MLS Player Rankings: Kamara Goes Top, Kljestan, Nguyen Surge, Martins Returns
The first full weekend slate of Major League Soccer matches in September produced some history and helped another player continue his march toward a potentially monumental number.
Columbus forward Kei Kamara became the 16th player in MLS history to score 20 goals with two in the Crew's win over the Union, while Bradley Wright-Phillips' chase for back-to-back 20-goal seasons became more of a reality with a strike against Chicago.
Four of Wright-Phillips' teammates also feature in the latest edition of the MLS Player Rankings, including one midfielder who is playing some of the best soccer of his life. Another midfielder in the Eastern Conference jumped seven spots this week thanks to his stellar play of late.
Down at the bottom of the list of the top 20 players in the league, Obafemi Martins made a welcome return, while a pair of electric scorers also entered.
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 else was chosen for our latest MLS Player Rankings.
On the Way out
Poor performances over the last few weeks after a surprising hot streak took one player out of the top 20, while the other three were forced out by some deserving newcomers.
Players Dropped out of Rankings
Shea Salinas (San Jose Earthquakes; Previous Ranking: 13)
Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 17)
Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes; 19)
Michael Barrios (FC Dallas; 20)
20. Mike Grella, LM, New York Red Bulls
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
One of the best stories in the league this season has been the emergence of Mike Grella on the left wing for the New York Red Bulls.
Even though the Red Bulls have added international talent like Shaun Wright-Phillips and Gonzalo Veron over the course of the year, Grella has kept both big names on the bench due to his play on the left flank.
Grella continued his solid form on Friday in the 3-2 win over the Fire as he powered home an equalizer in the 38th minute. Since the start of July, Grella has contributed to a goal in seven of his team's 10 games. In his last four starts, Grella has one goal and a pair of assists.
19. Kennedy Igboananike, FW, Chicago Fire
Previous Ranking: 15
After earning a goal and an assist in the crucial clash with Montreal in Week 27, Kennedy Igboananike failed to cause any type of threat up top for the Fire in Week 28.
Igboananike only made 20 touches in 60 minutes and failed to put any of his three attempts on target in the deflating loss to the Red Bulls.
Keeping Igboananike on the list was a tough call given his bad match at Red Bull Arena, but he does have three goals in his last four matches, including a brace on August 26 against the Red Bulls at home.
18. David Accam, FW, Chicago Fire
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
David Accam picked up right where he left off before leaving the Fire for international duty with Ghana.
Accam netted his eighth goal of the season in the 28th minute of Chicago's loss to the Red Bulls. Although his team came up short when the final whistle blew, Accam once again put in a solid effort in the final third for Frank Yallop's side.
While it looks like the playoffs are out of reach right now, Accam and his teammates still have plenty to play for as they look to build toward the 2016 season in a positive manner.
17. Obafemi Martins, FW, Seattle Sounders
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
The Seattle Sounders may not be firing on all cylinders as a unit just yet, but Obafemi Martins personally is.
The Nigerian scored his fifth goal in the last five games on Saturday in the Sounders' 1-1 draw with San Jose at Avaya Stadium.
Since returning to the starting lineup on Aug. 16, Martins has netted more than half of Seattle's goals. Thanks to his recent output, Martins is just five tallies away from his 2014 total of 17 despite playing in just 16 matches.
16. Diego Fagundez, LM, New England Revolution
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Diego Fagundez has started to heat up in front of goal at the perfect time for the New England Revolution.
The 20-year-old playmaker scored in his third consecutive match on Sunday in the 3-1 victory over fellow playoff contender Toronto FC.
If he continues to combine well with the on-fire Lee Nguyen in the final third, the Revolution could make a late challenge for the Supporters' Shield.
15. Andrew Farrell, CB, New England Revolution
Previous Ranking: 18
Containing the dangerous Toronto FC attack was never going to be an easy task, but Andrew Farrell dealt with the threat well on Sunday at BMO Field.
Farrell and the Revolution back four forced the Reds into 16 off target attempts in the crucial road win for Jay Heaps' side.
During their current seven-game unbeaten run, the Revolution have conceded on four occasions.
14. Benny Feilhaber, CM, Sporting Kansas City
Previous Ranking: 16
Searching for positives from Sporting Kansas City's week is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
After earning a point on the road in Portland, Peter Vermes' team threw away its good work from Wednesday with a loss to Orlando City to close out the weekend slate of matches.
If there is one positive to take away from the deflating loss at the Citrus Bowl, it is Benny Feilhaber's 14th assist of the season.
Feilhaber's assist on Krisztian Nemeth's second-half goal was his first contribution to a Sporting KC strike since August 15.
13. Matt Miazga, CB, New York Red Bulls
Previous Ranking: 8
Matt Miazga didn't have a terrible game against Chicago, but his defense did let in two early goals on home soil before the Red Bulls got their act together.
The United States U23 international made five tackles and four clearances in the 3-2 win, but conceding twice in the first 30 minutes forced us to drop him a few spots.
Miazga will face two difficult tests in Week 29 as the Red Bulls take on New England and Portland in a span of five days.
12. Ethan Finlay, RM, Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: 11
Columbus did plenty of attacking through the right wing on Saturday at PPL Park, but Ethan Finlay wasn't the main threat on the flank as right-back Harrison Afful played a key role in both of the team's tallies.
However, Finlay did work well off the ball as he dragged Philadelphia left-back Fabinho into the middle of the pitch with his movement toward the center of the field.
Finlay may not have added a goal or an assist to his season totals, but his influence was felt as he opened up plenty of space for Afful to operate in.
11. Chris Wondolowski, FW, San Jose Earthquakes
Previous Ranking: 9
Chris Wondolowski only put one shot on goal in San Jose's vital Western Conference clash with Seattle on Saturday.
The 1-1 draw kept San Jose two points behind Sporting KC and Portland, while they remained three behind Seattle.
If the Earthquakes are going to make a surge into the top six, it will most likely be led by Wondolowski in Week 29 as a tired Montreal side come to Avaya Stadium on Wednesday.
10. Dax McCarty, CM, New York Red Bulls
Previous Ranking: 6
Although he didn't shine as bright as one of his fellow central midfielders, who climbed high up the list this week, on Friday night, Dax McCarty did put in a decent shift for the first-place side in the Eastern Conference.
McCarty was one of three Red Bulls midfielders to record over 87 touches and he completed 86.3 percent of his 80 attempted passes.
It comes as no surprise given his vital role in midfield for Jesse Marsch's side that McCarty leads the league in passes per game with 69. Seattle's Osvaldo Alonso is second at 64.6.
9. Michael Bradley, CM, Toronto FC
Previous Ranking: 7
Michael Bradley tried his best to spur Toronto FC forward on Sunday against New England, but the Reds dropped three points at home.
In the 3-1 defeat, Bradley distributed four key passes and made a game high 91 touches, but his biggest involvement in the match was a defensive error in the buildup to New England's final goal.
In the 71st minute of the game at BMO Field, Bradley was dispossessed at the top of his own box, which led to a Kelyn Rowe goal.
8. Javier Morales, CAM, Real Salt Lake
Previous Ranking: 12
With Real Salt Lake's playoff hopes hanging by a thread, Javier Morales turned in one of his best performances of the season on the road at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Morales earned his seventh tally of the season in first half stoppage time after he cleaned up a mess right in front of the Houston goal. In the 68th minute, Morales notched his 10th assist of the year on Juan Manuel Martinez's 68th-minute strike.
The ageless Argentinian now has four seasons of 10 or more assists in his MLS career. The last three have come in the last three seasons.
7. Lee Nguyen, CM, New England Revolution
Previous Ranking: 14
Lee Nguyen took advantage of the slow pace of action in Week 27 to grab a spot in the top 20. Thanks to his strong shift against Toronto FC, Nguyen is now in the top 10, a spot he frequented during the 2014 season.
Nguyen picked up his ninth assist of the season on Fagundez's 39th-minute goal and he helped pressure Bradley into a turnover in the buildup to Rowe's goal in the 71st minute.
Since New England began its surge up the Eastern Conference standings on July 18, Nguyen has three goals and five assists.
6. David Villa, FW, New York City FC
Previous Ranking: 3
Saturday was not a good day for any of the New York City FC designated players.
David Villa was the first of the three to be removed from the contest with FC Dallas as he left the game at the half. Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard were both pulled from the pitch in the second half.
In his last 135 minutes of action, Villa has put four of his eight attempts on target and he has come up dry in the goal department.
5. Robbie Keane, FW, LA Galaxy
Previous Ranking: 1
Just as we thought Robbie Keane would make a late run at the Golden Boot, he put up his second straight scoreless effort at the top of the LA Galaxy attack.
Keane was halted by the desperate Montreal Impact, who earned an impressive point on the road at StubHub Center on Saturday night.
In Week 29, Keane has a chance to knock Real Salt Lake out of the playoff race. If he scores at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, it will be his first regular-season goal against RSL since March 22, 2014.
4. Sacha Kljestan, CM, New York Red Bulls
Previous Ranking: 10
Sacha Kljestan is playing out of mind at the moment for the New York Red Bulls.
In the win over Chicago, Kljestan picked out Bradley Wright-Phillips with an assist on his team's first goal before he banged in the winner from the spot.
“He’s really starting to hit his stride," Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty said of Kljestan, per Eric Giacometti at MLSSoccer.com. "He hit a little bit of lull there in the beginning of the season. He didn’t really have a break coming off his season with Anderlecht, but he’s really starting to get his second wind here. I think he’s just really understanding his role really well now.”
In his more attack-minded role, Kljestan has averaged 2.4 key passes and 1.9 shots per game.
3. Sebastian Giovinco, FW, Toronto FC
Previous Ranking: 5
Sebastian Giovinco certainly doesn't have an issue with attempting shots, but on Sunday he struggled with putting them on target.
Although we have to commend Giovinco for taking 11 shots in Toronto's loss to New England, he only put two of them on target. Even though he was far from accurate in the final third, the Atomic Ant was more active than most of the forwards on this list in Week 28.
The scorer of 17 goals in 2015 will look to replicate his masterful performance against New York City FC from July 12 on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
2. Bradley Wright-Phillips, FW, New York Red Bulls
Previous Ranking: 2
Bradley Wright-Phillips' slow climb up the Golden Boot standings continued on Friday as he netted his 14th strike of the season at the start of the Red Bulls' comeback.
The goal was the sixth for the Englishman since the start of August and eighth since the beginning of July.
Although he may not catch Kei Kamara for the Golden Boot lead, Wright-Phillips has a chance to reach rarefied air if he finds the back of the net on six more occasions. He could become the first player in league history to score 20 or more goals in two different seasons.
1. Kei Kamara, FW, Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: 4
Kei Kamara became the 16th player to score 20 or more goals in a MLS season on Saturday with a brace against Philadelphia.
All 20 of Kamara's strikes have come from the run of play. Only two other players in league history have recorded the same feat. Luciano Emilio in 2007 and Marco Di Vaio in 2013 were the other two.
Where Kamara ends up on the list of best scorers in a single season remains to be seen, but one of his teammates has plenty of confidence he can break Bradley Wright-Phillips' all-time mark of 27 from last season.
“Tony Tchani says I can score eight goals in the last five games, but if I can win the next five games I’m more than happy,” Kamara said after the match. “I want to score goals. I want to help the team out and if my goals are going to help the team out, then I’ll just keep scoring.”
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.