MLS Player Rankings: BWP Remains on Top; Finlay, Mullins Surge Up List
In a league full of in-form strikers, Bradley Wright-Phillips has been able to fend off all challengers to his top spot in the Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings.
The New York Red Bulls forward has been on a tear in front of goal since the end of July, and he's showing few weaknesses as the stretch run of the regular season begins.
Not only are players on potential playoff teams heating up, but a few on the other side of the red line are making noise as well, including Ethan Finlay of the Columbus Crew.
Since there were quite a few midweek games in Week 25, some players have a smaller sample size in terms of date range for our latest list, as we take into account the last four performances from each player.
Continue reading to see who fell into place behind Wright-Phillips in the latest Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings.
On the Way out
Four players fell out of the top 20 due to performance and the strong forms of the newcomers.
The following five players did not make the cut in Week 25:
- Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders; Previous Ranking: 7)
- Maximiliano Urruti (FC Dallas; 13)
- Ola Kamara (Columbus Crew; 15)
- Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City; 19)
- Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union; 20)
20. Patrick Nyarko, LM, DC United
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Patrick Nyarko was one of a few players who busted loose in the final third for D.C. United on Saturday.
The 30-year-old midfielder recorded a goal and two assists in the Black and Red's 6-2 rout of the Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium.
The strong performance came on the heels of a decent outing against the Montreal Impact on Wednesday.
D.C.'s vital win at home kept them in front of their rivals in the race for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Black and Red enter September one point ahead of Orlando City in seventh.
19. Yura Movsisyan, FW, Real Salt Lake
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Yura Movsisyan also sprung to life in attack for his club in Week 25, as he bagged a brace in Real Salt Lake's 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids.
The goals were the first for the 29-year-old designated player since his strike in the Claret and Cobalt's match against the Montreal Impact on July 9.
RSL's win over the Rapids in the Rocky Mountain Cup moved them into second place in the Western Conference with 43 points.
Although they may not be the sexy pick to contend for the MLS Cup, Jeff Cassar's men have to be considered serious players entering the penultimate month of the 2016 campaign.
18. Keegan Rosenberry, RB, Philadelphia Union
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
The Rookie of the Year race isn't all about Jordan Morris.
Philadelphia right back Keegan Rosenberry has thrived in a starting role for the Union since the start of the season, and he handed the club a huge boost in Week 25.
Rosenberry netted the game-winner against the Columbus Crew on Wednesday and helped Jim Curtin's side produce a clean sheet versus Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
The Union may not win the Eastern Conference, but if their defense plays like it did in Week 25, they have a chance to do some damage in the postseason.
17. Kaka, AM, Orlando City
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Kaka returns to the top 20 after a one-week absence, thanks to his two-goal performance against New York City FC.
The Brazilian designated player scored once from the run of play and again from the penalty spot as the Lions kept pace with D.C. United in the chase for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
As shocking it sounds, the two-goal showing was the first of the 34-year-old's MLS career.
Kaka ended August with three goals and two assists. All but one assist came in the last four matches.
16. Javier Morales, CAM, Real Salt Lake
Previous Ranking: 12
Javier Morales may not have been as successful in the final third as Yura Movsisyan on Friday, but he was active to an extent in the Real Salt Lake attack.
The 36-year-old dished out six key passes, but he only attempted one shot in the win over the Colorado Rapids.
Morales, who has been through plenty of playoff chases with RSL, is averaging 2.7 key passes and 1.4 shots per game for the second-place side in the Western Conference.
15. Matt Hedges, CB, FC Dallas
Previous Ranking: 11
The Matt Hedges-led FC Dallas back line held firm after conceding an early goal in the Texas Derby on Saturday.
The 26-year-old center back made six clearances and three interceptions in the club's come-from-behind win at BBVA Compass Stadium.
FC Dallas' win pushed their road mark to 5-7-2, which is the second-best away record in the league behind New York City FC.
14. Cristian Roldan, CM, Seattle Sounders
Previous Ranking: 9
Cristian Roldan was unable to follow up his strong Week 24 showing in the Seattle Sounders' two games in Week 25.
The young midfielder did not contribute to any of the three strikes scored by the Sounders against the Houston Dynamo and Portland Timbers over the last seven days.
Despite his recent surge in form, Roldan did not pick up an international call-up from United States men's national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann. He may earn an opportunity during the October friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand.
13. Justin Meram, LM, Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
The Columbus Crew's playoff chances may be slim at the moment, but that hasn't stopped Justin Meram from playing at a high level.
The Iraq international notched a goal and an assist in the Crew's Saturday victory over the San Jose Earthquakes. That performance came after a rough night for most of the Columbus attack on Wednesday versus Philadelphia.
Meram has heated up in the final third during August, as he has two goals and two assists to his name in the last four contests.
Gregg Berhalter's men may not reach sixth place this season, but at least they haven't gone down without a fight.
12. Jordan Morris, FW, Seattle Sounders
Previous Ranking: 18
Jordan Morris moved within one goal of the double-digit mark in his final match before the international break.
The rookie forward, who is in a battle with Keegan Rosenberry for Rookie of the Year, bagged his ninth strike of the season in the second half at Providence Park as the Sounders tried to attempt a comeback.
Due to the injury absences of Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes, Morris could play a major role in the USMNT's pair of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.
Morris should be third on the forward depth chart for the pair of matches behind Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood.
11. Ignacio Piatti, CM, Montreal Impact
Previous Ranking: 16
Ignacio Piatti broke his two-game scoreless streak at the perfect time for the Montreal Impact.
The Argentinian playmaker netted the only tally in Montreal's 401 Derby win over Toronto FC in which the Impact played down a man for the second half.
Piatti's strike was the 14th of the season and his second in the month of August.
If Saturday's win is the catalyst for a surge by the Impact over the final two months of the season, Piatti could move into the race for the Golden Boot.
10. Steven Gerrard, CM, LA Galaxy
Previous Ranking: 5
There's some reason to worry about the production of the LA Galaxy attack.
While other teams have surged up the Western Conference table, the Galaxy have fallen to fourth place with 40 points.
Steven Gerrard and the star-studded attack only placed three shots on target in Saturday's scoreless draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps at the StubHub Center.
Gerrard exited the match in the 30th minute, but no injury update was given by Galaxy boss Bruce Arena, per LA Galaxy insider Adam Serrano.
9. Frank Lampard, CM, New York City FC
Previous Ranking: 4
Frank Lampard's form has cooled off in recent weeks—along with New York City FC's ability to get results.
Lampard, who was on a blazing trail of form after the Copa America Centenario break, scored once in August and wasn't a major player in attack against the LA Galaxy or Orlando City.
In addition to experiencing a personal drop-off in form, Lampard and NYCFC have dropped into second in the Eastern Conference, and they sit just one point ahead of the New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union.
NYCFC will have a chance to right the ship at the start of September, as they host D.C. United in a rare Thursday match to kick off Week 26.
8. Cyle Larin, FW, Orlando City
Previous Ranking: 14
Cyle Larin moved within three of the Golden Boot leaders on Wednesday, as he scored in defeat for Orlando City against Toronto FC.
Although he failed to score against New York City FC on Sunday, Larin was in the middle of the action. A few of the striker's key chances were denied by terrific efforts from Ronald Matarrita.
After 23 matches, the 21-year-old forward has 13 goals and three assists. He actually did more damage last season in a similar time span, netting 17 goals in 24 contests.
If the Lions are serious about stealing the No. 6 seed away from D.C. United, Larin will have to at least match his scoring total from a year ago, and the club must pick up points on the road.
7. Patrick Mullins, FW, DC United
Previous Ranking: 17
The one man who could single-handedly keep Cyle Larin and Orlando City out of the postseason is D.C. United forward Patrick Mullins.
The 24-year-old striker has been hard to stop since joining the Black and Red's starting XI, and he exploded for a hat trick on Saturday against the Chicago Fire.
Mullins' three-goal performance extended a stellar run of form that includes another goal and an assist in the last four matches.
If Mullins continues to find space to pounce in the final third, he should be able to double his goal total of five before the end of the regular season.
6. Sacha Kljestan, CM, New York Red Bulls
Previous Ranking: 3
The biggest news involving Sacha Kljestan over the last seven days didn't come from the club level.
Kljestan, who leads MLS in assists with 15, was recalled by Jurgen Klinsmann for the USMNT's upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
With Dempsey out of the fold and the Yanks in need of a true No. 10, there is a chance Kljestan will slide into the starting XI for either or both of the critical matches.
The call-up means Kljestan will miss Saturday's match at BC Place against Vancouver, but given the recent form of the Whitecaps, Jesse Marsch's side might not need the talents of Kljestan to take three points.
5. Ethan Finlay, RM, Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: 10
The Ethan Finlay we were mesmerized by in 2015 appears to have finally arrived this season.
The 26-year-old experienced a brutal slump in front of goal for most of 2016, but he's broken out over the last few weeks to give the Columbus Crew a slim but fighting chance in the Eastern Conference.
Finlay scored his fourth goal in four matches on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes to move his season mark up to five.
He may not reach his totals of 11 and 12 from the past two seasons, but Finlay could sneak into double figures in the goal column if he continues to terrorize opposing defenses.
4. Jozy Altidore, FW, Toronto FC
Previous Ranking: 8
In his final two games before the international break, Jozy Altidore found the back of the net once for the top squad in the Eastern Conference.
Altidore scored off the bench to hand Toronto FC a key win on the road over Orlando City on Wednesday. Unfortunately, his four-game scoring streak ended in the club's 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact on Saturday.
The 26-year-old forward should find himself in the starting XI for both of the USMNT's matches in the coming week due to his impressive return from injury.
3. Nicolas Lodeiro, CM, Seattle Sounders
Previous Ranking: 6
Nicolas Lodeiro unsuccessfully tried to pull the Seattle Sounders back from four goals down in the second half against the Portland Timbers.
The newly minted designated player handed out a pair of assists at the start of the closing stanza to bring the Sounders within two goals of their bitter rival at Providence Park.
Since entering the starting lineup on July 31, the 27-year-old Uruguayan has produced two goals and six assists.
Usually it takes time for the big-name midseason signings to get adjusted to the league, but Lodeiro is an exception to that trend.
2. Sebastian Giovinco, FW, Toronto FC
Previous Ranking: 2
With his two assists on Wednesday, Sebastian Giovinco extended his streak of contributing to at least one Toronto FC goal to seven matches.
However, the run ended at seven, as the Reds were held scoreless by 10-man Montreal at BMO Field on Saturday, but the failure to score wasn't the big takeaway from the match.
Toronto announced on Monday that Giovinco suffered quadriceps and adductor strains and will be out for four weeks, per Major League Soccer's official website.
Giovinco's absence will put more pressure on Jozy Altidore to produce each week, and it will force the forward corps on the bench to step up alongside the USMNT player.
1. Bradley Wright-Phillips, FW, New York Red Bulls
Previous Ranking: 1
With Giovinco off the pitch for a month and David Villa quiet at the moment, the door is open for Bradley Wright-Phillips to take the lead in the Golden Boot race and become the favorite to win MVP.
The 31-year-old Englishman moved level with Giovinco and Villa at 16 goals with his strike against the New England Revolution on Sunday at Red Bull Arena.
Since July 24, Wright-Phillips has found the back of the net on seven occasions in six matches.
With Wright-Phillips showing no signs of slowing down, the forward might be able to propel the Red Bulls up the table in the final two months of the regular season.
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JTansey90.