Major League Soccer

MLS Week 19 best players - ranked

Chris Smith
Castellanos scored twice as NYCFC beat Inter Miami 2-0 on Saturday.
Castellanos scored twice as NYCFC beat Inter Miami 2-0 on Saturday. / Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Another week is in the books and the MLS Cup playoffs are racing into view.

It's at this time of the season where teams need their very best players to step up. Whether you're battling for Supporters' Shield or just to scrape over the playoff line, difference-makers, well, they make all the difference.

So, looking back at Week 19, who are the best individual performers in MLS? Let's rank the top five.

5. Jonathan Klinsmann

It's rare to even have a goalkeeper considered for a Player of the Week ranking, so to try and decide between two is just excruciating.

Jonathan Klinsmann and Stefan Cleveland both made seven saves for their respective sides over the weekend, both defied the laws of physics at times to keep the ball out of the net, and both were a huge reason behind the Galaxy and the Sounders picking up three points respectively.

Klinsmann just about shades it on account of his clean sheet, but this is so harsh on Cleveland, who we hope feels nice and cosy in the 'honourable mentions' section.

4. Raul Ruidiaz

There are some truly iconic, club-defining strikers in this league and Raul Ruidiaz is absolutely one of them.

The Peruvian steps up in the biggest occasions time and again for the Sounders, and a Cascadia Cup match against the Portland Timbers is just one of those.

Sunday's brace took him to eight goals in nine appearances against the Timbers - no other MLS side has felt his wrath more. His first was particularly impressive, lashing home a free kick and leaving Aljaž Ivačič with absolutely no chance.

When a two-goal performance not only takes you top of the Golden Boot standings, but also inspires a 6-2 thrashing of your closest rivals, it's a performance certainly worthy of a place in this top five.

3. Valentin Castellanos

Taty Castellanos might frustrate at times with some wild finishing, but when he's on it, he's on it.

Saturday night was one of those occasions, with the Argentine heading home a delicious delivery from compatriot Maxi Moralez before firing home from the spot to hand NYCFC a 2-0 win over Inter Miami.

It didn't stop there, of course. Castellanos put in a monstrous effort for his team, making four tackles, three clearances and winning three aerial duels.

In the absence of Heber, Castellanos has gone above and beyond for NYCFC and they simply wouldn't be second in the East (or enjoying the weekend's win) without him.

2. Francisco Calvo

Francisco Calvo was in immense defensive form for the Fire.
Francisco Calvo was in immense defensive form for the Fire. / Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

'A Chicago Fire centre-back above all that attacking talent?!', we hear you ask. Honestly, go back and watch their priceless and hard-fought 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew at the weekend and you'll get it.

Calvo was an absolute wall at the back for Raphael Wicky's men. If the Crew tried to play into Gyasi Zardes' feet, the Costa Rican was there to intercept. If they went behind, he mopped up. Hell, if they launched it down his throat, he swallowed it whole and burped it back out at the other end of the pitch.

By the time the final whistle went, with several Fire players dropping to the floor in exhaustion, Calvo had logged match-highs for aerial duels won (4) and interceptions (5). What's more, he also made six tackles and three clearances, completed three dribbles and created one chance.

That's a quite frankly ridiculous stat return and only befitting of what the eyes witnessed.

A monumental win that keeps the Fire's ever-so-faint playoff hopes alive, all made possible by a monumental effort from their captain.

1. CJ Sapong

CJ Sapong doesn't care how many DP forwards he has to keep on the bench at Nashville (it's two, by the way), he's just going to keep doing what he's always done: score goals.

The 32-year-old netted another two during Nashville's 5-2 crushing of DC United on Sunday, taking his season total to eight in just 1,154 minutes.

But it wasn't just his goals that put Sapong so high on this list. He led the line brilliantly against a much-improved DCU team, stretching the defence with clever runs and creating no fewer than three chances for his teammates.

Nashville continue to push high in the East and instead of it being inspired by Jhonder Cadiz or Ake Loba, Sapong is the one fronting the attack - alongside the brilliant Hany Mukhtar, of course.

Honourable mentions: Stefan Cleveland, Fredy Montero, Alan Pulido, George Bello, Hany Mukhtar, Daniel Salloi, Josef Martinez, Lalas Abubakar, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Miles Robinson, Cole Bassett, Jimmy Medranda, Joao Paulo, Nathan.