Ranking MLS’s top 20 players
The inaugural Yahoo! Sports 20 – our list of the best players in Major League Soccer – created a storm in February, generating a huge response from readers.
Except for a large chunk of New England Revolution fans furious that striker Taylor Twellman had been omitted, the feedback was very positive. However, one man in particular was not too happy with the list – Los Angeles Galaxy’s Landon Donovan.
Donovan called me out on the Galaxy’s preseason tour of Hawaii, calling my No. 11 ranking of him “garbage” and shaking his head in disbelief.
“I’m going to use it as motivation,” he said. “I’m going to play so well next season that you have no choice but to put me at No. 1.”
Well, Donovan has been true to his word, scoring eight goals in the opening month of the new MLS season.
When Donovan dominates, he looks like a player who would be right at home in the upper levels of the top European leagues. Even though he was pushed very close by his Galaxy teammate David Beckham, and the inspired Guillermo Barros Schelotto of the Columbus Crew, there was only one legitimate choice for the top spot.
There are six new faces, five of them newcomers to the league, plus Frankie Hejduk, whose defensive efforts have helped the Crew produce a sensational start at a league-best 5-1. Donovan made the biggest jump of 10 spots, while D.C. United striker Luciano Emilio fell 17 places to 20th.
TOP 20 PLAYERS IN MLS (previous ranking in parentheses)
1. (11) Landon Donovan, forward, Los Angeles Galaxy – He didn’t like being ranked 11th last time and has jumped to the top spot with some superb performances this season.
2. (4) David Beckham, midfielder, Los Angeles Galaxy – Now fully fit and highly motivated, Beckham is showing some of his finest form.
3. (7) Guillermo Barros Schelotto, midfielder, Columbus Crew – Off-season rumors that he was unsettled haven’t stopped him from carrying the Crew on his shoulders.
5. (8) Jozy Altidore, forward, New York Red Bulls – Altidore is continuing to improve and the European scouts are still circling.
6. (1) Shalrie Joseph, midfielder, New England Revolution – Not to blame for the Revs’ slow start, he’s still a class act in midfield.
7. (2) Brad Guzan, goalkeeper, Chivas USA – He was ordinary against the Galaxy last month, but he has generally handled the disappointment of his Premiership move collapse well.
8. (NR) Laurent Robert, midfielder, Toronto FC – Robert has made a great start and is a quality player, but John Carver must keep him motivated.
9. (NR) Amado Guevara, midfielder, Toronto FC – He’s bouncing back after a nightmare stint at Chivas. Smart business by Toronto to sign him.
10. (10) Juan Pablo Angel, forward, New York Red Bulls – Angel has been largely inactive this season due to injuries, but he is still one of the league’s most dangerous marksmen.
11. (13) Sacha Kljestan, midfielder, Chivas USA – Not the most physical of midfielders but possesses bags of talent. Tremendous footwork and a great attitude bring out his best.
12. (NR) Claudio Lopez, forward, Kansas City Wizards – Lopez and the Wizards made a flying start before tailing off. Lopez isn’t getting any younger, but he still has plenty of the old magic.
13. (NR) Marcelo Gallardo, midfielder, D.C. United – Gallardo has not made the best of starts but his quality is clear to see. Should adapt better over the coming months.
14. (15) Kyle Beckerman, midfielder, Real Salt Lake – A tough character and the heartbeat of an improving team, Beckerman keeps growing in stature.
15. (6) Dwayne De Rosario, midfielder/forward, Houston Dynamo – What’s gone wrong with the Dynamo? DeRo needs to step up and revive the defending champions.
16. (5) Michael Parkhurst, defender, New England Revolution – Despite not being as dominant or effective as last year, he remains one of the league’s premier defenders.
17. (NR) Frankie Hejduk, defender, Columbus Crew – Hejduk has been a rock for the Crew, as they have put together an unexpected early surge. Organized, experienced and efficient.
19. (NR) Duilio Davino, defender, FC Dallas. A calm head at the back, Davino has added some steel to Steve Morrow’s roster.
20. (3) Luciano Emilio, forward, D.C. United. Emilio does not look like the dominant force he was last season. Still, he is dangerous in the box.