Former Seattle Sounders winger Steve Zakuani joined the Extratime team this week to discuss a topic he knows best: wingers. He was tasked with picking out the league's top five wingers, and he dropped both compliments and hot takes.
Before he got started, he offered an honorable mention to LAFC's Brian Rodriguez, currently on loan at Almeria in Spain. "I just see so much potential there," Zakuani said. "He's very dangerous. Anytime he plays, he tries things. Once he puts it together, he'll be there, but he's not quite there."
Those that beat Rodriguez in Zakuani's eyes, though, are some of the league's best attacking players, and all enjoyed a strong 2020 season.
1. Diego Rossi, LAFC
Zakuani was particularly impressed with Rossi's form last year, which saw the Uruguayan capture the 2020 AT&T MLS Young Player of the Year and the Golden Boot presented by Audi with 14 goals and four assists, becoming the youngest player in MLS history to win that trophy. Filling a massive void left by the injured Carlos Vela proved his worth.
"He proved [himself] without Vela last year, he was unbelievable," Zakuani said. "Absolutely unbelievable player."
Zakuani did, though, stir a little controversy by saying he doesn't consider Vela a winger. "If I was a manager, I'd play Carlos Vela as a No. 9," he said. "I'd put him close to the ball and I'd put Rossi out wide."
2. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders FC
Zakuani picked Morris despite an ACL injury that will sideline him for a significant amount of time. It did not stop the ex-Sounder from recognizing Morris' talent, especially considering the Sounders connection.
"I'm biased and everything, but he's really good," Zakuani said. "As a winger in this league, I don't know what more you'd want someone to be doing. He does everything now as a winger. He's very, very good. Double digit goals on the wing."
3. Kevin Molino, Columbus Crew SC
Zakuani rates a pair of Crew wingers highly, the first being new addition Molino, who arrives in Columbus after a career season with Minnesota United.
"I thought this guy was the best player in the league in the playoffs," Zakuani said. "I think going now to this team in Columbus, they're going to feed him and he's going to be so good for them. What a pickup."
4. Pedro Santos, Columbus Crew SC
Molino is joined by new teammate Santos, who was a vital member of the Crew team that ended 2020 by lifting MLS Cup. Zakuani made this pick, courtesy of an assist from Santos' teammate Darlington Nagbe.
"Very good player," Zakuani said. "Very technical player. I know Nagbe's high on him. I talk to Darlington all the time and he's very, very high on him."
5. Johnny Russell, Sporting Kansas City
Rounding out Zakuani's top five is SKC's Russell, who has 25 goals and 23 assists in 79 regular season appearances since transferring from Derby County on Jan. 31, 2018.
"I love watching this guy play," he said. "I think at times he kind of goes under the radar for whatever reason, but when he's on at his absolute best — left, right, strong, powerful, tries things, can score hat tricks."
Snubs? How about Sebastian Blanco of the Portland Timbers? Chris Mueller of Orlando City SC? Nani?
Listen to the full conversation and the rest of this week's Extratime here.