In every Major League Soccer season, there's a bunch of players that hog the spotlight and then there's a considerable number of guys who do yeoman's work with a lot less fanfare.
We're here to celebrate the latter group of performers that for some reason or another fit the description of underrated aces to a tee. I surveyed some of my MLSsoccer.com colleagues for their thoughts on the matter, but in the end, the calls were all mine.
The more MLS improves, the harder it gets to whittle these lists down to the magic number. This one was no exception, as it took a lot of indecisive shuffling to arrive at the ten underrated gems indexed below. As is typically the case, this degree of difficulty makes for an excellent honorable mentions group: Valentin Castellanos, Maxime Crepeau, Jack Elliott, Jordan Harvey, Aaron Herrera, Jorge Moreira, Pedro Santos and Matt Turner.
We'll roll these out in alphabetical order and to give you an idea of how underappreciated they often are, list the number of times they've received MLS Team of the Week honors in 2019 next to their names.
Steve Clark (2)
Portland didn't turn their season around at the exact moment Clark took over the starting job in goal, but it was pretty close. On the term, the Timbers are 12-4-2 (garnering an LAFC-like 2.11 points per game) with a 0.94 goals against average when he starts and 1-7-2 with a 2.4 GAA when he doesn't. The veteran backstop is a close second in the league in goals against-expected goals against, and has repeatedly committed high larceny to steal points. Eight of his 12 victories have been by one goal, and that doesn't even count the above episode from a July draw with Colorado.
Magnus Eriksson (1)
The San Jose midfielder's first MLS campaign was decent if a bit underwhelming, but the Earthquakes have felt the full force of his game in 2019. Playing both wide right and in the middle, the playmaker has matched last year's goal total in six fewer games, nearly doubled his key pass output (Eriksson is second in the league with an average of 3.6 per game) and done it all while actually being much safer with the ball. He has expertly combined with newcomer Cristian Espinoza — who would have been a cinch for this list before he started drawing deserved publicity — to transform the Quakes' final third play.
Andrew Farrell (1)
Now fully converted from a right back to a central defender, Farrell has been a key man during the Bruce Arena-engineered season U-turn in New England. When the 27-year-old made the switch for good in mid-May, the left-for-dead Revs went on an 11-game unbeaten run with but nine goals allowed (despite their revolving door backline) to crash the playoff picture. Though undersized for a center back, his smooth ways have relegated the far more expensive duo of Antonio Delamea and Michael Mancienne to part-timer status.
Jan Gregus (1)
The only Designated Player on this list somehow goes without much press despite being one of the very best No. 8 midfielders in the league this year. The high usage Minnesota United traffic director does pretty much everything well for a club experiencing its breakout campaign. Gregus ably supports both the attack and defense, leading the Loons in assists, key passes and pass interceptions while being nearly impossible to dispossess. His consistent excellence has greatly reduced the workload for the Ozzie Alonso, allowing the 33-year-old to continue operating a high level.
Robin Jansson (0)
Last season, Orlando City established a dubious new standard by leaking 74 goals, or 2.18 per game. This year, the Lions have allowed just 41 in 30 games (1.37 per game, eighth-best in MLS). Only four teams have allowed fewer open play goals, and only one has conceded fewer from set pieces. That's not to say that Jansson is solely responsible for the improvement, but they are 0-2-4 with a 1.83 GAA in the games he missed. He has definitely been a stabilizing force for a team that needed one and the perfect partner for Lamine Sane.
Jamiro Monteiro (1)
It's no secret that I think the all-purpose Philly Union midfielder should be counted among the top non-Carlos Vela candidates in the MVP race. The Eastern Conference title chasers have posted but two of their 15 victories in the eight games played without Monteiro. He provides supplemental offense, slicing dribbles through central park, tough tackling, reliable metronome passing and just about any other midfield duty one can think of for a club enjoying what is easily the best regular season in its 10-year history.
Eric Remedi (0)
Amid all of Atlanta United's headline-grabbing talent, it is their no-nonsense defensive midfielder that most often goes criminally unnoticed. Remedi's positioning, bite and pressure valve ball movement that make life easier for both the stingiest defense in the East and the Five Stripes' lightning strike attack. They've only won one of the five games he's sat out since the Argentine gate-keeper arrived last summer, and he has played a big part in the titles they've celebrated since then.
Alexander Ring (1)
We go from one under-heralded midfield plumber to another. Ring's dirty work — which includes an active, hard-nosed defensive patrol and the highest possession support supplied by any MLS defensive midfielder — is what allows NYCFC's painters to break out their brushes. The skipper has even raised his offensive game a few levels this season, pitching in four goals, five helpers and a career-best 29 key passes for the Eastern Conference leaders.
Eddie Segura (1)
Everyone knows that LAFC have the scariest attack in the league this season, if not all time. Lesser known is the fact that Bob Bradley also guides the most miserly defense in MLS. They've been able to slice darned near 0.6 goals per game off of last year's average, and there's only one new member of the starting backline. Segura (who basically has the same notoriety problem as Remedi) arrived with almost no fanfare and has quietly gone about solidifying the West leaders at the back while also passing out of it at an 89% clip.
Anton Tinnerholm (2)
Were it not for newcomers Romain Metanire and Ruan making off with so much of the limited supply of MLS right back publicity, the NYCFC ace might not even qualify for this honor roll. Despite bouncing back and forth between two different formations, Tinnerholm has stealthily been even more of a field-tilting, danger cross-serving menace than he was last season. He's also improved his defense, and done it while dramatically reducing the number of fouls committed. The Bronx outfit obviously agree, as they inked him to a fresh multi-year deal on Friday.