MLS Player Rankings: BWP, Villa in Direct Battle for Top Spot After Week 30

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistOctober 4, 2016

MLS Player Rankings: BWP, Villa in Direct Battle for Top Spot After Week 30

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    The competition between the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC runs deeper than the fight for the No. 1 playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

    Bradley Wright-Phillips and David Villa are in a fierce individual battle for the top spot in the Golden Boot race and the Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings. 

    Each striker enters the final two matches of the season with 21 goals and the potential to score more in the tussle for home-field advantage in the East. 

    Beneath the two top scorers on the list of the league's best in-form players are a defensive-minded player on a hot streak in front of net, a red-hot super sub turned starter and a pair of impressive netminders who enter at the bottom of the list.

    Our player rankings take into account the last four performances from an individual, with the most recent showing carrying the most weight.

    Continue reading to see who landed where in the Week 30 edition of the Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings.

On the Way out

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    Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

    Six players suffered a drop from the top 20 after Week 30 due to a lack of finishing in the final third and the failure to keep opponents off the scoreboard.

        

    Players Dropped out of Rankings

    Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew; Previous Ranking: 15) 

    Fanendo Adi (Portland Timbers; 16) 

    Michael De Leeuw (Chicago Fire; 17) 

    Cyle Larin (Orlando City; 18)

    Jelle Van Damme (LA Galaxy; 19)

    Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 20)

20. Andre Blake, GK, Philadelphia Union

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    Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Sometimes you just have to reward a player for giving his all in a losing effort. 

    Andre Blake made a plethora of spectacular denials in Philadelphia's defeat to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. 

    The Jamaica international, who should be a target of European clubs in the offseason, kept the Union within striking distance for 90 minutes, but they could not pull out a point from Red Bull Arena.

    Jim Curtin's side will need more heroics from Blake in the final two matches of the regular season as the sixth-place team in the Eastern Conference tries to remain above the red line.

19. Michael Bradley, CM, Toronto FC

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    John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    Just like Blake, Michael Bradley turned in a solid week on an individual level despite poor results produced by his team. 

    The United States international had one of his best matches of the season in Wednesday's scoreless draw with Orlando City at BMO Field. 

    The 29-year-old made five interceptions and dished out three key passes in the first of two contests played by the Reds in Week 30. 

    Bradley turned in another strong performance on Saturday, but Toronto dropped a 2-1 result to D.C. United at home and that moved the Reds back to third in the Eastern Conference.

18. Diego Valeri, CM, Portland Timbers

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 13

    Diego Valeri tried his hardest to produce a goal for a desperate Portland side on Saturday night, but his efforts came up short. 

    The 30-year-old Argentinian, who has two goals in his last three matches, attempted five shots, two of which were on target in the Timbers' 1-0 loss to Colorado. 

    The Timbers enter the final two weeks of the regular season with their backs up against the wall thanks to the impressive form of the surging Seattle Sounders. 

    Portland are three points back of Seattle, who still have a game in hand, and two behind Sporting Kansas City entering the 33rd match of the season.

17. Evan Bush, GK, Montreal Impact

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Evan Bush turned in a monster week in net at the perfect time for the Montreal Impact.

    The Montreal No. 1 turned away 10 of the 11 shots he faced against San Jose and Orlando in Week 30, with one of them being a penalty stop late in the second half in the win over the Earthquakes. 

    The pair of victories on Wednesday and Sunday kept the Impact in fifth in the Eastern Conference and gave them some breathing room above the red line with New England hot on the chase for one of the six playoff positions.

16. Andoni Iraola, CM, New York City FC

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    New York City FC have received plenty of buzz this season for the attacking prowess of David Villa and others, but one of the biggest pieces to their success plays in the defensive midfield. 

    Andoni Iraola has quietly turned himself into one of the better central midfielders in the league with his play in front of the back four for Patrick Vieira's side. 

    The 34-year-old, who played a big role in shutting down Houston on Friday, is averaging 2.1 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per contest

    If Iraola provides more cover for the NYCFC defense in the coming weeks, the second-place side in the Eastern Conference could make a surge for MLS Cup.

15. Walker Zimmerman, CB, FC Dallas

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    One of the contenders for the Defender of the Year award made a massive contribution on the offensive end of the pitch in Week 30.

    Walker Zimmerman, who has partnered with Matt Hedges to form one of the most formidable defensive duos in MLS, banged in the game-winner in FC Dallas' 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy on Saturday. 

    The American defender is averaging 5.2 clearances and 3.5 interceptions per game for the team in line to win the Supporters' Shield on the final day of the regular season. 

    If everything continues to go well for Zimmerman and Hedges in the FC Dallas back four, both players could receive a call-up from USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann. 

14. Mauro Manotas, FW, Houston Dynamo

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 10

    A week after bagging a hat-trick for the Dynamo, Mauro Manotas was not a threat in the final third against NYCFC. 

    The 21-year-old forward failed to take a single shot during his 81-minute shift at BBVA Compass Stadium. 

    The performance by Manotas and his Dynamo teammates on Friday was greeted with disappointment after they pulled off results against three playoff contenders in the three matches before the 2-0 loss to NYCFC. 

    Houston have three more chances to play the role of spoiler against Seattle, LA and Colorado in matches that will certainly have playoff implications in the Western Conference.

13. Lamar Neagle, LM, D.C. United

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Lamar Neagle graduated from super sub to an important role in the D.C. United starting XI in Week 30.

    The former Seattle man scored once and assisted on another goal in the Black and Red's midweek victory over the Columbus Crew at home. 

    Three days later at BMO Field, Neagle rewarded Ben Olsen for his decision to switch him into the starting lineup as he bagged a brace against Toronto. 

    The 29-year-old may be the attacking weapon United need to complement Patrick Mullins and Lloyd Sam during the run into the postseason. Neagle has six goals and two assists since August 24. 

12. Khiry Shelton, FW, New York City FC

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 8

    Khiry Shelton finally cooled off a bit on Friday as David Villa took care of the attacking responsibilities for NYCFC. 

    The second-year man, who produced a trio of assists against Chicago in Week 29, didn't make too much of an impact in the attacking half in the 2-0 win. 

    Shelton will be expected to play a big role in the final two games of the season against D.C. and Columbus. 

    If NYCFC can pull more than four points out of those matches, they have a good chance of competing for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

11. Giovani Dos Santos, FW, LA Galaxy

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 7

    The breakout performances from Giovani dos Santos against Real Salt Lake and Orlando City are beginning to slip from our memory. 

    The 27-year-old Mexican stumbled in the final third in the 1-0 loss to FC Dallas on Saturday as he took one shot and made a single key pass with his 44 touches. 

    Despite losing to a Western Conference rival in Week 30, Dos Santos received some good news as he was recalled to the Mexico squad. 

    Dos Santos will be available for selection for Mexico's friendlies with New Zealand and Panama. Galaxy fans will be hoping he leaves the international break without any knocks since the Galaxy need him to earn the highest seed possible. 

10. Ola Kamara, FW, Columbus Crew

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 5

    Ola Kamara's blazing run of form came to a halt in Week 30 as he couldn't beat an opposing goalkeeper in 110 minutes of action. 

    Kamara only sent one shot on target in the demoralizing 3-0 loss to D.C. on Wednesday, and he appeared as a substitute in Saturday's win over Chicago.

    The Crew aren't mathematically eliminated from the postseason yet because they are seven points back of sixth place with three games to play, but they will need a miracle to make it. 

    The final three matches of the regular season may be more about creating momentum for 2017 for a side that underachieved in 2016.

9. Jordan Morris, FW, Seattle Sounders

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 4

    Jordan Morris was unable to carry his stellar form from the last few weeks into Week 30 as he went scoreless in 179 minutes of play against Chicago and Vancouver. 

    The Sounders may not have received a contribution from Morris in the final third, but they still picked up six points that put them into fifth place in the Western Conference.

    Morris was one of five forwards called in for the USMNT friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand on Friday and Tuesday.

    The 21-year-old has a golden opportunity to impress Jurgen Klinsmann in those two matches with Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes out of the picture at the moment. 

8. Juan Agudelo, FW, New England Revolution

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 14

    Juan Agudelo is still on the outside looking in at the USMNT roster despite his terrific run of form in the last month. 

    The 23-year-old, who deserves a roster spot more than Chris Wondolowski, produced a goal and an assist for the second time in four matches on Saturday against Sporting KC. 

    Since the start of September, Agudelo has three goals and three assists while the Revs have picked up 12 out of a possible 15 points. 

    Even if Agudelo continues to score and the Revs win out, they may not make the playoffs since the Union need one win to clinch a place in the top six. 

7. Nicolas Lodeiro, CM, Seattle Sounders

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    Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 3

    Nicolas Lodeiro's streak of contributing to at least one Seattle goal came to an end on Wednesday in the club's 1-0 win over Chicago. 

    The 27-year-old Uruguayan entered Week 30 with at least a goal or an assist in eight consecutive matches. 

    Lodeiro missed the final game before the international break on Sunday due to yellow-card accumulation. 

    When he returns from playing for Uruguay, Lodeiro will look to help the Sounders earn a home game in the knockout round, which is something no one thought was possible even a month ago. 

6. Osvaldo Alonso, CM, Seattle Sounders

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 12

    Who needs Morris and Lodeiro when Osvaldo Alonso is producing in front of the net? 

    The defensive midfielder scored for the second time in three matches on Sunday in the 2-1 victory over Vancouver that eliminated the Whitecaps from playoff contention. 

    The recent hot streak in the final third has moved Alonso's season total in tallies to three and career mark in MLS to nine.

    Before scoring this season, Alonso's last goal for the Sounders came on July 28, 2012 against the Rapids. 

    Believe it or not, Alonso went through a scoring stretch similar to his current one back in 2011 as he scored twice in three games in contests versus the Red Bulls and Whitecaps. 

5. Sacha Kljestan, CM, New York Red Bulls

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    Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 11

    It's not surprising that Sacha Kljestan was in the middle of the action on Saturday in the Red Bulls' back-and-forth affair with the Union. 

    The United States international added a goal and an assist in the 3-2 victory that resembled a playoff match from start to finish. 

    Kljestan's handout on Dax McCarty's game-winner upped his season total to 17, while his first-half equalizer moved his goal tally to six. 

    There is still a chance Kljestan could eclipse the 20-assist mark in the last two regular-season games because the final two weeks are expected to produce a wild finish. 

4. Dom Dwyer, FW, Sporting Kansas City

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 6

    Dom Dwyer's play in the final third continues to be one of the few things going right for Sporting KC at the moment. 

    The 26-year-old bagged his 16th strike of the season on Saturday in the club's 3-1 defeat at the hands of New England. 

    Thanks to Seattle's win a day later, Peter Vermes' side are hovering right above the red line in sixth place with two games to play.

    Sporting still control their own destiny since they sit two points ahead of Portland, but there will be some nervy moments to end the season as one mistake could cost the team a spot in the postseason.

3. Jozy Altidore, FW, Toronto FC

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    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 2

    The extension of Jozy Altidore's strong play in attack was one of the least talked-about stories in Toronto following the club's disappointing week at home.

    Instead of closing out the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference against Orlando and D.C., the Reds only earned one point from the two matches. 

    Altidore, who has three goals in his last four and nine in his last 12, will need to contribute more up top if the Reds are to bounce back up the table from third place. 

    However, six points might not be enough to earn a bye into the Eastern Conference semifinals since the Red Bulls and NYCFC lead Toronto by three points heading into the October 16 slate of matches. 

2. David Villa, FW, New York City FC

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 9

    David Villa moved into a tie atop the Golden Boot standings with his two-goal performance in Week 30 for NYCFC.

    The Spanish forward knocked in a pair of tallies for the second consecutive week as NYCFC gained even more momentum heading into the postseason.

    NYCFC are currently second in the Eastern Conference behind the Red Bulls on only a tiebreaker. If things set up the right way, we could witness an all-New York playoff series in November. 

    But before he can think about that, Villa has to take on D.C. and Columbus, two teams he has six combined goals against in 2016.

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

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    Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 1

    It didn't take long for Bradley Wright-Phillips to bounce back from a rare goalless night in Week 29.

    The English forward scored his 66th-career MLS tally on Saturday in the five-goal thriller at Red Bull Arena against the Union. 

    The strike kept Wright-Phillips in first place in the Golden Boot race, but he enters Week 31 in a tie with Villa after the Spaniard's recent pair of braces. 

    The 31-year-old's prospects of winning the Golden Boot are strong since he's scored once this season against each of his remaining opponents. 

    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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