There have been many standout performers in the MLS is Back Tournament. A lot of them are already home.
LAFC’s Diego Rossi virtually has the Golden Boot presented by Audi in the bag with his seven goals, but he was eliminated by Orlando City SC. Darlington Nagbe was a standout in the midfield for Columbus Crew SC. He and the Crew were sent packing by Minnesota United FC.
So who are the top 10 players left in the tournament? Who would be the top players off the board in virtual fantasy draft?
You can see what I think below. The criteria are the top players I would want for the semifinals on Wednesday and Thursday. A couple players who had a shot to make the list — Romain Metanire and Badger legend Chris Mueller — were discounted due to their injuries.
No. 10: Mauricio Pereyra
Despite an impressive pedigree, Pereyra has flown mostly under the radar since he joined the Lions last July. Of course his 0g/3a stat line in just 394 minutes at the end of the 2019 season didn’t help. While he has just one goal and no assists at the tournament, Pereyra has been a hub of possession for the Lions, completing over 85% of his passes despite playing in attacking position. He has also been dangerous in 1v1 situations, completing 13 of his 19 dribbles. The 13 completed dribbles are tied for the second most in the tourney.
No. 9: Mark McKenzie
It was a hard choice between McKenzie and his center back partner Jack Elliott — as both have been outstanding in Philly’s run to the semifinals. But the edge goes to McKenzie thanks to his continued excellence on the ball. The Homegrown has also improved his physicality, winning 55% of his duels and putting in 10 tackles.
No. 8: Brenden Aaronson
In Philly, the team is truly the star — as they may be the most balanced team left. All of their front six have had their good games and so-so games. Aaronson’s best games have been at the top, even with Sergio Santos putting in three goals in the two Knockout Stage games. The 19-year-old showed off his improved passing vision, while continuing his unrelenting prowess in Philly’s press. His three assists are tied for fifth at MLS is Back.
No. 7: Pedro Gallese
The Lions have conceded just four goals in their first five games so far. While a lot of that can be credited to Oscar Pareja’s improved tactics, some has to go to the Peruvian international Gallese. He made big saves to stymie LAFC in the second half of Orlando’s quarterfinal matchup and has conceded just the four goals despite the expected goals on target faced figure sitting at almost six.
No. 6: Diego Chara
Chara is still going strong in the middle of Portland’s midfield, clogging up passing lanes and breaking up counterattacks like it’s 2013. He has the highest passing accuracy among any player with at least 300 minutes in Orlando and chipped in 11 tackles and interceptions (T-4th most) each.
No. 5: Jan Gregus
The first of Minnesota’s two center midfielders on this list, Gregus sits at No. 5 not only thanks to his range and physicality in the middle — but also because of his exceptional delivery on the Loons’ set pieces. While he has just two assists, Gregus has been a major contributor to his team’s eight set-piece goals. Include his 88% pass completion rate and the Slovakian has been a dynamo at center mid.
No. 4: Osvaldo Alonso
Thanks to Gregus, Alonso hasn’t had to do as much running as he’s typically been asked to do. Instead, with Ike Opara out, Alonso has been asked to sit in front of the back four and break up anything that comes his way — which he’s done with exceptional effect. His usual high figures in duel success rate (55%) and passing accuracy (92%) are no surprise and there’s no doubting the 34-year old’s dominance.
No. 3: Nani
The Portuguese legend had some impressive box score figures in 2019. But they didn’t do much to help the Lions with their point total. That has changed at the MLS is Back Tournament.
In addition to his four total goals and assists, Nani sits in the top 12 of both chances created and expected assists. He’s been the focal point of an attack that has been consistent, while also relying on Pereyra and Mueller to pick up the slack.
No. 2: Andre Blake
The Jamaican international is back. After a down 2019, the former Goalkeeper of the Year has been in his top form in Orlando. Blake has given up just three goals despite the Union conceding 8.06 expected goals from shots on target. So on average, you would have expected Philly’s opponents to concede eight goals. That -5.06 figure is far and away the best of any ‘keeper in Orlando.
No. 1: Sebastian Blanco
Diego Valeri deserves a statue outside of Providence Park. But despite being close to his top form, it’s clear he no longer should be the main attacking hub for the Portland Timbers. And you can look at Giovanni Savarese’s recent starting XI’s, which have not included Valeri in two of the last three matches, if you want any confirmation. Starting Valeri on the bench, and using him a supersub, has opened the game up for Sebastian Blanco. The 32-year-old Argentine has two goals and five assists in Orlando and has been the catalyst for almost every Timbers goal. Letting Blanco take the keys to the Timbers attack is the main reason they are in the semifinals and he’s earned the No. 1 spot on this list.