MLS Player Rankings: Toronto Trio Take Up Top Spots After Dominant Showings

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistNovember 8, 2016

MLS Player Rankings: Toronto Trio Take Up Top Spots After Dominant Showings

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    Sebastian Giovinco (right)
    Sebastian Giovinco (right)Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto FC's designated players dominated the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal against New York City FC on Sunday.

    Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley all made significant contributions to push the Reds into the Eastern Conference final. 

    The trio of high-paid stars were just a few of the big names who shined during Sunday's four-game slate in which the field for the MLS Cup was cut in half to four. 

    Ignacio Piatti, Laurent Ciman and Tim Howard were among the other high-profile stars who shined brightest as Montreal, Colorado and Seattle joined Toronto in the conference final round that begins on November 22. 

    Our playoff player rankings take into account every postseason match played by each individual, with the most recent performance holding the most weight. 

    Continue reading to see which player from the tremendous Toronto trio secured the top spot in the Bleacher Report MLS Postseason Player Rankings after the conference semifinal round.

On the Way Out

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    Jelle Van Damme
    Jelle Van DammeRon Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Five players fell from the postseason player rankings, three of which come from the eliminated LA Galaxy, to make way for some of the top performers from Sunday's matches. 

    Players Dropped out of Rankings

    Nelson Valdez (Seattle Sounders; Previous Ranking: 2) 

    Jelle Van Damme (LA Galaxy; 5)

    Emmanuel Boateng (LA Galaxy; 8)

    Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy; 9)

    Eriq Zavaleta (Toronto FC; 10) 

10. Evan Bush, GK, Montreal Impact

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Evan Bush swung every ounce of momentum in Montreal's favor when he saved Sacha Kljestan's first-half penalty at Red Bull Arena. 

    The 30-year-old netminder, who recorded a shutout in the first leg, allowed the Impact to gain a foothold in the match and deny the host Red Bulls of scoring during an early flurry of pressure. 

    Bush made three saves in the 2-1 victory, and his only concession came in the 77th minute when the Red Bulls were getting desperate for a strike. 

9. Tim Howard, GK, Colorado Rapids

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Tim Howard produced two penalty saves to send the Colorado Rapids into the Western Conference final. 

    The American, who will start in between the pipes against Mexico on Friday for the United States men's national team, stopped Ashley Cole and Jeff Larentowicz on the left side of goal. 

    Howard didn't have to put on a show in between the pipes during the 120 minutes of regulation and extra time due to the slow nature of the match, but he appeared in the spotlight at the perfect time for the club that spent big money to acquire him. 

8. Axel Sjoberg, CB, Colorado Rapids

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    The Rapids used their grind-it-out mentality from the regular season to force penalties at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Sunday.

    Axel Sjoberg and the rest of the back four earned their ninth 1-0 result of the season, and the first of its type in the playoffs. 

    The Rapids defense gave up just five shots on target during 210 minutes of action in the semifinal series with the Galaxy. 

    Expect another low-scoring series featuring the Rapids against Seattle in the Western Conference final as Pablo Mastroeni's men try to lock up home field for the MLS Cup. 

7. Matteo Mancosu, FW, Montreal Impact

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 1

    After shining in the first two postseason matches for Montreal, Matteo Mancosu went quiet in the final third on Sunday.

    The Italian, who battled a knock in training for most of the week, failed to attempt a single shot in the Impact's 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena. 

    Mancosu was lifted in the 80th minute for Didier Drogba, who went on to pick up an assist on Ignacio Piatti's 85th-minute game-winner. 

    If Drogba appears fit and motivated to play in the Eastern Conference final, Mancosu could see less playing time from his starting position as the Ivorian tries to make an impact off the bench. 

6. Ignacio Piatti, FW, Montreal Impact

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    Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

    Ignacio Piatti was one of two players surprisingly left off the Most Valuable Player award shortlist who erupted for a big match on Sunday. 

    The Argentinian sent the Red Bulls into the offseason with a pair of strikes that earned Montreal a spot in the first all-Canadian Eastern Conference final. 

    The 31-year-old, who scored 17 goals and handed out six assists during his MVP-caliber regular season, has contributed to four goals in the postseason with three goals and one assist. 

    Piatti and Sebastian Giovinco should put on a thrilling show over two legs with a spot in the MLS Cup on the line. 

5. Nicolas Lodeiro, CAM, Seattle Sounders

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 7

    Nicolas Lodeiro ended FC Dallas' quest for the treble in the 54th minute of Sunday's quadrupleheader finale. 

    The Uruguayan designated player banged in a Tyrone Mears cross from the right wing to hand the Sounders a critical away goal in the one-sided series in which the red-hot Sounders dispensed of the Supporters' Shield winners. 

    The 27-year-old has three goals in three postseason matches after finding the back of the net on four occasions in 13 matches during the regular season. 

4. Michael Bradley, CM, Toronto FC

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 6

    Michael Bradley's name may not be front and center on the stat sheet, but he's made as big of an impact as Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco during Toronto FC's playoff run. 

    The USMNT captain dominated the middle of the park in both legs of the Eastern Conference semifinal against New York City FC. 

    Bradley's superb display as a defensive midfielder stopped the dynamic NYCFC midfield from creating chances behind David Villa for the majority of the 180 minutes played over two legs. 

    Now fans of the USMNT have to hope Bradley remains as the No. 6 on Friday against Mexico instead of being moved up the pitch by manager Jurgen Klinsmann.

3. Jozy Altidore, FW, Toronto FC

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    Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 3

    The other American in Toronto's designated player triumvirate knocked in one of the five strikes in the Reds' 5-0 second-leg demolition of NYCFC. 

    Jozy Altidore scored his third tally of the postseason in the 30th minute, as he connected with a long ball off the boot of center-back Eriq Zavaleta. 

    Altidore also handed out his second assist of the playoffs on Giovinco's eighth-minute opener that silenced the crowd at Yankee Stadium and set the tone for Toronto's dominant performance. 

    The 27-year-old, who celebrated his birthday on Sunday, has three goals and two assists in three postseason matches. 

2. Laurent Ciman, CB, Montreal Impact

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: 4

    The only player worthy of breaking up Toronto's dominance at the top of this list is the man who will be in charge of stopping the dangerous Reds attackers in the Eastern Conference final.

    Despite conceding late on a Bradley Wright-Phillips strike, Laurent Ciman and the Montreal defense kept the Golden Boot winner at bay for most of the Eastern Conference semifinal series. 

    The confidence gained by the Montreal defense from the two Red Bulls matches will be huge entering the conference championship series with Toronto, especially with the form the Reds enter the series with. 

1. Sebastian Giovinco, FW, Toronto FC

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    We ran out of superlatives in July to describe the performance of Giovinco, but we'll try to search for some new ones during the international break to get ready for the Eastern Conference final and potentially the MLS Cup.

    The Atomic Ant tortured the NYCFC defense for 90 minutes on the pitch as small as the player himself at Yankee Stadium. 

    Giovinco wasted little time writing NYCFC's 2016 obituary as he punched in his first of three strikes in the sixth minute. A 20th-minute penalty and a 91st-minute strike helped the Italian earn the fourth hat-trick in MLS playoff history, per ESPN's Paul Carr. 

    As crazy as it sounds, there is someone not too impressed with what Giovinco has done in North America over the last two years. Italy boss Gian Piero Ventura said Giovinco was left off the Azzurri roster because he "plays in a league that doesn't count for much," per the Associated Press (via NBC Sports). 

    Many find that comment out of touch, but we're fine with seeing Giovinco on full rest in the Eastern Conference final. 

              

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

    All statistics obtained from MLSSoccer.com

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