Major League Soccer

MLS Week 27 best players - ranked

Chris Smith
Julian Gressel moved to seven assists for the 2021 season over the weekend.
Julian Gressel moved to seven assists for the 2021 season over the weekend. / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

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 27, who are the best individual performers in MLS? Let's rank the top five.

5. Max Crepeau (Vancouver Whitecaps)

The Whitecaps' 1-0 win over FC Dallas at the weekend keeps them in with a real shot of making the playoffs for the first time since 2017, and they can thank goalkeeper Max Crepeau for it.

The Canada international made no fewer than seven saves on the night, one of which was to deny Franco Jara from the penalty spot in the 96th minute.

"I just had a great feeling he was going to save it," Whitecaps defender Andy Rose said after the match (via Coast Reporter). "And what an incredible moment. The belief, the momentum it gives the team, the togetherness it brings, those are the type of moments you want to be a part of when you join a club."

If Vancouver do, indeed, make the post-season, they'll look back at this as a key moment in doing so.

4. Julian Gressel (DC United)

Julian Gressel was only credited with two assists against FC Cincinnati - extending his tally to seven for the season - but he actually played a huge role in three.

The former Atlanta United man arguably has the best delivery in MLS, with his crosses always finding their mark whether floated to the far post, dangled in front of the goalkeeper, or drilled low across the box. In fact, he demonstrated all three of those on Saturday to help DC United to a 4-2 win.

That he also made three tackles and two interceptions on the night was just an added bonus.

3. Yimmi Chara (Portland Timbers)

The Chara brothers were in perfect form on Saturday, with Yimmi adding the third in Portland Timbers' third in a 6-1 win over Real Salt Lake, before setting up Diego for the fourth.

Chara Jnr's goal in the 48th minute was particularly spectacular, leading the Timbers forward on the break and combining with Sebastian Blanco before curling a beautiful finish beyond David Ochoa.

In reality, about four or five Timbers players could have populated this list. This time, we're giving a spot to Yimmi Chara for his goal, assist and overall terrorizing of the RSL defence.

2. Javier Lopez (San Jose Earthquakes)

Javier Lopez just cannot stop. Chofis popped up with another goal and assist to help the Quakes to a 2-0 win over California rivals LAFC at the weekend, making it six goals and an assist in his last three games alone.

His finish was clinical and the pass through to set up Benjamin Kikanovic in the third minute was superbly weighted.

"It's important to try and fit everyone in there, and fit Chofis in there in his natural position as the No.10 and get him the ball as much as possible," teammate Jackson Yueill said after the match, emphasising Chofis' importance to this team.

"I think it was a little bit of what LAFC showed and trying to work against them and finding the right spots to get Chofis on the ball and finding the right passes in behind. As you saw on the first goal, he was able to do that. The plan was to get him on the ball in central locations and try to work around him and try to eliminate LAFC's quality as well. That was the reasoning for that, and I think it worked out well today."

Similar to Crepeau and the Whitecaps, San Jose will owe a huge debt of gratitude to their Mexican forward if they manage to creep back into the playoff spots.

1. Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

Gyasi Zardes is well and truly back. We all probably thought that when he found the net in the Crew's 1-1 draw with the New England Revolution in midweek. There were no doubts after his brace fired the Crew to a vital 2-1 win over CF Montreal at the weekend.

Zardes' first strike was a typical striker's goal, timing his run perfectly to get free at the back post before poking home a Derrick Etienne Jr cross. His second was as spectacular a finish as you're likely to see, taking the ball inside and curling it perfectly into the top corner from just outside the box. Honestly, you can run the equations in your head over and over, there's no way you can strike a ball further into the corner than that.

This was the Zardes we're all used to, stepping up for Columbus in a huge battle between two playoff rivals. Now that he's back on form, Caleb Porter might just be able to salvage the 2021 season.

Honourable mentions: Jhohan Romana, Julio Cascante, Joao Paulo, Jonathan Bornstein, Sebastian Blanco, Dairon Asprilla, Leonard Owusu, Judson, Tyler Miller, Robin Lod, Dru Yearwood, Marlon Hairston, Paul Arriola, Steve Birnbaum