Earthquakes at Providence Park on Sunday night. 

    Through 19 contests this season, Nagbe is averaging 2.3 key passes and 1.5 shots per game. 

18. Matt Miazga, CB, New York Red Bulls

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    Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 20 

    Matt Miazga did all he could to stop the Columbus Crew from firing goal after goal past Luis Robles at Mapfre Stadium on Saturday night.

    The United States U20 center back spent plenty of time dueling with Kei Kamara in the air, as he won nine aerial duels. Miazga also totaled 13 clearances in the 2-1 defeat. 

    Those two stats boosted Miazga's season averages up to 5.1 aerials won and 7.5 clearances per match. 

17. Alvas Powell, RB, Portland Timbers

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    Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Alvas Powell was tremendous in the wild affair between Portland and San Jose on Sunday night that featured plenty of questionable officiating decisions. 

    The right back got involved in the Portland attack on almost every possession, and he held strong on the defensive end of the pitch when the Earthquakes mustered a surge forward. 

    The 20-year-old Jamaican, who has exceeded expectations up to this point in the season, will now get a chance to shine on the international level with the Reggae Boyz at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. 

16. Sebastian Jaime, FW, Real Salt Lake

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    There must be something about the first name Sebastian. 

    Real Salt Lake forward Sebastian Jaime is the first of three players with that name to grace us with his presence on the MLS Player Rankings this week.

    The designated player scored his first career MLS goal on June 21, and he has added two more to his season total in the last three games, including one in the 1-1 draw with Orlando City in Week 18. 

15. Kaka, AM, Orlando City

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Speaking of that draw between Orlando and RSL, Kaka was involved in two key moments in the first 40 minutes at Rio Tinto Stadium. 

    In the fifth minute, the Brazilian scored his ninth goal of the season after receiving a pass from Pedro Ribeiro at the top of the box. 

    However, his joy from scoring was diminished in he 40th minute, when he was sent off for what the referee thought was a stamp on Javier Morales. The replays of the event show the superstar did not deserve a sending off. 

    Due to the poor decision-making of the referee, Kaka earned his first-career straight red card, per MLSsoccer.com. He has been sent off two other times, but both of them saw Kaka pick up two yellows. 

14. Steve Birnbaum, CB, D.C. United

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 13 

    D.C. United's defensive strategy almost earned the Eastern Conference leader a point on the road in Seattle, but the efforts of Steve Birnbaum and others were wasted when the Sounders scored in the 88th minute. 

    Birnbaum wasn't as active as he has been in past games, but he was able to hold the forward duo of Lamar Neagle and Chad Barrett to a combined two shots on target. 

    The Black and Red will be off on Week 19 as they prepare for a trip to Toyota Stadium to play FC Dallas on July 18. Given the recent form of Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo, that match will be a perfect litmus test for the D.C. back four. 

13. Matias Perez Garcia, CAM, San Jose Earthquakes

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    Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 11

    After delivering terrific performances in two consecutive matches, Matias Perez Garcia did not take the field at Providence Park to face the Timbers on Sunday night. 

    Hopefully, whatever knock the Argentine is dealing with goes away quickly. With Chris Wondolowski out of the San Jose lineup for a month, the club needs the playmaking abilities of Perez Garcia in the starting 11. 

12. Laurent Ciman, CB, Montreal Impact

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 14 

    Laurent Ciman turned in quite the interesting stat line in Montreal's 2-1 loss to NYCFC at Stade Saputo. 

    The Belgian center back made his presence known on the offensive side of the pitch, as he attempted seven of the Impact's 25 shots. Unfortunately, only one of them was on-target. 

    Ciman was also the second-most active player on the field for Montreal with 77 touches, which is a number we rarely see out of any defender. Look for the 29-year-old to occupy more space in the defensive half on Saturday, when Columbus comes to town. 

11. Juninho, CM, LA Galaxy

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 17

    We presume Steven Gerrard was smiling a lot from his VIP box at StubHub Center on Saturday night as Juninho bossed the midfield battle against Toronto FC.

    The 26-year-old Brazilian was on the ball more than any other player in the 4-0 Galaxy win, as he recorded 81 touches to go along with his five interceptions and four clearances. 

    One has to take into account that Toronto was without midfield maestro Michael Bradley, but credit still has to be given to Juninho for dominating the players lined up across from him. 

10. Krisztian Nemeth, FW, Sporting Kansas City

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    Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 10 

    Krisztian Nemeth was unable to extend his strong form in front of the net in Week 18 due to Sporting Kansas City's bye week in MLS, but he did score twice in U.S. Open Cup play on Wednesday in the 6-2 win over FC Dallas. 

    Nemeth and his teammates will be back in league action on Sunday at BC Place against Vancouver to start a stretch in which they will face the Whitecaps twice in six games and travel to play Real Salt Lake on July 24. 

9. Octavio Rivero, FW, Vancouver Whitecaps

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 8

    The Whitecaps expected an easy night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Saturday, but instead, they fell to Colorado 2-1. 

    In the disappointing defeat, forward Octavio Rivero made 11 touches in his 24-minute shift off the bench. During that time, the Uruguayan put one of his two attempts on goal. 

    Rivero will have plenty of time to prove his worth over the next two months, as Vancouver faces a difficult string of matches against some of the top contenders in the Western Conference. 

8. Sebastian Lletget, LM, LA Galaxy

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Since entering the starting lineup on June 13, Sebastian Lletget has netted four goals in five games for the Los Angeles Galaxy. 

    The play of the electric midfielder combined with the return of Robbie Keane from injury has lit a spark under the defending champions at the right time of the season. 

    It comes as no surprise that the Galaxy have picked up 10 of a possible 15 points in their last five contests with Lletget playing a pivotal role on the left wing. 

7. Robbie Keane, FW, LA Galaxy

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Watch out MLS, Keane is rounding into form just as the regular season starts to become meaningful. 

    Keane reannounced himself to the league with a hat trick in Los Angeles' 4-0 rout of Toronto FC on Saturday night at StubHub Center. The hat trick was the first in league play this season. 

    “No such thing as an easy hat trick—I wish there was. If that was the case, I would score a hat trick every week," Keane told Scott French of MLSsoccer.com following the victory. 

    In his last four matches, the Republic of Ireland star has four goals and three assists to his name. 

6. Benny Feilhaber, CM, Sporting Kansas City

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    Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 4

    Since he wasn't on the pitch in Week 18, Benny Feilhaber fell two positions due to the impressive showings put in by some of the players ahead of him. 

    Feilhaber will enter Week 19 one assist behind Ethan Finlay in the race to be the league's top passer. 

5. Sebastian Giovinco, FW, Toronto FC

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 2

    Sebastian Giovinco found it hard to find any gaps in the Los Angeles Galaxy defense on Saturday night in a match where he was also let down by his midfield. 

    The Italian player did put two of his five shots on target, but he was far from effective with 35 touches against one of the best teams in the league. 

    Hopefully, his performance in Week 18 isn't a reflection of what we'll see throughout the month of July with Bradley and Jozy Altidore out on Gold Cup duty. 

4. Fabian Castillo, AM, FC Dallas

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 3

    Castillo was one of a few key components in the FC Dallas attack that propelled the Hoops through the New England back four on Saturday night. 

    Castillo benefited from a bit of defensive pinball in the box in the buildup to his 64th-minute goal, which put FC Dallas up by two in the 3-0 win.

    With his second-half strike, Castillo extended his scoring streak to three matches. 

3. David Villa, FW, New York City FC

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 5

    David Villa netted his second brace in three games for NYCFC on Saturday at Stade Saputo. 

    The Spanish forward opened his Week 18 account with a goal from a tight angle on the left side of the box in the 35th minute, while his second strike came off a free-kick in the 82nd minute.

    "As a striker, you need to always try to do the best for your team and in this case score goals. I was able to score two, which helped us win, so I’m happy," Villa said after the match, per Dylan Butler of MLSsoccer.com. 

    Villa has eight goals and three assists through 15 games, and one has to think those totals will grow with Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo entering the lineup over the next month. 

2. Ethan Finlay, RM, Columbus Crew

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 6

    Finlay impressed a ton with his assisting ability over the first four months of the MLS season, but he decided to wow us in a different fashion to start July. 

    The right-sided midfielder recorded his second brace of the season in Columbus' 2-1 win over the Red Bulls on Saturday night. 

    With his two goals on Saturday, Finlay became the third MLS player to contribute to 15 of his team's goals in 2015. Giovinco and Kamara are the other two. 

1. Kei Kamara, FW, Columbus Crew

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 1

    With his lead in the Golden Boot race secure for now, Kamara opted to boost his total in the assist column on Saturday, facilitating both of Finlay's goals. 

    In the 33rd minute, Kamara played a flick-on header over to Finlay on the right wing to set up the Crew's first goal. The Sierra Leone international then gifted Finlay with a second goal with a pass in front of goal in the 74th minute. 

    Kamara, who already has a career high in goals scored in an MLS season, is three assists away from his top total of eight from 2012. 

    "(It's a) team game, really, a team game. I told you guys earlier in the year, I was scoring goals and saying what if teams figure me out and find out how to block me scoring goals? That's why I have guys around me that can also score goals," Kamara said after the match, per MLSsoccer.com's Andrew King. 

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    All statistics obtained from MLSSoccer.com and WhoScored.com

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