Sebastian Lletget - Kyle Beckerman - LA Galaxy - Real Salt Lake - action

Injuries to key players have helped shape the fate of several teams this season and could still prove major factors come playoff time.


Of the players who have fallen injured this year, these are the ones that have arguably had the most devastating impact on their respective club's season, including in the upcoming playoffs.


11. Jonathan Spector (Orlando City)

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Spector only missed five games to a knee injury between August and September, but it came at a critical time when Orlando needed to starting making a playoff push. Orlando’s dependency on the American center back was evident as the team went 1W-3L-1D in his absence, conceding 11 goals across the five matches.


10. Maxime Chanot (NYCFC)

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So far, New York City have coped well without Maxime Chanot, one of the team’s star center backs, who has missed the last 12 games with a pelvic injury and sports hernia surgery. NYCFC have only lost two of those, but the real trouble will come in the playoffs, when the games become much more testing. At that point NYCFC will need Chanot. He should be back by then, but will he be 100 percent?


9. Mike Grella (NY Red Bulls)

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The New York Red Bulls are a hard-working side, but they are heavily dependent on Sacha Kljestan – and lately Tyler Adams – for playmaking inspiration. They've missed the individual craft and guile in the final third of a player like Mike Grella, whose season-ending knee injury in July has proven a significant loss. The Red Bulls should still make the playoffs, but they desperately need someone, like Grella, who can make a big play out of nothing.


8. Fanendo Adi (Portland Timbers)

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Star forward Fanendo Adi has missed the last eight games with the Portland Timbers due to a hamstring injury and might not be back before the playoffs. In MVP form, Diego Valeri has picked up much of the scoring slack in Adi’s absence, with eight goals, but how long can that realistically continue? Adi’s hold-up play and box presence are integral to the way the Timbers play.


7. Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids)

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In 2016, the Colorado Rapids had the league’s best defense and Axel Sjoberg, the imposing Swedish center back, was the team’s best defender, an MLS Best XI member and a Defender of the Year finalist. After starting the first two games of the season, Sjoberg missed the next eight games with a hamstring injury which contributed to the Rapids going into a tailspin. During his absence, the Rapids lost six games and conceded 15 goals. They never recovered.


6. Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)

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The LA Galaxy’s historically poor season started ominously. They lost the first two games at home. And then got hit by a long-term injury to Sebastian Lletget, who suffered a foot fracture in World Cup qualifying. It’s hard to estimate what the season would have looked like had Lletget remained healthy, but there’s no question he could have been an effective and reliable two-way player anywhere across the midfield.


5. Michael de Leeuw (Chicago Fire)

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How the Chicago Fire will manage without Michael de Leeuw is one of the most intriguing questions of this late stage of the season. De Leeuw, who will be out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL suffered in Week 30, has played a critical role in how this Fire side develops its attacks. The Dutch forward, who plays mostly as a No. 10 or second striker, leads the Fire with eight assists. The loss might force Bastian Schweinsteiger to move higher up the field.


4. Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers)

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Of the teams that occupy a playoff position, the Portland Timbers have the second worst defensive record (only behind Real Salt Lake). A big reason for that has been the foot and quad injuries endured by captain and defender—the team’s best defender—Liam Ridgewell, which forced the Timbers to acquire Larrys Mabiala from Kayserispor. The Timbers have been shaky without Ridgewell, who’s missed 19 games.


3. Ambroise Oyongo (Montreal Impact)

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Narrow and repetitive attacking maneuvers, over reliance on their designated players (Ignacio Piatti and Blerim Dzemaili) and lack of quality possession are some of the factors that have hurt the Impact’s offensive play this season. Left back Ambroise Oyongo, with his ability to get forward in wide areas and overall comfort on the ball, helps to resolve some of these issues. But a right knee injury in June while on international duty with Cameroon has kept the 26 year old out for most of the season. A massive loss for Montreal.


2. Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake)

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RSL’s season, so far, can be divided into two even parts: the first (16 games) without Justen Glad; the second (16 games) with Justen Glad. Without the 20-year-old center back, the team’s defensive player of the year in 2016 who who missed time due to a knee injury picked up in the CONCACAF Under-20 championship, RSL were 4W-10L-2D; with the center back they’re 8W-4L-4D. Although it’s probably reductive to attribute RSL’s dramatic turnaround solely to Glad’s return, it’s safe to say that RSL would be in a comfortable playoff position had Glad not missed the first half.


1. Yordy Reyna (Vancouver Whitecaps)

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The Vancouver Whitecaps are in first place in the Western Conference and comfortably so. That’s remarkable when you consider that star signing Yordy Reyna has missed 15 games this season. Based on what he's done in the nine matches he's started (four goals and three assists), is it a stretch to say the Whitecaps would be in the running for the Supporters' Shield had they had him all season?