MLS Player Rankings: Dos Santos, Zardes Surge Toward Top, Morris Debuts

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 3, 2016

MLS Player Rankings: Dos Santos, Zardes Surge Toward Top, Morris Debuts

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    With two full months of play in the books, we are beginning to see some trends develop in Major League Soccer. 

    It is apparent that a few struggling clubs from last season are postseason contenders in 2016, and some of the individual duds from 2015 are starting to blossom into must-watch stars.

    Giovani dos Santos fits that mold perfectly at the moment. After showing spurts of his world-class talent in his debut campaign, the highly touted Mexican is torching opposing defenses week after week. 

    Dos Santos and his LA Galaxy teammate Gyasi Zardes surged into the top five of our weekly MLS Player Rankings thanks to their incredible form, but they aren't the only ones who have caught our attention.

    Three attackers soared into the top 10 after not earning a spot on the list of the league's top 20 in-form players a week ago. 

    Our rankings take into account the last four games individuals participated in, with the most recent match holding the most importance. 

    Continue reading to see who else secured a position in our MLS Player Rankings following Week 9. 

On the Way out

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    Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    Due to the large amount of strong attacking performances produced by the six new entrants, these players were forced out of the top 20. 

    Players Dropped out of Rankings

    Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City; Previous Ranking: 12)

    Micheal Azira (Colorado Rapids; 14)

    Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact; 16)

    Aaron Maund (Real Salt Lake; 17)

    Justin Meram (Columbus Crew; 18)

    Michael Barrios (FC Dallas; 19)

20. Clint Irwin, GK, Toronto FC

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 13

    Clint Irwin conceded a goal for the first time since April 9 on Sunday in Toronto FC's 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers. 

    Irwin let in strikes from Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri at Providence Park. There was nothing the former Colorado man could do on Valeri's game-winner as it was a perfectly placed free-kick.

    Sunday marked just the second time this season that the Reds gave up more than one goal.

19. Cyle Larin, FW, Orlando City

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    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 11

    A week after returning to the starting lineup with a goal, Cyle Larin was ineffective in the final third for Orlando City.

    The Canada international touched the ball on 24 occasions in the Lions' 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution on Saturday. 

    The 21-year-old, who started 2016 with three tallies in three contests, has one goal in his last four appearances. If he fails to strike the back of the net in Week 10, Larin will be off the list.

18. Ignacio Piatti, CM, Montreal Impact

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 7

    Ignacio Piatti's impression on the Montreal Impact attack has dwindled since the arrival of Didier Drogba. 

    The Argentine started Week 9 with a lackluster showing in the final third in his side's 1-1 draw with New York City FC. Piatti recorded 38 touches and just one key pass on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. 

    The 31-year-old put up decent numbers in the Impact's 2-2 draw at home with Colorado on Saturday, but they weren't exactly spectacular either. Piatti had two key passes on 51 touches in Montreal's second match of the week.

17. Shkelzen Gashi, LM, Colorado Rapids

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Over the last month, Jermaine Jones has grabbed much of the attention for his play in the Colorado attack, but Shkelzen Gashi deserves some praise as well.

    The offseason acquisition is beginning to round into form in his first season, with a goal and two assists in his last two contests. 

    In Colorado's road draw with the Impact on Saturday, the Albania international notched a tally and an assist. The improved form of the Rapids has pushed them up to first place in the Western Conference with 17 points.

16. Chris Pontius, LM, Philadelphia Union

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    One of the most underrated acquisitions of the offseason continued his hot start on Saturday as Chris Pontius netted Philadelphia's lone goal in the 1-1 draw with San Jose. 

    The former D.C. United man struck the back of the net for the second consecutive week on a first-half header at Talen Energy Stadium. 

    The left-sided midfielder, who has four goals in 2016, has formed a nice bond with Tranquillo Barnetta, Sebastien Le Toux and C.J. Sapong in the improving Union attack.

15. Osvaldo Alonso, CM, Seattle Sounders

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 20 

    The pulse of the Seattle Sounders midfield produced a standout 90-minute shift in their 1-0 win over Columbus. 

    Osvaldo Alonso completed 90.5 percent of his 63 passes and made seven tackles in Seattle's third victory of the young campaign. 

    Through eight matches, the 30-year-old has a pass-success rate of 91.7 percent, which is the best among players who have started at least five games.

14. Jermaine Jones, CM, Colorado Rapids

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 10

    Jermaine Jones may have produced an assist in Colorado's draw with Montreal at Stade Saputo, but he didn't do much else in the middle of the park. 

    The United States international made two tackles and put one shot on target as the Rapids earned their 17th point of 2016. 

    After finishing last in the Western Conference in 2015, the Rapids sit atop the Supporters' Shield table thanks to five wins and two draws.

13. Andre Blake, GK, Philadelphia Union

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 8

    An unfortunate trend from the past reappeared on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium as the Union gave up a late strike and dropped two points at home.

    Andre Blake, who only made one save in Week 8, stopped two shots in the 1-1 draw that kept Philadelphia in second place in the Eastern Conference. 

    After a weekend off, Blake and the Union will look to rebound against the LA Galaxy on May 11.

12. David Villa, FW, New York City FC

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    Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    David Villa's up-and-down season continued on Saturday in New York City FC's 3-2 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. 

    The Spanish legend bagged his third brace of the season to move his season total up to six tallies, which is one off the league lead. 

    Despite having six strikes to his name in 2016, the 35-year-old has been inconsistent in front of the net. The only reason Villa is so high after a poor Week 8 showing against Philadelphia is his four goals in the last four matches.

11. C.J. Sapong, FW, Philadelphia Union

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 9

    C.J. Sapong did not have as good a week as Villa in the final third, but he has been more consistent over his last four games. 

    Before Saturday's draw with San Jose, the former Sporting Kansas City man contributed to a goal in each of his last three matches

    If he wants to make an impact on the international stage, the 27-year-old will have to string together a long stretch of quality performances to move ahead the other forwards on Jurgen Klinsmann's depth chart.

10. Kaka, AM, Orlando City

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 6

    Kaka missed out on his second straight match in Week 9 as he did not travel to New England with his Orlando City teammates due to a groin injury.

    When he has stepped on the pitch in 2016, the 34-year-old has been one of the top players in the Orlando side.

    The Brazilian is still high on the list because he has two goals and two assists in his last three matches. However, if his absence extends into Week 10, we will be forced to drop him further.

9. Joao Plata, FW, Real Salt Lake

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 4

    Joao Plata is in the same boat as Kaka at the moment in terms of his status on this list. 

    The 24-year-old, who started 2016 on a tear, also sat out his second game in a row with an injury in Week 9.

    In each of his six matches this season, the Ecuadorian forward has played a role in at least one Real Salt Lake tally.

8. Didier Drogba, FW, Montreal Impact

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    To the surprise of no one, Didier Drogba is heating up as he gets more games under his belt. 

    The 38-year-old Ivorian added a goal and an assist to his season totals in Week 9. Drogba's second strike of the season came on a beautiful free-kick in Saturday's home match against Colorado. 

    Since making his season debut on April 16, the former Chelsea man has recorded two tallies and one assist.

7. Jordan Morris, FW, Seattle Sounders

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    Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    The Jordan Morris hype train is gaining steam and barreling toward the Copa America Centenario. 

    The United States men's national team starlet produced his third goal in as many games in Seattle's win over Columbus on Saturday. 

    If the 21-year-old continues to score for the Sounders over the next month, he could challenge for a starting spot during the June tournament.

6. Sacha Kljestan, CM, New York Red Bulls

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    Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    Sacha Kljestan has been the main catalyst to the resurgence of the New York Red Bulls. 

    The 30-year-old midfielder has played a role in four of the club's seven tallies over the last two weeks.

    In Friday's 4-0 thrashing of FC Dallas, Kljestan started the wonderful free-kick routine that produced the opening goal, and he headed home the second strike of the contest. 

    Kljestan has contributed to multiple goals in a match on three occasions in nine games. 

5. Gyasi Zardes, FW, LA Galaxy

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 15

    The abundance of in-form strikers in the USMNT talent pool must be a welcome sight to Klinsmann's eyes.

    Gyasi Zardes notched his second assist of the year in the Galaxy's 1-1 draw with Sporting KC on Sunday at Children's Mercy Park. 

    During LA's three-game attacking surge, Zardes has provided Bruce Arena's side with two goals and two assists.

4. Chris Wondolowski, FW, San Jose Earthquakes

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 3

    Chris Wondolowski's four-game scoring run came to an end in San Jose's 1-1 draw with Philadelphia on Saturday. 

    The 33-year-old American, who was included in the USMNT's preliminary roster for the Copa America Centenario, did not make a massive impact on the final result. 

    Wondolowski has come up empty in the final third on just two occasions in 2016. His other scoreless performance came on April 2 against D.C. United.

3. Sebastian Giovinco, FW, Toronto FC

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    Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 1

    Due to the scoring prowess of the two designated players above him in the top 20 over the last seven days, Sebastian Giovinco fell out of the top spot after only one week. 

    The Atomic Ant was credited with an assist in Toronto's loss to Portland as he played the ball over to Will Johnson after a few Timbers surrounded him just outside the penalty area. 

    Despite earning his third handout of the season, the 29-year-old was inefficient with his shots as only one of his seven attempts went on target.

2. Fanendo Adi, FW, Portland Timbers

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    Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    Previous Ranking: 

    Fanendo Adi moved into a tie with Wondolowski atop the Golden Boot table on Sunday as he finished off a splendid team move in the 17th minute. 

    The goal was the 23rd for the Nigerian since the start of last season. The total is 15 more than any other Portland player has recorded in that time, per ESPN's Paul Carr

    The 25-year-old forward has drawn interest from Crystal Palace and AS Saint-Etienne, per Kristian Dyer of Yahoo! Sports.

1. Giovani Dos Santos, FW, LA Galaxy

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    Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 5

    Giovani dos Santos has settled into a rhythm in the final third, and the Galaxy are firing on all cylinders. 

    The Mexico international benefited from a Zardes assist on his goal against Sporting KC on Sunday. The tally was the fourth in three matches for the 26-year-old. 

    All of Dos Santos' four goals and two assists have come in the last three games. If you thought the LA attack was dangerous now, just wait until Robbie Keane returns to full fitness. 

    Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    All statistics obtained from MLSSoccer.com and WhoScored.com.