2016 MLS MVP Race: Red Bulls Kljestan, Wright-Phillips charge up the chart

A month ago, Sebastian Giovinco narrowly led our inital rankings with New York City's David Villa in close pursuit. Injured against Montreal, it appears absence has indeed made the heart grow fonder: Giovinco has stretched out that margin as Villa has been pressured from below, mainly by recent US national team call-up Sacha Kljestan, joined in his charge up the charts by Red Bulls teammate Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Here's how we determined the rankings: 15 MLSsoccer.com staffers were polled for their top five MVP candidates, as of Sept. 5. Their votes were aggregated, resulting in the list below.

Five points were given to a player who received a 1st-place vote, four to a 2nd-place vote, three to a 3rd-place vote, two for a 4th-place vote and one point was given if a player received a 5th-place vote. The highest possible total was 75 points.

This is an unofficial list. It does NOT reflect actual MVP voting.

MVP Race

68

POINTS

RANK: 1

LAST MONTH: 1

Sebastian Giovinco

Toronto FC - Forward

Look, he's out. I get it. We get it. But Sebastian Giovinco is No. 3 in the race for the MLS Golden Boot, and No. 2 on the assists leaderboard. The only other player in both top 10s is … drumrollGiovani dos Santos (10 goals, 8 assists; 10th in each). If he comes back healthy, and closes the year anything close to how he's played the first two-thirds, put a bow on the repeat come award season.

WATCH: Sebastian Giovinco highlights

48

POINTS

RANK: 2

LAST MONTH: 2

David Villa

New York City FC - Forward

David Villa put up four goals and an assist since our last round of Politburo polling, and his 17 goals have him tied for the MLS Golden Boot lead heading into the home stretch. And NYCFC – 2-1-2 in those five games – remain atop the Eastern Conference standings. Always remember: David Villa is very, very good at soccer. Matt Doyle said so.

WATCH: David Villa highlights

39

POINTS

RANK: 3

LAST MONTH: 5

Sacha Kljestan

New York Red Bulls - Midfielder

Sacha Kljestan continues to pace the league in assists, enough to earn him a US national team call-up, a stage on which Kljestan performed just as he has for the past two years: admirably. But it's the MLS action that kept Kljestan rising since his fifth-place debut in this space. Three assists for Sacha and an undefeated 2-0-3 run for the squad, which continues to push for Eastern Conference supremacy.

WATCH: Sacha Kljestan highlights

22

POINTS

RANK: 4

LAST MONTH: 3

Mauro Diaz

FC Dallas - Midfielder

Mauro Diaz continues to produce – 2 goals, 1 assist since July 31 – and FC Dallas continue to lead the Supporters' Shield race, going 3-1-1 in that span. But the balance out in Frisco has flattened out the voting, which pushed Diaz down the list. Don't be surprised if the team ends up on top, giving Mauro another accolade to flaunt in his own pursuit of glory.

WATCH: Mauro Diaz highlights

20

POINTS

RANK: 5

LAST WEEK: N/A

Bradley Wright-Phillips

New York Red Bulls - Forward

Hard to believe that through seven games in 2016 Bradley Wright-Phillips was not only off the Golden Boot leaderboard, but scoreless. After righting that ship, he's ripped off a five-goal in four-game run to tie David Villa atop the goal-scoring standings. Nice to have an in-his-prime assist-machine for a teammate, innit? (See above) But the chances don't complete themselves – it's that finishing, tho.

WATCH: Bradley Wright-Phillips highlights

OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES (POINTS)
Diego Valeri (12), Ignacio Piatti (8), Matt Hedges (4), Roger Espinoza (2), Jelle Van Damme (2)