MLS Player Rankings: Giovinco Reclaims Top Spot After Week 23 Hat-Trick
As the race for Major League Soccer's Most Valuable Player award intensifies, so does the competition for the top spot in our weekly MLS Player Rankings.
Just like we have seen almost every week this season, a group of players made solid cases to be put on top of the list of the top 20 in-form stars in the league.
After a long deliberation, Sebastian Giovinco, who many see as the front-runner in the MVP discussion, reclaimed his spot atop the rankings after hovering around the No. 1 position for the last three weeks.
Our player rankings take into account form over the last four matches, with the player's most recent performance holding more stock than the other three.
Continue reading to see who joined Giovinco on the list after Week 23.
On the Way Out
A bye week, a far-from-impressive performance in a scoreless draw and an empty day in the scoring column cost these three players their respective spots in the top 20.
Players Dropped out of Rankings
Fabian Castillo (FC Dallas; Previous Ranking: 16)
Darwin Ceren (Orlando City; 17)
Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact; 20)
20. Kevin Ellis, CB, Sporting Kansas City
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Kevin Ellis did something on Saturday that few defenders in the league have done in 2015: shut down Giovinco.
The 24-year-old, who has been superb at the back over the last month for Sporting Kansas City, limited the dangerous Italian to zero shots on target and kept Jozy Altidore quiet over 90 minutes.
It is no coincidence that Ellis' impressive form has come during Sporting KC's recent string of positive results. Since June 27, Peter Vermes' side has picked up 13 of a possible 18 points.
19. Chris Rolfe, AM, D.C. United
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
In the last two matches, Supporters' Shield leader D.C. United has received plenty of production in front of goal from Chris Rolfe.
Rolfe, who leads the Black and Red with nine goals in 2015, scored with D.C.'s only shot in the 1-0 win over Montreal on Saturday. A week before netting his ninth of the season, Rolfe bagged a brace against Real Salt Lake.
Thanks to the contributions of Rolfe and other underrated veterans, D.C. sits two points ahead of Vancouver in the Supporters' Shield race.
18. Mauro Diaz, AM, FC Dallas
Previous Ranking: 13
Unfortunately for Mauro Diaz and his FC Dallas teammates, they were unable to wash away the bad taste of the awful showing against Chicago in Week 22 with a win in Week 23.
The Hoops did not play because of a scheduled bye week, which came at the worst time possible for Oscar Pareja's side. FC Dallas will look to get back into a groove in Week 24 in a Western Conference clash with the LA Galaxy.
17. Ethan Finlay, RM, Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: 9
Call it an All-Star Game hangover or whatever you want, but Ethan Finlay hasn't been the same since his trip on short notice to Colorado at the end of July.
After taking the field for only 45 minutes in the loss to Orlando City last week, the Columbus Crew midfielder failed to impact his side's 2-1 win over Colorado.
Despite being on the field for 90 minutes, Finlay touched the ball on 17 occasions and attempted one shot on goal.
16. Kendall Waston, CB, Vancouver Whitecaps
Previous Ranking: 19
Vancouver delivered a statement on Saturday with a 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake at BC Place. The play of Kendall Waston at the back was one of the many reasons why the Whitecaps earned the major Western Conference victory.
While it must be noted RSL was missing a few key pieces, Waston still cleaned up to the best of his abilities in front of the Vancouver net.
15. Matias Laba, CDM, Vancouver Whitecaps
Previous Ranking: 14
Fresh off his silencing of the Seattle attack, Matias Laba helped limit Real Salt Lake to two shots on goal in the win over Jeff Cassar's side.
The 23-year-old made three tackles and two interceptions and completed 82.1 percent of his 39 passes on the turf at BC Place.
With his team in control of the match, Laba exited in the 68th minute to stay fresh for the Canadian Championship final against Montreal on Wednesday.
14. Matt Miazga, CB, New York Red Bulls
Previous Ranking: 18
Wherever David Villa was positioned on the pitch at Red Bull Arena on Sunda, Matt Miazga was not far from the Spanish forward.
The United States U20 international kept Villa's influence to a minimum in the Red Bulls' 2-0 win over New York City FC in the Hudson River derby.
The impressive performance in front of his home fans marked the second consecutive time Miazga shut down Villa in the rivalry showdown. He also put in a stellar defensive performance on June 28 at Yankee Stadium.
13. Bradley Wright-Phillips, FW, New York Red Bulls
Previous Ranking: 15
Bradley Wright-Phillips moved his season total in goals into double digits on Sunday with his 21st-minute opener against NYCFC.
Wright-Phillips tapped in a cross from Kemar Lawrence after Jefferson Mena whiffed on a clearance at the near post and left Josh Saunders in the middle of nowhere.
The strike was the fourth of the season for Wright-Phillips against NYCFC and his fourth in the last five matches.
12. Laurent Ciman, CB, Montreal Impact
Previous Ranking: 6
Laurent Ciman had one of the worst weeks among the players in the top 20.
The Belgian clipped Sal Zizzo from behind on Wednesday to earn his second yellow card in the contest against the Red Bulls. That booking kept the center-back out of the Impact's 1-0 loss to D.C. on Saturday.
Despite having multiple games in hand on most of their play-off rivals in the Eastern Conference, Ciman and the Impact don't play their next league game until August 22.
11. Kaka, AM, Orlando City
Previous Ranking: 11
Before we touch on Kaka's individual effort in Week 23, let us commend those of you who sat through Orlando City's 0-0 draw with Philadelphia for all 90 minutes.
In the lifeless match, the Brazilian contributed three key passes and fired one shot off target for an Orlando side that only put one attempt on goal during the entire match.
The owner of nine goals and four assists in 2015 will look to get back on track in Week 24 on the turf in Seattle.
10. Sebastian Lletget, LM, LA Galaxy
Previous Ranking: 10
It took him 11 games to do it, but Sebastian Lletget finally earned his first assist in MLS on Sunday in the LA Galaxy's 3-1 win over Seattle.
Lletget picked up a turnover by Zach Scott near midfield and played the ball forward to Robbie Keane, who then found Giovani Dos Santos for his first goal since joining the Galaxy.
If Sunday was a glimpse into the future for the Galaxy attack, they very well could be lifting the MLS Cup in December.
9. Juninho, CM, LA Galaxy
Previous Ranking: 12
Although Steven Gerrard is in the headlines for his play in the middle of the LA Galaxy midfield, Juninho is still doing a stellar job of setting the tone for Bruce Arena's club.
The 26-year-old Brazilian recorded a game-high of 87 touches in the win over the Sounders, and he fed Gyasi Zardes with an assist on the first Galaxy goal of the contest.
Juninho was accurate with his distribution as a whole, completing 90.5 percent of his 84 passes.
8. Dax McCarty, CM, New York Red Bulls
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Shame on us for overlooking Dax McCarty until now.
The New York Red Bulls captain has been fantastic all season in the middle of the park, and his form was on full display in the victory over NYCFC on Sunday.
The central midfielder, who plays with no fear, is averaging 3.7 tackles per game for the second-place team in the Eastern Conference.
7. Javier Morales, CAM, Real Salt Lake
Previous Ranking: 5
Javier Morales sat out of Real Salt Lake's match against Vancouver along with Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman after the club's long trip to Guatemala in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Morales should be back in action for the U.S. Open Cup semi-final against Sporting Kansas City and in the league clash with Portland on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
6. Cyle Larin, FW, Orlando City
Previous Ranking: 4
After netting five goals in two weeks, Cyle Larin cooled off significantly in Orlando City's draw with Philadelphia at the Citrus Bowl.
The Rookie of the Year favorite put one of his two shots on target during his 90-minute shift. Three days earlier, the Canadian put one of his three attempts on frame in the loss to Toronto.
Luckily for Larin, most of the league has already forgotten about his team's awful week due to other goings on in MLS.
5. David Villa, FW, New York City FC
Previous Ranking: 1
David Villa was either left isolated up top or shut down by Miazga for long stretches of NYCFC's Sunday defeat to the rival Red Bulls.
The scorer of 13 goals in 2015 did attempt five shots, but only one of them was able to test Luis Robles in the Red Bulls net.
Due to the strange logistics surrounding NYCFC's stadium situation, Villa will take to the pitch next on Thursday versus D.C. United.
4. Benny Feilhaber, CM, Sporting Kansas City
Previous Ranking: 7
Thanks to his goal and assist on Saturday, Benny Feilhaber extended his run of contributing to at least one goal to four matches.
The United States international, who scored from the spot and assisted on a Krisztian Nemeth strike, recorded a tally in each major offensive stat category for the second time in four games.
On top of all that, Feilhaber also joined Finlay atop the league assist chart with 12.
3. Robbie Keane, FW, LA Galaxy
Previous Ranking: 2
In a span of less than a year, Robbie Keane has traded Landon Donovan for Giovani Dos Santos up top in the LA Galaxy attack.
Keane, who scored LA's second goal at the StubHub Center on Sunday, combined with Dos Santos on the Mexican's first MLS strike in the 64th minute.
Due to the overflowing amount of talent in the Galaxy lineup, Keane will most likely not take an abundance of shots for the rest of the year. Still, he is good for at least another five goals if he continues to work on his chemistry with Dos Santos.
2. Kei Kamara, FW, Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: 8
Kei Kamara made sure the Crew left Dick's Sporting Goods Park with all three points on Saturday as he bagged his fifth brace of the season in the second half.
Kamara's 16th and 17th goals of 2015 allowed him to retake the lead in the Golden Boot race. But that could change if Giovinco turns in another standout showing in front of the net next week.
If that is the case, Kamara will not get a chance to respond until August 19 against NYCFC and then on August 22 versus Sporting KC.
1. Sebastian Giovinco, FW, Toronto FC
Previous Ranking: 3
Giovinco kicked off Week 23 with his second hat-trick of the season against Orlando City at BMO Field. The Italian used a goal from the spot, a free-kick and a strike from open play to power the Reds to a victory.
Despite not being able to replicate the same attacking magic on Saturday, Giovinco still recorded more goals than any player in MLS over the last seven days.
In addition to his 16 goals, Giovinco has 11 assists to his name, including one in the loss to Sporting KC. He is the only player in MLS with at least 10 goals and 10 assists this season.
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.