MLS Player Rankings: Piatti, Kljestan Climb High, BWP, Drogba, Giovinco Return

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 26, 2016

MLS Player Rankings: Piatti, Kljestan Climb High, BWP, Drogba, Giovinco Return

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Week 20 in Major League Soccer gave us a good idea of which clubs will be contenders over the final three months of the season.

    The weekend slate of matches also gave us a preview of which stars will be dominating the headlines during the stretch run of the regular season. 

    Ignacio Piatti, Sacha Kljestan, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Didier Drogba and Sebastian Giovinco stood out the most for their respective performances in the Eastern Conference. 

    Wright-Phillips, Drogba and Giovinco all moved back into the Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings thanks to their exploits on the pitch in Week 20, while Piatti and Kljestan continued their rise to the top. 

    Continue reading to see which players landed where in our MLS Player Rankings after Week 20.

On the Way Out

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Poor form, injuries and an impending transfer out of MLS forced these six players out of the top 20 after Week 20. 

       

    Players Dropped out of Rankings (Team; Previous Ranking)

    Jack Harrison (New York City FC; 10)

    Yura Movsisyan (Real Salt Lake; 12) 

    Roland Alberg (Philadelphia Union; 14) 

    Maximiliano Urruti (FC Dallas; 17)

    Fabian Castillo (FC Dallas; 19) 

    Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew; 20)

20. Jordan Hamilton, FW, Toronto FC

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 18

    Jordan Hamilton and the rest of the Toronto FC attack took a backseat to the splendid talents of Giovinco in Saturday's 4-1 win over D.C. United. 

    The 20-year-old forward played 71 minutes and failed to contribute to a goal for just the second time in six matches. 

    Hamilton will participate in All-Star Week in San Jose, California, as a part of the MLS Homegrown team coached by Landon Donovan on Wednesday against the Mexico U20 squad. 

19. Steven Gerrard, CM, LA Galaxy

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    Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 16

    Steven Gerrard did not feature in the LA Galaxy's Saturday victory over the Portland Timbers due to a knock he picked up in Week 19 against Houston. 

    The 36-year-old was a day-to-day decision leading up to the match, per LA Galaxy insider Adam Serrano. 

    In his last four appearances, Gerrard has one goal and three assists to his name. If he remains near full fitness and the Galaxy continue to roll, Bruce Arena's men could be the favorites to win MLS Cup. 

18. Cyle Larin, FW, Orlando City

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    Orlando City appear to be turning a corner upon the arrival of new manager Jason Kreis. 

    Cyle Larin has been at the forefront of the positive play, as he's found the back of the net in each of the Lions' last two matches

    Before netting back-to-back tallies against the Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus, the Canada international recorded just four goals in his last 10 matches. 

17. Benny Feilhaber, CM, Sporting Kansas City

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    Gary Rohman/MLS/USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 13 

    Most of the players in the Sporting Kansas City attack had a field day against the struggling Seattle Sounders, but Benny Feilhaber was unable to get involved on a consistent basis. 

    The 31-year-old made 81 touches and handed out a pair of key passes, but he did not contribute to a goal in a match where Sporting KC were given plenty of space to operate in. 

    Feilhaber and his teammates will feature in the marquee match of Week 21, as they host Portland on national television on Sunday.

16. Kevin Molino, AM, Orlando City

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    Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Few players have flown under the radar more than Kevin Molino has.

    The 26-year-old winger has quietly scored seven goals and handed out seven assists in 17 matches for Orlando City. 

    Molino played a role in each of the Lions' two goals on Saturday in the 2-2 draw with Columbus. If Molino and Larin continue to thrive up top when Kreis takes over in Week 21, Orlando could surge up the Eastern Conference standings.

15. Sebastian Giovinco, FW, Toronto FC

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    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    In case you were getting concerned, Giovinco is still a world-class forward. 

    The Atomic Ant broke his eight-game scoreless run in superb fashion on Saturday, as he recorded a hat-trick in Toronto FC's blowout win over D.C. at BMO Field. 

    Two of the three tallies came on spectacular free-kicks, while he capped off his three-goal performance in second-half stoppage time. 

    The hat-trick boosted Giovinco into a tie for third in the Golden Boot race alongside Wright-Phillips. 

14. Didier Drogba, FW, Montreal Impact

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    Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Drogba also announced his return to the scoring column with a bang on Saturday, as he netted three goals of his own against Philadelphia at Stade Saputo. 

    The goals were the first for the 38-year-old Ivorian since May 28, when he found the back of the net against the Galaxy. 

    With Drogba and Piatti firing on all cylinders, the Montreal Impact could turn themselves into the team to beat in an Eastern Conference playoff race, where there is currently no favorite. 

13. Thomas McNamara, CM, New York City FC

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    Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Add Thomas McNamara to the growing list of MLS players who are deserving of a USMNT call-up from Jurgen Klinsmann. 

    The New York City FC midfielder displayed his quality on his 43rd-minute blast into the upper-right corner in his side's loss to the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.

    The 25-year-old, who has played a role in three of NYCFC's last four goals, almost scored from the same range again in the second half, but he struck the upright. 

    In 20 total matches, the American, who also carries an Irish passport, has four goals and eight assists. 

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

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    Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    Wright-Phillips owns New York City FC.

    The Englishman bagged a brace in the Red Bulls' dominant 4-1 win at home on Sunday. The goals were the seventh and eighth of his career in the New York derby. 

    Much had been made about Wright-Phillips' scoreless streak of four games entering the rivalry clash, but few pointed out he recorded an assist in the two matches leading up to Sunday's derby. 

    Just like a few other Eastern Conference teams mentioned already, the Red Bulls have the potential to go on a run and top the table at the end of October. 

11. Walker Zimmerman, CB, FC Dallas

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 11

    FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids played to a 1-1 draw in a battle of two of the league's best defenses on Saturday. 

    In the tie at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Walker Zimmerman held firm at the back alongside Matt Hedges by making five interceptions and five clearances. 

    Oscar Pareja's side would have pitched a shutout on Saturday if it wasn't for Atiba Harris' turnover in the buildup to Marlon Hairston's first-half tally. 

10. David Villa, FW, New York City FC

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 5

    David Villa turned in one of his most disappointing performances in an NYCFC shirt in the final New York derby of the regular season. 

    The 35-year-old, who scored his first-career goal against the Red Bulls in the July 3 win at Yankee Stadium, failed to place a shot on target for the second time in three matches. 

    Based on his overall performance since joining MLS, Sunday was just a rare hiccup for the Spaniard. 

9. Diego Valeri, AM, Portland Timbers

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    Shaun Clark/Getty Images

    Previous Ranking: 8

    Diego Valeri was active on the ball in the final third on Saturday against the Galaxy, but he was unable to find the back of the net in the Timbers' 2-1 loss. 

    The Argentinian attacker recorded 105 touches and three key passes, but he only sent one of five attempts in the direction of the net. 

    Through 18 matches, Valeri is averaging 3.9 shots and key passes per contest. 

8. Axel Sjoberg, CB, Colorado Rapids

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 7

    Axel Sjoberg and the Rapids back four didn't do anything particularly wrong on Saturday against FC Dallas, but they were unable to record another 1-0 victory after their triumph against Sporting Kansas City in their previous outing—Dallas equalized late on, and the game finished 1-1. 

    The towering Swede totaled eight clearances and won a pair of aerial duels for Pablo Mastroeni's side at home. 

    Colorado enters the All-Star break with the best defensive record in MLS, as it has conceded just 14 goals in 20 games. 

7. Matt Hedges, CB, FC Dallas

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Previous Ranking: 6

    Hedges helped FC Dallas earn a critical point in the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield races on Saturday. 

    Hedges made six clearances and four interceptions while limiting the Rapids to a pair of shots on target, one of which resulted in a goal. 

    Oscar Pareja's side may enter the All-Star break atop the Western Conference, but Colorado in second and LA in third both have three games in hand on FC Dallas.

6. Robbie Keane, FW, LA Galaxy

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    Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 15

    Arguably the best designated player in the history of MLS continued to surge up the Golden Boot standings in Week 20.

    Robbie Keane notched a tally for the third time in four games in LA's 2-1 win over Portland at Providence Park. 

    The Republic of Ireland international has seven goals in only 10 appearances in 2016. That total is expected to grow as the Galaxy continue to heat up during the final three months of the regular season. 

5. Frank Lampard, CM, New York City FC

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 3

    Frank Lampard was an active participant in the New York derby on Sunday, but not in the way his club expected. 

    The Englishman was at the center of the feisty off-the-ball skirmishes from the start of the match. Lampard infused energy into the contest, but he wasn't able to add anything to the scoreboard. 

    Sunday marked the second time in seven games since the Copa America Centenario break in which Lampard did not score. 

4. Mauro Diaz, AM, FC Dallas

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 1

    Mauro Diaz wasn't a major factor in attack on Saturday in Commerce City, Colorado despite dishing out five key passes

    FC Dallas' lack of production at the forward position and on the wings, with Maximiliano Urruti and Fabian Castillo out, hurt Diaz's creativity in the final third.

    Diaz is second in the league in key passes per game at 3.2. Only Valeri has more than the FC Dallas playmaker.  

3. Sacha Kljestan, CM, New York Red Bulls

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 9

    Kljestan benefited from acres of space in the middle of the park on Sunday. 

    The American handed out a pair of assists and scored from the spot in the Red Bulls' rout of NYCFC at home. 

    With three months left in the season, the leading assist man in the league is two shy of his career high set last season with the Red Bulls. 

    When you look at his numbers since returning to MLS, it baffles the mind that Kljestan hasn't received a USMNT call-up. 

2. Ola Kamara, FW, Columbus Crew

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    Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 4

    Ola Kamara's form in front of the net continues to be one of the few positives coming out of Columbus at the moment. 

    The 26-year-old scored his 10th goal of the season in Saturday's match against Orlando City, but once again, the Crew dropped points at home. 

    Since the resumption of play on June 18, the Crew have dropped 10 points at Mapfre Stadium. The Crew's poor form at home in June and July will probably end up costing them as they attempt to chase a playoff spot. 

1. Ignacio Piatti, AM, Montreal Impact

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    Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 2

    Ignacio Piatti bolstered his Most Valuable Player stock in Saturday's trouncing of Philadelphia at Stade Saputo.

    The 31-year-old scored and handed out a pair of assists in one of his best performances in MLS since joining Montreal in 2014. 

    The only other time Piatti contributed to three goals in a Montreal match came in Week 1 against Vancouver. 

    Piatti still has a way to go to catch Villa in the MVP race, but he took a big step forward on Saturday.

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

    All statistics obtained from MLSSoccer.com and WhoScored.com

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