MLS Player Rankings: Piatti, Diaz, Villa Surge Near Top After Week 17

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 6, 2016

MLS Player Rankings: Piatti, Diaz, Villa Surge Near Top After Week 17

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    Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

    Plenty has changed in Major League Soccer since the last edition of our MLS Player Rankings came out before the Copa America Centenario. 

    In the matches since the Copa break, New York City FC have surged to the top of the Eastern Conference, and a few attackers have caught fire in front of the net. 

    Because some of the top players on this list have played less than four games since the revival of the MLS schedule on June 18, we are still taking into account some pre-Copa performances, as we use the last four matches to judge each player. 

    Although many players have faded from the top 20 since the start of the season, one has been a constant near the top of our list of the best players MLS has to offer at the moment. That midfielder is the new No. 1 heading into the second week of July. 

    Continue reading to see who grabbed the top position in the Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings after Week 17. 

On the Way Out

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    As expected, there's a good amount of turnover from our last Player Rankings from before the Copa break.

    Players Who Dropped Out of Rankings

    Christian Bolanos (Vancouver Whitecaps; Previous Ranking: 8) 

    Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 9)

    Kekuta Manneh (Vancouver Whitecaps; 11)

    Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union; 13) 

    Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution; 14)

    Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 15)

    Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders; 17) 

    Pedro Morales (Vancouver Whitecaps; 18) 

    Mike Grella (New York Red Bulls; 20) 

20. Jordan Morris, FW, Seattle Sounders

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    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 16

    Jordan Morris helped the Seattle Sounders gain a valuable point on the road on Saturday with Clint Dempsey out of the lineup.

    The 21-year-old rookie netted his sixth goal of the season in his club's 1-1 draw with Toronto FC at BMO Field. 

    The Rookie of the Year contender, who has scored twice in his last four contests, will need to discover some chemistry with Dempsey up top in order to pull Seattle out of ninth place in the Western Conference.

19. Kei Kamara, FW, New England Revolution

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    Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 19

    Kei Kamara ended a five-game scoreless streak in league play on Saturday with a brace against Montreal. 

    The Sierra Leone international powered the first two tallies of the match into the back of the net, but his first-half effort would not be enough, as the New England Revolution gave up three unanswered goals to the host Impact. 

    All eyes will be on the 31-year-old in Week 18 when former team the Columbus Crew visit Gillette Stadium. 

18. Axel Sjoberg, CB, Colorado Rapids

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    Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 12

    Colorado's top defensive mark remained intact in Week 17 when the Rapids played to a 0-0 draw at Dick's Sporting Goods Park with the Portland Timbers. 

    Swedish defender Axel Sjoberg has been a key part to the team's success at the back. The 23-year-old is averaging 5.8 clearances and 2.7 interceptions per game for Pablo Mastroeni's side. 

    In order to regain first place in the Western Conference from FC Dallas in Week 18, the Rapids must go into BC Place and beat Vancouver. 

17. Fanendo Adi, FW, Portland Timbers

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 7

    Fanendo Adi was one of the attackers silenced by the play of Colorado's back line on Monday, as he failed to put a shot on goal in the draw with the Rapids. 

    The Portland Timbers forward is in danger of falling off the chart next week if his form doesn't improve in the final third. 

    The Nigeria international has one goal on three attempts on target in his last four league games. 

16. Didier Drogba, FW, Montreal Impact

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    Previous Ranking: 

    The Impact didn't seem to miss the presence of Didier Drogba in Week 17, as they benefited from a two-goal performance from rookie Michael Salazar. 

    Drogba, who has five goals and five assists in 10 matches, has struck the back of the net on two occasions in his last four starts, but both of them came in May. 

    As solid as the 38-year-old's scoring rate looks, he actually scored at a faster rate in 2015, producing 11 goals and one assist in 11 appearances. 

15. Sebastian Giovinco, FW, Toronto FC

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    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 3

    Sebastian Giovinco's recent activity in the final third has failed to reap any rewards. 

    The Atomic Ant has put seven shots on goal in his last four league games but only has one assist to his name during that time. 

    If his lack of production keeps up over the next few weeks, he could drop off this list for the first time since last season.

14. Bradley Wright-Phillips, FW, New York Red Bulls

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    Previous Ranking: 10

    Bradley Wright-Phillips failed to score against New York City FC for the first time in five matches for the New York Red Bulls.

    The Englishman, who recorded a brace in the 7-0 thumping of City on May 21, couldn't even muster a shot on goal at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. 

    Wright-Phillips and his teammates have one more showdown with NYCFC left on the docket on July 24 at Red Bull Arena. 

13. Giovani dos Santos, FW, LA Galaxy

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    Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 2

    Like a few of the top scorers on this list, Giovani dos Santos has experienced a drop in form since the Copa America break. 

    The 27-year-old LA Galaxy star has one goal in three post-Copa appearances. The lone successful strike came in the California Clasico draw with San Jose on June 25. 

    The pressure will be on Dos Santos and the rest of the star-studded Galaxy squad in Week 18 when they visit a struggling Seattle side for a nationally televised game at CenturyLink Field. 

12. Cyle Larin, FW, Orlando City

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    Monday was a frustrating night for Cyle Larin and the entire Orlando City squad. 

    The Lions were held without a shot on goal in their 4-0 loss at the hands of FC Dallas. The attacking performance was one of the worst of Larin's two-year MLS career. 

    Luckily for Larin, Week 17 was a rare misstep in a successful season. He has eight goals and three assists in 15 matches for Adrian Heath's side. 

11. Walker Zimmerman, CB, FC Dallas

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    It might be time to put Walker Zimmerman into the United States men's national team selection discussion.

    The 23-year-old FC Dallas center-back has improved in every facet of the game during his fourth season in MLS. 

    In addition to his impressive performances at the back, like in Monday's shutout of Orlando City, Zimmerman has tied his career high in goals with two through 16 matches. 

10. Jack Harrison, FW, New York City FC

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    A healthy Jack Harrison has added another dimension to the New York City FC attack. 

    The No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft was a dominant force on the right side of Patrick Vieira's front three in the 2-0 derby win over the Red Bulls on Sunday. 

    Since his arrival in the starting XI, the 19-year-old has two goals and two assists in four games. 

9. Yura Movsisyan, FW, Real Salt Lake

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    Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Few teams are able to match the chemistry and dynamic ability the players in the Real Salt Lake front four have. 

    Forward Yura Movsisyan, who lines up in the middle of the final third as the true striker, is beginning to find his scoring boots for Jeff Cassar's team.

    In his last four starts, the 28-year-old has three goals and one assist. In RSL's 1-1 draw with D.C. United on Friday, Movsisyan was all over the place, putting four of his nine attempts on target. 

8. Bill Hamid, GK, D.C. United

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    Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    It didn't take long for Bill Hamid to assert himself at the top of the MLS goalkeeping chart once again.

    The D.C. United man produced a fantastic showing in between the pipes against RSL on Friday, turning away seven shots to allow the Black and Red to steal a point in second-half stoppage time. 

    The USMNT netminder has 24 saves and three clean sheets since his return to the lineup on May 27. 

7. Juan Manuel Martinez, AM, Real Salt Lake

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Juan Manuel Martinez deserves a spot in the MLS MVP discussion.

    Although he only has six goals and two assists in 15 matches, the Argentinian midfielder has been the most valuable player on the pitch for Real Salt Lake due to his creative ability on the ball. 

    The player they call "Burrito" added to his scoring tally on Friday in RSL's 1-1 draw with D.C. If he improves his scoring numbers a bit over the next few weeks, his MVP campaign should gain more traction on a national level. 

6. Diego Valeri, AM, Portland Timbers

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    Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    One of the top individual performances since the resumption of play in MLS came from Diego Valeri on June 26 at Providence Park. 

    The 30-year-old Timbers midfielder produced two goals and an assist in Week 16 in a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Houston Dynamo. 

    Valeri, who did not feature in Week 17, has seven strikes and five assists in 16 matches for Caleb Porter's side in 2016. 

5. Sacha Kljestan, CM, New York Red Bulls

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    Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 1

    Sacha Kljestan was one of the hottest players in MLS before the Copa break, but has struggled to replicate the same production in June and July. 

    The league assists leader has failed to contribute to a goal in his last three starts. A two-assist performance on May 28 against Toronto and his position at the top of one of the most important attacking categories have kept the 30-year-old this high on the list. 

4. David Villa, FW, New York City FC

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    Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 6

    If you thought David Villa was dangerous in front of goal for NYCFC, just wait until he develops a true chemistry with Harrison in the final third. 

    The Spanish legend netted his third tally in four games in Sunday's New York derby victory at Yankee Stadium off an assist from Harrison. 

    Since the Copa break, NYCFC have picked up nine points from three games and have moved to the top of the Eastern Conference standings with 27 points. 

3. Mauro Diaz, AM, FC Dallas

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    Mauro Diaz engineered two set-piece goals in FC Dallas' walloping of Orlando at Toyota Stadium.

    The Argentinian playmaker delivered his eighth and ninth assists of the 2016 season to the heads of center-backs Matt Hedges and Zimmerman. 

    Diaz also produced a pair of handouts in FC Dallas' Week 16 triumph against Real Salt Lake. 

2. Ola Kamara, FW, Columbus Crew

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Ola Kamara can't be stopped at the moment. 

    The Norwegian striker produced a brace in a losing effort on Sunday for the Columbus Crew to move his season total up to seven goals. 

    All seven of the tallies scored by the 26-year-old have come in the Crew's last five contests. 

1. Ignacio Piatti, CM, Montreal Impact

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    Previous Ranking: 4

    The current favorite to win MLS MVP was not slowed down by the Copa, like so many others behind him in the rankings. 

    Ignacio Piatti scored for the fourth consecutive game in Montreal's 3-2 win over New England at Stade Saputo on Saturday.

    The 31-year-old, who has 10 goals and three assists, has rarely taken a game off this season and has been a perfect complement to Drogba when the two line up alongside each other in attack. 

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

    All statistics obtained from MLSSoccer.com and WhoScored.com