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MLS Player Rankings Week 23: Latif Blessing leaps into top 10

By now, we have come to expect at least three players from Los Angeles FC to land in the Pro Soccer USA Major League Soccer Player Rankings. 

This week is no different with a quartet of players led by Carlos Vela dominating one-fifth of the spots on the list of the top 20 in-form players in MLS.

Some of the other top teams across the league have multiple players on the list as well, including Atlanta United, New York City FC and the New England Revolution.

FC Dallas also put a duo on the list after Week 23 after scoring five goals in a victory over Minnesota United. 

Our player rankings take into account a player’s form over the last four games, with the most recent performance carrying a bit more weight.

20. Eduard Atuesta, M, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 9

Aug 11, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC midfielder Eduard Atuesta (20) and New York Red Bulls midfielder Cristian Casseres Jr (23) battle for the ball in the second half of the game at Banc of California Stadium. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Eduard Atuesta is typically one of the most consistent performers in the Los Angeles FC midfield, but his numbers dropped off a bit Sunday in a 4-2 win over the New York Red Bulls. 

The 22-year-old completed 76.7 percent of his 90 passes, almost 10 percent less than the 86.5 percent pass-success rate he has put together in 2019. 

Atuesta also committed four fouls while making three interceptions and a tackle in the defensive half. 

19. Kei Kamara, F, Colorado Rapids

Previous Ranking: 6

Aug 10, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Magnus Eriksson (7) and midfielder Luis Felipe (96) and Colorado Rapids forward Kei Kamara (23) collide in the second half at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Kei Kamara failed to follow up his Week 22 hat-trick with a goal in Colorado’s 3-1 win over San Jose. 

Kamara struck the post with one of his two shots, but that was the closest he would get to hitting the target at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. 

Since the Gold Cup break, the Sierra Leone international only has three tallies, all of which came against Montreal last week. 

18. Jozy Altidore, F, Toronto FC

Previous Ranking: 7 

Aug 10, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC forward Patrick Mullins celebrates his second half goal with forward Jozy Altidore (17) during the game at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports

Once August began, Jozy Altidore’s production in front of the net dried up. 

The U.S. Men’s National Team forward is scoreless in two games after striking in four consecutive games in July for Toronto FC.

In order for Greg Vanney’s team to emerge from the mess around the red line in the Eastern Conference with a playoff berth, Altidore must turn in a slew of solid performances. 

17. Przemyslaw Tyton, GK, FC Cincinnati

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Aug 10, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton (22) chases a loose ball ahead of midfielder Derrick Etienne Jr (16) during the second half against Columbus Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium. (Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)

Przemyslaw Tyton becomes the second FC Cincinnati goalkeeper to crack this list after Spencer Richey did so earlier. 

Tyton came up with a few massive denials to keep a point for the expansion side in the inaugural Hell Is Real meeting between FC Cincinnati and Columbus in MLS. 

In total, Tyton made four saves and earned a nod on the MLS Team of the Week. 

16. Brian White, F, New York Red Bulls

Previous Ranking: 19 

Aug 3, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls forward Brian White (42) plays the ball against Toronto FC during the second half at Red Bull Arena. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

Brian White was credited with his ninth goal of 2019 after the New York Red Bulls loss to LAFC.

White’s strike was initially ruled an own goal, but the club tweeted Monday it was overturned and given to the young American striker. 

White is currently tied with Altidore, Gyasi Zardes and Chris Wondolowski as the highest-scoring American in MLS. 

15. Valentin Castellanos, M, New York City FC

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

Aug 11, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York City FC midfielder Valentin Castellanos (11) gets off a shot in front of Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Valentin Castellanos produced his second brace of the season in New York City FC’s 3-2 victory over the Houston Dynamo Thursday. 

The 20-year-old Argentine achieved the feat in a 32-minute stint off the bench in a match that was not decided until the final minutes. 

Castellanos also chipped in with an assist on Heber’s goal in the 2-1 defeat to Atlanta United Sunday. 

14. Sebastian Blanco, F, Portland Timbers

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Aug 10, 2019; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco (10) passes the ball during the first half against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Providence Park. (Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports)

With Diego Valeri, Brian Fernandez and Diego Chara in the Portland lineup, Sebastian Blanco sometimes gets overlooked, but he is just as important to the Timbers success. 

In Saturday’s 3-1 win over Vancouver, Blanco scored his fourth goal and picked up his 10th assist of 2019, giving him back-to-back 10-assist campaigns. 

With his next handout, Blanco will have 30 in his three years with the Timbers. 

13. Paxton Pomykal, M, FC Dallas

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

Aug 10, 2019; Frisco, TX, USA; FC Dallas midfielder Brandon Servania (18) celebrates with midfielder Paxton Pomykal (19) after scoring a goal during the second half against Minnesota United at Toyota Stadium. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Paxton Pomykal was an integral part of FC Dallas’ attacking success in Saturday’s 5-3 triumph over Minnesota United. 

The U-20 World Cup participant more than doubled his assist total for the season by playing a role in three of his team’s scores. 

The individual performance and victory were welcome sights for a squad in the thick of the playoff hunt. 

12. Michael Barrios, M, FC Dallas

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

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 also contributed three assists to the FC Dallas attack at Toyota Stadium. 

The 28-year-old Colombian ended up with five key passes in the eight-goal thrilled in Frisco. 

Barrios’ handouts were his 33rd, 34th and 35th in a FC Dallas shirt and it secured a second double-digit assist season in three years. 

11. Marco Fabian, M, Philadelphia Union

Previous Ranking: 5 

Aug 11, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Marco Fabian (10) controls the ball against the Houston Dynamo during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Marco Fabian was not as active in the Philadelphia attack on Sunday as he was in Week 22. 

The Mexican midfielder dished out three key passes, but he failed to fire a shot on target after scoring twice a week ago. 

In order for the Union to avoid future letdowns, Fabian needs to be at his best in every game with first place in the team’s sights. 

10. Jordan Morris, F, Seattle Sounders

Previous Ranking: 13 

Aug 10, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (10) celebrates with forward Jordan Morris (13) after scoring a goal against the New England Revolution in the second half at CenturyLink Field. The teams played to a 3-3 tie. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

A week after scoring twice, Jordan Morris turned into a provider for the Seattle Sounders with a pair of assists in the 3-3 home draw with New England. 

Morris is in the middle of his best three-game stretch of the season with three goals and two assists in games against Houston, Sporting Kansas City and New England.

Unfortunately for the Sounders, the American’s increased production has not yet translated to wins, with four dropped points at CenturyLink Field in the last two matches. 

9. Gustavo Bou, F, New England Revolution

Previous Ranking: 18 

Jul 27, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution forward Gustavo Bou (7) runs after the ball during the first half against the Orlando Cityat Gillette Stadium. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Gustavo Bou deposited his third goal in a Revolution shirt into the back of the net Saturday. 

The Argentinian has been a difference-maker in all facets of the game for Bruce Arena’s side, which recovered from a loss to LAFC with a hard-fought point in Seattle. 

Bou’s numbers may not be as eye-popping as others in the top 10, but his impact has been as large in the five games he has played. 

8. Julian Gressel, M, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 20 

Aug 11, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) reacts with defender Julian Gressel (24) after scoring on a penalty kick against the New York City FC during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Julian Gressel’s uptick in form in the Atlanta United midfield has helped the Five Stripes earn a stronghold in second place in the Eastern Conference. 

On Sunday against NYCFC, the German midfielder delivered seven key passes and picked up his eighth assist of the campaign. 

Since July 17, Gressel has produced one goal and five assists for Frank De Boer’s side. 

7. Latif Blessing, M, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked 

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 is one of the many unsung heroes in the LAFC squad producing at a high level all season. 

The midfielder, who recently earned a contract extension with the club, scored in his second straight game in the 4-2 win over the Red Bulls. 

Blessing only has four goals and five assists, but has been a relentless worker for Bob Bradley’s side in all aspects of the game. 

6. Diego Rossi, F, Los Angeles FC 

Previous Ranking: 3 

Aug 3, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Diego Rossi (9) celebrates with defender Jordan Harvey (2) and forward Latif Blessing (7) after scoring against the New England Revolution during the first half at Gillette Stadium. (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

Diego Rossi attempted a single shot that went off target in LAFC’s latest win. 

The reality is every LAFC player will not have immaculate performances week in and week out, but what makes the runaway Supporters’ Shield leaders so strong is there is no major drop off because others pick up the load. 

In seven games since the start of July, Rossi has five goals. In the two games he has not scored, Rossi failed to put a shot on goal. 

5. Heber, F, New York City FC 

Previous Ranking: 10 

Aug 11, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York City FC forward Heber (9) reacts after scoring a goal against Atlanta United during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Heber joined the growing list of double-digit scorers in MLS by striking the back of the net at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday. 

The Brazilian forward, who earned an assist in the win over Houston Thursday, is up to 10 goals and four assists in 16 games for Dome Torrent’s side. 

In Week 24, Heber faces a FC Cincinnati squad he scored twice against June 6. 

4. Vako, M, San Jose Earthquakes

Previous Ranking: 8 

Jul 12, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Vako Kazaishvili (11) moves the ball against the LA Galaxy in the first half at Dignity Health Sports Park. The Earthquakes defeated the Galaxy 3-1. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Vako inched closer to the 10-goal mark in Week 23 by scoring his eighth tally of 2019. 

The midfielder is one of many players on this list on a tear that started in July.

Vako has found the back of the net in four of his last five games and has nine shots on target in his last four. 

3. Carles Gil, M, New England Revolution

Previous Ranking: 4

Jul 17, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution forward Carles Gil (22) reacts after a goal during the second half against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Gillette Stadium. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

For the fourth time in five games, Carles Gil recorded a goal and an assist for New England. 

The Spaniard’s play was one of the main reasons why the Revs were able to steal a vital point from Seattle in the playoff race. 

With one more goal, Gil will join Carlos Vela as players with 10+ goals and assists in 2019. 

2. Carlos Vela, F, Los Angeles FC

Previous Ranking: 2 

Aug 11, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) is congratulated after scoring on a penalty kick past New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles (31) in the second half of the game at Banc of California Stadium. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Speaking of Vela, he turned in yet another impressive showing for LAFC Sunday night. 

This time around, the Mexican forward produced a goal and two assists to help his side rally for the win after the Red Bulls tied the game just before halftime. 

Vela is now tied with Sebastian Giovinco for the most combined goals and assists in a single MLS season with 38 (23 goals, 15 assists). 

1. Josef Martinez, F, Atlanta United

Previous Ranking: 1 

Aug 11, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) reacts with defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (5) after scoring on a penalty kick against the New York City FC during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Aug 11, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) reacts with defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (5) after scoring on a penalty kick against the New York City FC during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Josef Martinez is not ready to surrender the top spot back to Vela. 

The Venezuelan striker pounced for two more goals Sunday to boost his season total to 20. In the process, he broke his own record of consecutive games with a goal, which now stands at 10. 

That scoring streak, and the trio of three-goal performances since the start of July, has Martinez pegged above Vela for the time being. 

The post MLS Player Rankings Week 23: Latif Blessing leaps into top 10 appeared first on Pro Soccer USA.

Original author: Joe Tansey, Pro Soccer USA
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