Major League Soccer

MLS Week 26 best players - ranked

Chris Smith
Omir Fernandez created seven chances against Inter Miami on Friday.
Omir Fernandez created seven chances against Inter Miami on Friday. / Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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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 they're battling for Supporters' Shield or just scrapping over the playoff line, difference-makers, well, they make all the difference.

So, looking back at Week 26, who are the best individual performers in MLS? Let's rank the top five.

5. Omar Gonzalez (Toronto FC)

Omar Gonzalez was left high and dry by defensive partner Eriq Zavaleta for Nashville's equalising goal at the weekend. Perhaps he could have covered a little quicker? But he hit back immediately with a great finish at the far post to restore Toronto's lead, so no harm no foul either way.

Besides, Gonzalez was otherwise a defensive colossus, winning three aerial duels and making eight clearances as TFC pushed back wave after wave of Nashville pressure.

All too often, defenders get overlooked on lists like these, so we're here to salute some centre-back greatness off the bat.

4. Javier Eduardo Lopez (San Jose Earthquakes)

Fresh from scoring a stunning hat-trick against Real Salt Lake in Week 25, Chofis was back at it again netting a brace at the weekend. But whereas the Quakes lost 4-3 to RSL, they were able to beat Austin FC by the same scoreline.

His first strike was a clinical penalty to level the scores at 3-3 after the Quakes had fallen 3-1 down in Texas. And the second was a clinical reverse hit after Brad Stuver had initially saved a powerful long-range effort from Chofis himself.

San Jose are still alive in the Western Conference playoff chase and if Chofis can maintain his recent form, they might just sneak into the postseason.

3. Emanuel Reynoso (Minnesota United)

Following Minnesota United's thumping 3-0 win over the LA Galaxy, Adrian Heath revealed he's been encouraging Emanuel Reynoso to shoot more. Given the two goals he scored in that game, is it any wonder?

The Argentine put the game to bed within 20 minutes, netting twice from long range with equal precision. On another day, Reynoso could have notched a couple of assists with the chances he created, too, but a brace will do for now.

WIth Bebelo back fit, expect the Loons to rise up the standings and consolidate their place in the playoffs, especially with performances like this.

2. Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United)

With a goal and an assist, Ezequiel Barco's post-Olympics tear continues. The Argentine starlet has now notched six goals and five assists in nine MLS appearances since returning from Tokyo and has been a key figure in Atlanta United's surge up the Eastern Conference.

On Saturday, Barco set the tone against DC United with a superb free-kick inside 18 minutes, while he followed up with an assist for Josef Martinez's 99th goal for the Five Stripes after the break.

Just a couple of months ago, Atlanta United fans were worrying whether or not the club would even break even on Barco. Now, they're pleading for him to stick around another year.

1. Omir Fernandez (New York Red Bulls)

Even the most optimistic New York Red Bulls fan would've admitted their season was hanging by a thread. Fail to beat Inter Miami on Friday and it was over.

But 22-year-old Omir Fernandez put in a stunning performance in Florida to inspire his side to a much-needed and shock 4-0 win.

Fernandez doubled the Red Bulls' lead just after the half-hour mark, steaming into the box and heading home after some static Miami defending. But he didn't stop there, creating no fewer than seven chances on the night and completing three of his five attempted dribbles. Fernandez even did his bit defensively with two tackles and four recoveries.

This could be a season-defining performance for a youngster who has had to be really patient for his minutes in 2021.

Honourable mentions: Kacper Przybylko, Djordje Mihailovic, Romell Quioto, Griffin Dorsey, Romain Metanire, Auro, Eloy Room, Marcelino Moreno, Josef Martinez, Fabio, Patryk Klimala, Damir Kreilach, Aaron Herrera

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