MLS Player Rankings: Magnificent Giovinco Claims Top Spot

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 9, 2016

MLS Player Rankings: Magnificent Giovinco Claims Top Spot

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    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

    All everyone wanted to talk about after Week 22 in Major League Soccer was the masterful display put on by Sebastian Giovinco at BMO Field on Saturday. 

    The same feeling has been echoed after countless other weekends since the Atomic Ant joined Toronto FC at the start of the 2015 regular season. 

    Outside of Giovinco, there were plenty of other star performances in our Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings. 

    Our player rankings take into account the last four showings from individuals, with the most recent performance carrying most importance. 

    Continue reading to see who fell where behind Giovinco in the Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings after Week 22.

On the Way out

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    A few rough outings in Week 22 cost these three players their respective spots on the list. 

    Players Dropped out of Rankings

    Jelle Van Damme (LA Galaxy; Previous Ranking: 15) 

    Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 17) 

    Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City; 20)

20. Maximiliano Urruti, FW, FC Dallas

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 16 

    FC Dallas' absence from league play in Week 22 means a few of the club's players fell down the list after Week 22.

    Forward Maximiliano Urruti is one of the four FC Dallas players who suffered that fate. The 25-year-old Argentine enters the squad's first August MLS contest with a goal in each of his last three starts. 

    Before Urruti and his teammates take on Sporting Kansas City at Toyota Stadium on Saturday, they will visit the LA Galaxy in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday.

19. Walker Zimmerman, CB, FC Dallas

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 13

    Just like Urruti and two of his teammates above him, Walker Zimmerman dropped a few positions due to his inactivity in league action in Week 22. 

    FC Dallas did play out of MLS in the CONCACAF Champions League on Thursday as they downed Real Esteli of Nicaragua 2-1 at Toyota Stadium. 

    Zimmerman and center-back partner Matt Hedges held Real Esteli's attack to one shot on goal in their first match of the continental competition.

18. Thomas McNamara, CM, New York City FC

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 11 

    The entire New York City FC attack stumbled on Friday against the stubborn San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium. 

    Thomas McNamara recorded one of the three NYCFC attempts on target in his 82 minutes of play in the scoreless road draw. 

    The tie against the Earthquakes moved Patrick Vieira's men to 6-4-2 on the road. Entering the second week of August, NYCFC hold a one-point advantage over Toronto FC at the top of the Eastern Conference.

17. Diego Valeri, CM, Portland Timbers

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    Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 19 

    Diego Valeri remained in the top 20 thanks to his strike in the Portland Timbers' 3-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday. 

    The tally that came on Valeri's only shot on goal in the match was the 10th of the season for the dynamic Argentine. 

    The 30-year-old has reached double digits in goals in three of his four seasons in MLS, with his 11 in 2014 being his career high. 

    As long as Valeri stays healthy for the remainder of the season, he'll set a new personal scoring mark in 2016.

16. Nicolas Lodeiro, AM, Seattle Sounders

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    Two games may be a small sample size for us to judge the impact of Nicolas Lodeiro on the Seattle Sounders, but he's been phenomenal over the last two weeks. 

    The former Boca Juniors man has combined well with Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris in 180 minutes of play, and he's been the key to Seattle's resurgence in the final third. 

    In his opening match against the Galaxy, Lodeiro recorded 123 touches and handed out three key passes.

    In the Sounders' 3-1 win over Orlando City, the 27-year-old earned 71 touches and two key passes as he opened up plenty of space for Dempsey and Morris to work in.

15. Kevin Molino, AM, Orlando City

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    Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 

    Kevin Molino's incredible form in attack was halted a bit on Sunday as he was held out of the Orlando City lineup due to hamstring tightness, per Alicia Rose DelGallo of the Orlando Sentinel. 

    The 26-year-old Trinidad and Tobago international entered August with two goals and two assists in his last three contests. 

    If he works his way back to full fitness before Sunday's match against Chicago, Molino should be able to extend that form against a Fire defense that has conceded on 30 occasions in 2016.

14. Robbie Keane, FW, LA Galaxy

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 12 

    The LA Galaxy were involved in one of the weirder matches of Week 22 as they used a pair of late goals to rally back and earn a 2-2 draw at home with the New York Red Bulls. 

    Robbie Keane picked up his second assist of the year on Ashley Cole's 89th-minute equalizer that was scored from the left side of the box. 

    Although he's been active in the final third recently, the Republic of Ireland international only has one goal and one assist in his last four matches.

    The 36-year-old may find scoring difficult in Week 23 at home against Colorado due to the stingy back line of the Rapids.

13. Axel Sjoberg, CB, Colorado Rapids

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    Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 14 

    Speaking of the Colorado defense, they kept up their stellar form in front of the net with another clean sheet at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. 

    Center-back Axel Sjoberg made three clearances and two interceptions while limiting the Whitecaps to a trio of attempts on target. 

    The 23-year-old Swede is averaging 5.5 clearances and 2.6 interceptions through 20 matches for Pablo Mastroeni's side, who face a big test in Week 23 against the Galaxy at StubHub Center.

12. Mauro Diaz, AM, FC Dallas

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 8

    As we've already mentioned the combination of no FC Dallas league game in Week 22 and the performances of others cost some of the club's stars a few places on the list. 

    More pressure will be put on the shoulders of Mauro Diaz as Oscar Pareja's men hunt down the Supporters' Shield and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference now that Fabian Castillo is off to Trabzonspor. 

    The midfield magician enters FC Dallas' August slate with an average of 3.2 key passes and 1.9 shots per game. The 25-year-old ranks third in MLS behind Valeri and Sacha Kljestan in key passes per contest.

11. Cyle Larin, FW, Orlando City

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 10

    Cyle Larin was unable to extend his scoring run to four games on Sunday in Orlando City's first home defeat of the season to the Sounders. 

    Not only did the Canadian fail to find the back of the net, he didn't put a single shot on target at Camping World Stadium. 

    In his four career matches against Week 23 opponent Chicago, Larin has recorded two goals, including one in a 1-1 draw on March 11. 

    A win over Chicago would do wonders for the playoff fight of the Lions as they sit in seventh place behind New England only on goal difference.

10. Ignacio Piatti, CM, Montreal Impact

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 6

    Ignacio Piatti hasn't found his scoring boots since his stellar showing two weeks ago against the Philadelphia Union. 

    The midfield maestro of the Montreal Impact did not put a shot on target in Saturday's win over the Dynamo, but he was able to dish out three key passes on 46 touches. 

    As long as Piatti and Didier Drogba combine well when they take the pitch together, the Impact should comfortably remain over the red line in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

9. Javier Morales, CAM, Real Salt Lake

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    The team everyone in MLS should be talking about right now is Real Salt Lake. 

    Just as he has in plenty of past seasons, Javier Morales has been the driving force of RSL's surge up the Western Conference standings. 

    After spurring the Claret and Cobalt to a 2-1 road win a week ago against Philadelphia, Morales played a role in all three of RSL's strikes in their 3-1 win over the Fire at Rio Tinto Stadium. 

    The 36-year-old and his teammates will have a chance to prove their recent hot spell is more than a fluke on Sunday on national television against Seattle.

8. Marlon Hairston, AM, Colorado Rapids

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    The Rapids have been lauded for their defense for most of the season, but one attacker is beginning to find his way into the headlines. 

    Marlon Hairston scored for the third time in four matches on Saturday against Vancouver, and he also produced an assist in the 2-0 victory at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. 

    All three of the 22-year-old's goals in 2016 have come since his substitute appearance on July 16 against Sporting Kansas City. 

    If a few other stars in the Colorado attack strike the gold mine of form Hairston has recently, the Rapids could challenge for the Supporters' Shield.

7. Steven Gerrard, CM, LA Galaxy

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 18 

    Steven Gerrard hasn't thrust himself into the national spotlight yet this season, but he's putting together a workmanlike season for the LA Galaxy.

    Gerrard moved into double digits in the assists column on Sunday with a pair of handouts in the Galaxy's come-from-behind draw with the New York Red Bulls. 

    In his last three starts, the Liverpool legend has played a role in each of the Galaxy's tallies. If Gerrard continues to produce and LA begins to get more out of Giovani dos Santos, the team could carve out a path to the MLS Cup.

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

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 6

    Bradley Wright-Phillips did not last as long as he expected on Sunday at StubHub Center due to a right knee contusion, per Jason Baum, the New York Red Bulls senior director of communications. 

    After the forward exited the contest, all hell broke loose as the Red Bulls were denied two key penalty calls and gave up two late tallies on the road for the second time in the last month. 

    Wright-Phillips entered Sunday's match at the StubHub Center with three goals and two assists in his last four matches.

5. Matt Hedges, CB, FC Dallas

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 

    Before taking the weekend off to recharge, Matt Hedges and FC Dallas earned a vital win in the CONCACAF Champions League to close out an impressive 4-0 week for MLS clubs in the competition.

    FC Dallas joined the Red Bulls, Whitecaps and Timbers as MLS winners in the opening round of the group stage. 

    Although Colorado won in Week 22, Oscar Pareja's side received a boost in the Western Conference playoff race after the Galaxy dropped two points at home. 

    FC Dallas face a key set of league matches in August against Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake and Houston. If they earn seven of a possible nine points from those games, they should be in good shape at the top of the Western Conference standings.

4. Ola Kamara, FW, Columbus Crew

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    Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 

    Ola Kamara failed to beat an opposing goalkeeper for only the third time in 10 matches since May 28 in Week 22. 

    The 26-year-old Norwegian was able to place two of his four attempts on target against Toronto, but the Crew were once again overmatched by their opposition like they have been for many weeks this season. 

    Columbus' bad luck may continue in Week 23 since it hosts NYCFC, the club with the best road record in the league, on Saturday at Mapfre Stadium.

3. Frank Lampard, CM, New York City FC

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    Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 

    It usually takes a special player to knock an in-form star off the No. 1 position on this list. 

    That is exactly what happened to Frank Lampard after Week 22 as Giovinco delivered a trio of strikes against Columbus. 

    The former Chelsea man had an average match against San Jose compared to his recent exploits for NYCFC as he only sent one shot on goal at Avaya Stadium. 

    Lampard will look to bounce back in Week 23 by scoring his first-ever goal against the Crew. The Englishman has only played one match against Columbus in his MLS career.

2. Sacha Kljestan, CM, New York Red Bulls

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 7

    If it wasn't for Giovinco, Sacha Kljestan would be near or at the top of the MLS MVP short list. 

    Kljestan, who is somehow still off United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann's radar, picked up his 13th assist of the season on Gonzalo Veron's 68th-minute opener at StubHub Center. 

    The league leader in assists with 13 is already one away from matching his total from 2015, and there is a chance Kljestan might be able to reach the 20-assist mark if he continues his current pace. 

    If that occurs, there's no way Klinsmann can ignore the 30-year-old any longer.

1. Sebastian Giovinco, FW, Toronto FC

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    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 2

    There's basically nothing Giovinco hasn't done during his time in MLS. 

    The Atomic Ant left us speechless again on Saturday with a pair of brilliant strikes that only a few players in the world are capable of hitting. 

    In addition to producing his two masterpieces, Giovinco recorded his fourth-career hat-trick in MLS. 

    The 29-year-old Italian has 37 goals and 26 assists in 55 matches in MLS for the Reds. 

    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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