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MLS Player Rankings: Top 50 players in 2019
The 2019 Major League Soccer season featured plenty of incredible individual achievements.
Carlos Vela shattered the single-season scoring record, and was in a three-way race with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Josef Martinez for the MVP and Golden Boot most of the season.
The trio of attacking stars combined to score 91 goals. The next-best scorer on the Golden Boot chart was 11 strikes behind Martinez in third.
The forwards captured most of the spotlight, but there were not the only ones to thrive over the 34-game season.
The top 10 of our Top 50 Players from the 2019 season are made up of four midfielders, three forwards, two defenders and a goalkeeper.
The Top 50 was chosen based on individual performance and how each player affected their respective teams.
50. C.J. Sapong, F, Chicago Fire
Mar 9, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire forward C.J. Sapong (9) celebrates his goal during the second half against Orlando City at SeatGeek Stadium. (Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports)
C.J. Sapong produced his second 10-goal season in three seasons in his first year with the Chicago Fire.
The nine-year veteran was dealt to the Fire late in preseason and scored in his first two appearances.
The 30-year-old had a pair of two-goal performances and was one of the few consistent members of Veljko Paunovic’s squad.
49. Johnny Russell, F, Sporting Kansas City
Aug 31, 2019; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell (7) celebrates after the win over the Houston Dynamo at Children’s Mercy Park. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
Sporting Kansas City was far from consistent as a whole in 2019, but the one constant was Johnny Russell’s production in front of goal.
The Scottish midfielder picked up nine goals and nine assists in 28 games. In 2018, he had 10 strikes and 10 handouts.
Russell’s best showing was May 26 against Seattle, when he scored all three tallies in a 3-2 victory.
48. Albert Rusnak, M, Real Salt Lake
May 11, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) drives with the ball in the second half against the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
Real Salt Lake did not receive much attention on a national level, but it wasn’t for a lack of quality.
Albert Rusnak topped that list with his second consecutive 10-goal season for the Claret and Cobalt.
The Slovakian midfielder, who has 27 goals and 26 assists in three MLS seasons, also had a 88.1 pass success percentage and 2.5 key passes per game.
47. Jan Gregus, M, Minnesota United
May 25, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota United midfielder Jan Gregus (8) celebrates a victory over the Houston Dynamo after a match at Allianz Field. (Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports)
Even though Minnesota United finished fourth in the Western Conference, Jan Gregus flew under the radar.
The 28-year-old Slovakian international produced a goal and 12 assists in his first MLS season.
Defensively, Gregus had 1.9 interceptions and 1.5 tackles per game. He also completed 85.7 percent of his 58.8 passes per contest.
46. Ezequiel Barco, M, Atlanta United
Apr 13, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) smiles at his bench after scoring against the New England Revolution during the first half at Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)
If Ezequiel Barco played in more than 15 regular-season games, he would be much higher on this list.
When he was on the field for Atlanta United, the dynamic Argentinian was a difference-maker in Frank De Boer’s system.
In 980 minutes, he produced four goals and three assists, the same numbers he totaled over 1,730 minutes a year ago.
45. Cristian Pavon, F, LA Galaxy
September 29, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Cristian Pavon (10) moves the ball against Vancouver Whitecaps during the second half at StubHub Center. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
The same argument can be made for Cristian Pavon.
The Argentinian first appeared for the LA Galaxy on August 11 and he only had two games in which he did not record a goal or an assist.
Pavon closed the campaign by playing a role in at least one Galaxy goal for eight straight matches.
44. Kei Kamara, F, Colorado Rapids
Jun 28, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; Colorado Rapids interim head coach Conor Casey celebrates with forward Kei Kamara (23) and defender Sam Vines (13) after a match against the Los Angeles FC at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
Kei Kamara is one of the most consistent scorers in MLS history.
In his first season with the Colorado Rapids, Kamara reached double digits for the third straight season.
His 14 goals were the most he recorded in a single season since he produced 22 for the Columbus Crew in 2015.
In total, the 35-year-old has double-digit goal seasons for five different teams: Sporting Kansas City, Columbus, New England, Vancouver and Colorado.
43. Latif Blessing, M, Los Angeles FC
Aug 11, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Latif Blessing (7) and New York Red Bulls midfielder Cristian Casseres Jr (23) battle for the ball in the first half at Banc of California Stadium. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
Latif Blessing was one of the hardest workers on and off the ball across MLS.
His six goals and six assists did not do his impact justice. He was one of three midfielders that relentlessly worked through opponents to win the ball back to set up Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and others.
The 22-year-old had 2.4 tackles and 1.2 key passes per game, plus a 84.7 percent passing accuracy.
42. Matt Turner, GK, New England Revolution
Sep 21, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner (30) makes a save on New England Revolution forward Juan Agudelo (17) during the second half of their 0-0 tie at Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)
One of the biggest revelations of 2019 was Matt Turner.
The 25-year-old emerged as New England’s starting goalkeeper in May and turned himself into a Goalkeeper of the Year candidate.
In 20 appearances, Turner made 87 saves, conceded 27 goals and picked up five shutouts.
In his last five games, the U.S. Men’s National Team call-up had four games with seven or more saves.
41. Michael Barrios, M, FC Dallas
Aug 3, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; FC Dallas midfielder Michael Barrios (21) looks to kick the ball during the second half against the Orlando City at Exploria Stadium. (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)
Michael Barrios played a role in 20 of FC Dallas’ 54 goals.
The Colombian midfielder did most of his damage in the assists column, finishing in a tie for third in MLS alongside Vela.
The double-digit handout campaign was Barrios’ second in three seasons.
40. Gyasi Zardes, F, Columbus Crew SC
Sep 21, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Columbus Crew forward Gyasi Zardes (11) celebrates his goal against Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau (16) (not pictured) with midfielder Jouness Mokhtar (34) during the first half at BC Place. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)
Say what you want about Gyasi Zardes, but he is a reliable MLS scorer.
The USMNT forward bagged 13 strikes in his second season with the Columbus Crew, moving his total with the franchise to 32.
That total is just two less than the 34 strikes he produced in five seasons as a member of the LA Galaxy.
39. Wayne Rooney, F, D.C. United
Jun 12, 2019; Washington, D.C., USA; D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) scores the game-winning goal against the Philadelphia Union on a penalty kick in extra time of the fourth round of the 2019 U.S. Open Cup at Audi Field. D.C. United won 2-1 in extra time. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
Wayne Rooney recorded 11 goals and eight assists in 2019, but the close to his MLS career was underwhelming.
The Englishman’s last league tally occurred on July 18 and he totaled a single assist after that point.
Rooney finished with 23 goals and 15 assists for D.C. United, but failed to deliver a playoff victory.
38. Jonathan Dos Santos, M, LA Galaxy
Apr 24, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, USA; LA Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos (8) looks on during the second half against Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
Lost in the stargazing around Zlatan Ibrahimovic is how well Jonathan Dos Santos has played during his Galaxy tenure.
The 29-year-old was a midfield menace with 3.4 tackles, 1.9 interceptions and 1.5 key passes per game.
Dos Santos also ended up third in the league in passing accuracy behind Osvaldo Alonso and Darlington Nagbe at 92.2 percent.
37. Michael Bradley, M, Toronto FC
Sep 15, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley (4) acknowledges the fans after a win over Colorado Rapids at BMO Field. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Michael Bradley was once again an important cog in Toronto FC’s success.
The 32-year-old American recorded his highest scoring total since 2015 and was one of the most active players on the ball.
Bradley completed 88.7 percent of his 74.5 passes per game, and made countless important plays that did not show up in the stat sheet.
36. Valentin Castellanos, M, New York City FC
Aug 21, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC midfielder Valentin Castellanos (11) scores on a shot against the Columbus Crew SC during the first half at Yankee Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
For a stretch in August, Valentin Castellanos was the hottest player in MLS.
In a four-game run against Houston, Atlanta, FC Cincinnati and Columbus, Castellanos produced five goals and a pair of assists.
The 21-year-old finished with 11 tallies and seven handouts. He had three braces and a two-assist showing to end the regular season.
35. Cristian Espinoza, M, San Jose Earthquakes
Aug 31, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Cristian Espinoza (10) reacts against the Orlando City FC during the first half at Avaya Stadium. (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)
Cristian Espinoza turned into one of the best under-the-radar signings of 2019.
The 24-year-old Argentinian picked up 13 assists and a pair of goals in Matias Almeyda’s first season in charge of the San Jose Earthquakes.
San Jose faded toward the end of the season, but it has a solid foundation in position to reach the postseason in Almeyda’s second season.
34. Mauro Manotas, F, Houston Dynamo
Sep 14, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Houston Dynamo forward Mauro Manotas (9) celebrates his goal against Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Zac MacMath (18) (not pictured) during the second half at BC Place. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)
At his age and scoring rate, Mauro Manotas is one of the top candidates to make a move away from MLS in the offseason.
The Colombian striker added 13 goals to his career total of 48 as a member of the Houston Dynamo.
In the last three seasons, the 24-year-old has found the back of the net on 42 occasions. He also earned a career high in assists with eight in 2019.
33. Brian Fernandez, F, Portland Timbers
Jun 30, 2019; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Timbers forward Brian Fernandez (7) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first half against FC Dallas at Providence Park. (Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports)
Few signings captivated MLS quite like Brian Fernandez.
He opened his Portland Timbers career with tallies in five consecutive league appearances, including a brace in his first start against Philadelphia May 25.
Fernandez finished with three two-goal performances, but his last tally for Giovanni Savarese’s squad occurred September 7.
32. Julian Gressel, M, Atlanta United
Sep 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; An Atlanta United defender Julian Gressel (24) reacts to the crowd after being named man of the match after defeating Real Salt Lake at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports)
Julian Gressel’s ability to thrive in a variety of roles gives him plenty of reasons to earn a raise from Atlanta United.
Gressel was one of the most important pieces to success in De Boer’s first season with the Five Stripes.
The third-year player earned his best professional goal total with six tallies and racked up more than 10 assists for the second straight season.
31. Kai Wagner, D, Philadelphia Union
Oct 20, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner (27) walks off the field after win against the New York Red Bulls at Talen Energy Stadium. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Kai Wagner went from the lower tiers of German soccer to receiving a handful of best XI votes at the end of the MLS regular season.
The left back was an instant upgrade for the Philadelphia Union in a new 4-4-2 system that put more reliance on fullbacks moving forward.
Wagner benefited from that by recording eight assists, tied for the most by any defender with NYCFC’s Anton Tinnerholm.
30. Diego Valeri, M, Portland Timbers
Apr 27, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri (8) celebrates a goal against Toronto FC by Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco (not pictured) at BMO Field. Portland defeated Toronto. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Diego Valeri missed the 10-goal mark for just the second time in his Timbers career, but still played a role in 24 strikes.
Valeri’s dip down to eight goals was partly due to the success of Fernandez and Jeremy Ebobisse, as well as a late-season injury.
Although he only scored on eight occasions, the 33-year-old produced his MLS high in assists with 16.
29. Jozy Altidore, F, Toronto FC
Aug 18, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) looks on against the Montreal Impact at Rogers Centre. (Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports)
There may be lingering questions if a healthy Jozy Altidore would have changed the complexion of the MLS Cup final.
The USMNT forward notched 11 goals and seven assists over 22 games. It was his fourth 10-goal season in five years for Toronto FC.
But Altidore only logged 22 minutes in the postseason and his goal in the final turned out to be a cosmetic one.
28. Jordan Morris, F, Seattle Sounders
Sep 18, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders FC forward Jordan Morris (13) dribbles against FC Dallas during the second half at CenturyLink Field. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)
After missing 2018 with a torn ACL, Jordan Morris earned Comeback Player of the Year with 10 goals and seven assists.
The 25-year-old’s success came in a new position out on the flank that allowed him to thrive alongside Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro.
Morris also contributed three goals on Seattle’s way to securing another MLS Cup.
27. Gustavo Bou, F, New England Revolution
Aug 31, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution forward Gustavo Bou (7) reacts after scoring against the Toronto FC during the second half at Gillette Stadium. (Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)
New England finally spent a ton of money on a forward and it paid off.
Gustavo Bou scored on nine occasions in 14 games, including three times in the last five regular-season games to push the Revolution into the postseason.
With Bou and Carles Gil in place for 2020, the Revs should achieve more success in Bruce Arena’s first full season in charge.
26. Daniel Royer, M, New York Red Bulls
Jul 14, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Royer (77) reacts after scoring a goal against the New York City FC during the first half at Red Bull Arena. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)
In the previous two seasons, Daniel Royer’s scoring output was overshadowed by Bradley Wright-Phillips.
With BWP out for most of 2019 due to injury, the Austrian midfielder extended his run of 10-goal seasons to three.
Royer also contributed eight assists for a Red Bulls side likely going through some changes in the offseason to contend with the best sides in the Eastern Conference.
25. Nani, M, Orlando City SC
Apr 27, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Orlando City forward Nani (17) during the second half against the New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)
Adding Nani to the lineup did not place Orlando City in the playoffs, but he lived up to the price tag in the stat columns.
In 30 games, the former Manchester United man scored 12 times and handed out 10 assists.
The Portuguese star was one of four players to reach double digits in goals and assists.
24. Nicolas Lodeiro, M, Seattle Sounders
Sep 15, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (10) celebrates after scoring a goal against the New York Red Bulls during the first half at CenturyLink Field. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)
Nicolas Lodeiro has been a star in 101 regular-season games for the Seattle Sounders.
In each of his three full seasons with the club, the Uruguayan has at least 12 assists. He also had eight in 13 games in 2016.
Lodeiro capped off yet another successful campaign with an assist on the second Seattle goal in MLS Cup.
23. Darlington Nagbe, M, Atlanta United
Oct 6, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United midfielder Darlington Nagbe (6) celebrates after a goal against the New England Revolution in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
Darlington Nagbe was outstanding during Atlanta United’s run to the Eastern Conference Final.
The midfielder didn’t accumulate much in terms of points, but he did most things right in the middle of the park to lead to scoring opportunities for his teammates.
When he did put the ball on net, Nagbe scored 50 percent of the time with two goals on four shots on target.
22. Mark-Anthony Kaye, M, Los Angeles FC
May 16, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye (14) and FC Dallas midfielder Bryan Acosta (8) battle for the ball in the first half at Banc of California Stadium. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
Just like Blessing, Mark-Anthony Kaye was a vital cog in LAFC’s midfield that turned defense into offense.
The 24-year-old Canadian scored four goals of his own and handed out eight assists.
Kaye did a little bit of everything with 2.2 tackles, 1.6 key passes and 1.3 interceptions per game and a 83.9 pass completion rate.
21. Raul Ruidiaz, F, Seattle Sounders
Sep 18, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders FC forward Raul Ruidiaz (9) dribbles against FC Dallas during the second half at CenturyLink Field. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)
It felt fitting that Raul Ruidiaz finished off Seattle’s championship with the team’s final goal of the season.
The Peruvian netted 11 goals in 20 regular-season games and scored four times in the postseason.
If an overall playoff MVP was handed out, Ruidiaz would have been the likely recipient.
20. Eddie Segura, D, Los Angeles FC
Sep 29, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, USA; LAFC defender Eddie Segura (4) controls the ball during the second half of a match with Minnesota United at Allianz Field. (Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports)
LAFC bolstered its defense with the offseason signing of Eddie Segura.
The center back helped the Black-and-Gold earn the league’s best defensive record. They conceded 37 goals while earning a +48 goal differential.
The 22-year-old produced 3.3 clearances, 1.8 tackles and an interception per game in his first MLS campaign.
19. Ryan Hollingshead, D, FC Dallas
Aug 31, 2019; Frisco, TX, USA; FC Dallas midfielder Ryan Hollingshead (12) celebrates a goal during the first half against the FC Cincinnati at Toyota Stadium. (Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports)
Ryan Hollingshead delivered his best attacking season in Luchi Gonzalez’s first season as FC Dallas manager.
The 28-year-old, who made his most appearances since 2015, notched six goals and three assists while earning 2.6 clearances, 2.1 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per contest.
18. Frederic Brillant, D, D.C. United
Sep 22, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United defender Frederic Brillant (13) celebrates with supporters after D.C. UnitedÕs game against Seattle Sounders at Audi Field. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
Frederic Brillant and the D.C. United defense closed the regular season with five consecutive clean sheets.
The impressive run in September and October allowed the Black-and-Red to pick up the league’s second-best defensive record.
Brillant was one of two defenders to average over six clearances per game. Colorado’s Lalas Abubakar was the other.
17. Kacper Przybylko, F, Philadelphia Union
Aug 24, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward Kacper Przybylko (23) reacts after scoring against the D.C. United during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
Kacper Przybylko may be the most unlikely 15-goal scorer of the season.
He was signed at the end of 2018 and rehabbed a long-term foot injury in Philadelphia. At the start of 2019, he played for USL Championship affiliate Bethlehem Steel.
On April 27, Przybylko scored in his first start and never looked back. He was one of the streakiest scorers with a trio of three-game goal runs.
Unfortunately, he could not participate in the Union’s pair of playoff games due to a foot injury suffered on Decision Day.
16. Chris Wondolowski, F, San Jose Earthquakes
Aug 31, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (8) reacts after scoring a goal against the Orlando City FC during the first half at Avaya Stadium. (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)
There are three certainties in life: Death, Taxes and Chris Wondolowski reaching double digits in the scoring column.
For the 10th straight year, the San Jose forward eclipsed the 10-goal mark, and his 15 tallies marked his highest personal total since 2015.
Wondolowski broke the MLS all-time scoring record in May with a four-goal outing against Chicago.
15. Anton Tinnerholm, D, New York City FC
Aug 24, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC defender Anton Tinnerholm (3) controls the ball against New York Red Bulls during the second half at Yankee Stadium. (Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports)
Anton Tinnerholm finished 2019 tied with Wagner for most assists by a defender.
The 28-year-old Swede was a steady force in the New York City FC back line that helped earn the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Tinnerholm was rewarded for his play in September with a multi-year contract extension.
14. Walker Zimmerman, D, Los Angeles FC
Sep 22, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC defender Walker Zimmerman (25) celebrates after scoring his second goal of the game against the San Jose Earthquakes in the second half at Banc of California Stadium. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Walker Zimmerman partnered with Segura to reinforce the LAFC back four on its way to winning the Supporters’ Shield.
The USMNT center back was one of three defenders named to the MLS Best XI.
Thanks to the defensive duo, Bob Bradley’s side improved its defensive record by 15 goals.
13. Bill Hamid, GK, D.C. United
Mar 10, 2019; New York, NY, USA; D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid (24) sets up for a shot during the first half against the New York City at Yankee Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
A strong argument can be that Bill Hamid is the best goalkeeper in MLS.
The 28-year-old produced career highs in shutouts (14) and saves (126) while conceding 37 goals over 33 games.
Hamid finished the regular season with five straight clean sheets, but that form did not translate into the playoffs as D.C. lost to Toronto FC in the first round.
12. Heber, F, New York City FC
Jun 6, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC forward Heber (9) celebrates his goal against FC Cincinnati during the first half at Yankee Stadium. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
No one was ever going to directly replace the impact David Villa had on NYCFC.
Heber did not enter the Bronx with the same name recognition, but he proved to be a reliable goal-scorer, just like the Spaniard.
The Brazilian posted 15 goals in 22 matches, with the highlight of his first MLS season being a five-game scoring run during the summer.
11. Diego Rossi, F, Los Angeles FC
Mar 3, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; LAFC forward Diego Rossi (9) celebrates with defender Steven Beitashour (3) after scoring a goal in the second half against the Sporting KC at at Banc of California Stadium. LAFC defeated SKC 2-1. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Even with Carlos Vela scoring at will in the LAFC attack, Diego Rossi increased his scoring total by four.
The 21-year-old Uruguayan posted 16 strikes in his second MLS campaign, which was good enough for fourth place in the Golden Boot race behind Vela, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Josef Martinez.
Rossi also produced a goal and two assists in the wild 5-3 playoff win over the Galaxy.
10. Vito Mannone, GK, Minnesota United
Sep 1, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota United goalkeeper Vito Mannone (1) defends the goal against the LAFC in the second half at Banc of California Stadium. Minnesota United defeated LAFC 2-0. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Vito Mannone used a late-season surge to land Minnesota United a home playoff game and earn himself Goalkeeper of the Year.
The former Arsenal goalkeeper turned away 39 of the 45 shots he faced in September and October, including an 11-save masterpiece in a goalless draw with Portland.
Mannone finished his first MLS campaign with 15 victories, 129 saves and 11 clean sheets.
9. Miles Robinson, D, Atlanta United
May 8, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) makes a pass in the first half against Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)
Miles Robinson’s transformation into All-Star defender was one of the best stories of 2019.
In his first two seasons, the No. 2 pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft played 272 minutes and earned three starts.
In 2019, Robinson started all but one game and was constantly in the Defender of the Year conversation. Although he lost out on that award to Ike Opara, he still earned a Best XI nod.
8. Alejandro Pozuelo, M, Toronto FC
Aug 10, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC forward Alejandro Pozuelo (10) controls the ball in front of Orlando City midfielder Oriol Rosell (20) during the game at BMO Field. (Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports)
Alejandro Pozuelo was tasked with one of the most difficult jobs in MLS: replacing Sebastian Giovinco.
The Spaniard filled that void to the best of his abilities with 12 goals and 12 assists in 30 matches.
Pozuelo opened his MLS career with four goals and five assists in four games and he closed the regular season with three tallies and a helper in a five-game run.
7. Eduard Atuesta, M, Los Angeles FC
March 3, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC midfielder Eduard Atuesta (20) controls the ball against Sporting Kansas City during the second half at Banc of California Stadium. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
Eduard Atuesta was the engine that drove the LAFC midfield.
The 22-year-old Colombian was the lone defensive-minded midfielder to earn a Best XI position.
He made 2.3 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game while earning a 86.6 pass-completion rate.
6. Carles Gil, M, New England Revolution
Sep 25, 2019; Portland, OR, USA; New England Revolution midfielder Carles Gil (22) scores a goal on a penalty kick against the Portland Timbers during the second half at Providence Park. The game ended tied 2-2. (Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports)
Carles Gil was one of the most consistent providers in MLS.
From June 2-August 24, the Spanish playmaker recorded a goal or assist in 10 of 12 contests. During that run, Gil had three consecutive games with a goal and an assist.
Without Gil, the Revs would not have been close to the postseason. He was one of four players to have 10-plus tallies and handouts.
5. Ike Opara, D, Minnesota United
May 4, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota United defender Ike Opara (3) looks on during the second half against Seattle Sounders at Allianz Field. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
When Ike Opara was acquired by Minnesota United in the offseason, there were questions about spending so much allocation money on a defender.
The deal with Sporting Kansas City turned out to be more than worth it. Opara ended up winning Defender of the Year for the second time in three seasons.
Opara totaled 5.3 clearances, 2.6 aerials won, 1.8 interceptions and 1.5 tackles per contest for Adrian Heath’s side.
4. Maxi Moralez, M, New York City FC
Jul 14, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York City FC midfielder Maximiliano Moralez (10) dribbles the ball against the New York Red Bulls during the second half at Red Bull Arena. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)
While Heber and Castellanos were strong performers in the NYCFC attack, Maxi Moralez was the key to the club’s success in the final third.
Moralez led MLS in assists with 20, one year after he produced 16 for the top regular-season side in the Eastern Conference.
The 32-year-old Argentinian finished four assists ahead of Diego Valeri and turned in seven game-winning helpers.
3. Josef Martinez, F, Atlanta United
Josef Martinez during Atlanta United’s match vs. New York City FC on August 11, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Courtesy of Atlanta United)
In any other year, Josef Martinez would be the unquestioned No. 1 player on this list.
The Venezuelan forward found the back of the net in 12 consecutive league games from July 7-September 18, a span in which he had four multi-goal performances.
But Martinez fell seven goals short of earning the Golden Boot and finished third in that competition behind Vela and Ibrahimovic.
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, F, LA Galaxy
Aug 17, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (center) is congratulated after scoring a second half goal against the Seattle Sounders at StubHub Center. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)
Ibrahimovic found a way to one-up his debut season in MLS.
The Galaxy striker bagged eight more goals than he did in 2018 and he did so through eight multi-goal performances.
Ibrahimovic put pressure on Vela for the Golden Boot with 14 goals in the Galaxy’s last 10 regular-season contests.
1. Carlos Vela, F, Los Angeles FC
LAFC forward Carlos Vela (10) scores a goal against LA Galaxy in the first half at Banc of California Stadium. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
The 2019 MLS MVP dominated opposing defenses all season.
Vela crushed the league’s single-season scoring record with 34 tallies in his second season with LAFC.
The Mexican forward had a pair of hat tricks, with his second one coming on Decision Day to secure the Golden Boot.
After July 1, Vela produced 18 of his 34 goals and found the back of the net in all but one his appearances during that stretch.