You know when your friend drops the “He’s a top 5 player!” into a sentence and you think to yourself, “But is he really?”
Well, it happens around our offices often. So I went through and made a list of my top-five performers in every position from the 2018 season.
Stefan Frei | USA Today Images
There wasn’t a clear standout goalkeeper this year the way Melia put his stamp on 2017. I wouldn’t argue too hard if anyone switched the order of this group. It's also the only position in which all five players are domestic.
Right back & right wingback:
Graham Zusi | USA Today Images
Zusi led all right-sided defenders (I’m including right backs in a four-back set as well as wingbacks in a five-defender system in this category) in expected goals and expected assists, and started 34 games for a defense that finished second in the West in goals conceded (though Zusi was the weakest individual defender in the group). I included Gressel as a right wingback because he was awesome in his handful of games in the position.
Left back & left wingback:
Kemar Lawrence | USA Today Images
Lawrence showed he’s the best left back in the league for another season. MLS newcomer Valenzuela put together a solid first year, but is still a tier below the Jamaican. It was fun to watch the resurrection of Castillo, and it’s a strange thing to say, but did he have the best club season of any left back in the USMNT player pool?
Aaron Long | USA Today Images
The top four clearly stood out ahead of the rest this year. I wouldn’t argue with anyone who swapped their order. The fifth spot was tougher; I chose Zimmerman because of the difficult demands of playing in LAFC’s system, but Tim Parker, Kim Kee-Hee, Matt Hedges, Ike Opara, and Matt Besler would have all been good choices.
Diego Chara | USA Today Images
Taylor Twellman made a great observation when he joined the Playoff Central shows ahead of MLS Cup: Chara has never made an MLS All-Star team. Wild, huh? Remedi and Larentowicz split the honor as they shared the midfield anchoring duties in Atlanta.
Alejandro Bedoya | USA Today Images
Box-to-box midfielder is the toughest position to stand out in soccer today. Good teams play the game so methodically that the marauding, do-everything midfielders don’t have as much of an impact. But it was never tough to notice these five guys, and none more so than Bedoya. He didn’t put up big numbers, but played a part of every phase of Philly’s game. I also included Roldan on this list even though he played wide for much of the year – he played winger a lot like he plays midfield, and generally played the box-to-box role from a wider starting point.
Miguel Almiron (top) | USA Today Images
Needless to say, this was the toughest position to pick a top five. Somehow the league leader in assists didn’t even make the list (though, to be honest, I think I’m punishing him for not returning next season). To put the depth of this position into perspective, the next five would include Diego Valeri, Borek Dockal, "Pipa" Higuain, Kaku, and Maxi Moralez. I also feel pretty confident about the order of the top five, so keep your complaints to your r/MLS groups.
Ignacio Piatti | USA Today Images
Not as stacked as I had expected. Piatti was the runaway winner, and Blanco was the easy choice at No. 2. I’m a big Rossi fan, but it didn’t feel like he was the fourth best winger in the league, did it? Anyone I’m missing? Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, Romain Alessandrini and Jefferson Savarino all had moments, but ultimately up and down seasons.
Josef Martinez | USA Today Images
This one was pretty straightforward. Three finalists for MVP, another who should have been a finalist (BWP), and a former MVP winner. I considered Mauro Manotas, David Villa, Raul Ruidiaz, and Gyasi Zardes for the fifth spot since it felt like Giovinco had a down year, but the Italian still put together 13 goals and 15 assists.