Major League Soccer

MLS Week 30 best players - ranked

Chris Smith
Cristian Arango notched two goals and an assist as LAFC beat San Jose Earthquakes 3-1.
Cristian Arango notched two goals and an assist as LAFC beat San Jose Earthquakes 3-1. / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Week 30 is done and dusted and the MLS Cup playoffs are just a month away.

There's no margin for error now and whether you're battling for Supporters' Shield or just scrapping over the playoff line, it's time for the difference-makers to step up and prove their worth.

So, looking back at the weekend's action, who were the best individual performers in MLS? Let's rank the top five.

5. Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

Gyasi Zardes has suffered for the national team recently, likely losing his starting spot to Ricardo Pepi moving forwards. But he continues to be a huge presence for the Columbus Crew and was instrumental in their 4-0 win over Inter Miami at the weekend.

Zardes netted goals one and three to extend his tally to nine for the season, simultaneously keeping the reigning MLS Cup champions' playoff hopes alive. But as he usually does, the 30-year-old proved to be a pest for the Miami backline throughout, winning four aerial duels and laying on one chance for his teammates.

Most impressively, Zardes needed just two shots net his brace.

4. Darwin Quintero (Houston Dynamo)

He's infuriatingly inconsistent but, on his day, Darwin Quintero remains one of the most exciting and decisive players in MLS. Saturday was certainly his day.

Having already set up Maxi Urruti's opener with a perfectly weighted free-kick, Quintero then set about taking on almost the entire Seattle Sounders backline before firing beyond Stefan Frei to fire the Dynamo into a shock 2-0 lead.

The Sounders hit back, but Quintero almost restored Houston's two-goal advantage, hitting the post just after half-time.

But that miss doesn't detract from a ridiculously entertaining performance that saw Quintero create seven chances and complete four dribbles. After the match, head coach Tab Ramos aptly described the Colombian's work as "magic".

3. Damir Kreilach (Real Salt Lake)

Is it because he plays for a 'small-market' team? Regardless, Damir Kreilach is a ridiculously underrated player in this league, notching 14 goals and seven assists so far this season.

The Croatian striker opened the scoring in Real Salt Lake's impressive 3-1 win over Rocky Mountain Cup rivals Colorado Rapids. Who provided the cross? Aaron Herrera, with the two linking up for the fifth time this season - no partnership in MLS has been more productive.

It says a lot about Kreilach's form this season that his assist for Rubio Rubin in the second half was the fifth time he's set up his strike partner this season, making him the goalscorer and assister in two of MLS' four most prolific partnerships in 2021.

And just to really get the point across, Kreilach then set up Anderson Julio to race away and make it 3-1, putting RSL out of sight in second-half stoppage time.

Real Salt Lake are one of the most entertaining teams in MLS right now - that's simply not possible without Kreilach.

2. Pedro Santos (Columbus Crew)

If Zardes was instrumental to the Crew's win, Pedro Santos was vital. The Portuguese wideman set up both of the USMNT striker's goals on the night, either side of his own strike put on a plate for him by Darlington Nagbe.

His creative exploits aside, Santos never fails to put in a shift for the Crew. On Saturday, he made three tackles, one interception and one clearance, to keep Miami at bay. After the match, Zardes described Santos as "unstoppable".

"He was buzzing from minute one all the way to the end, man," he told reporters (via the Columbus Dispatch). "When he plays like that, he's unstoppable on the wing."

If Columbus are to drag themselves back into the playoffs, this Santos-Zardes connection will need to carry on until the end of the regular season.

1. Cristian Arango (LAFC)

The San Jose Earthquakes had beaten California rivals LAFC twice this season prior to Saturday night. It appears Cristian Arango really took that personally.

Having already opened the scoring with a cheeky finish inside three minutes, the Colombian striker then doubled LAFC's lead from the penalty spot just before the half-hour mark. The Quakes pulled one back, but Arango finished things late on, combining with Brian Rodriguez to double LAFC's lead and his tally for the night.

Arango has been a game-changer since arriving from Millonarios in August and now has eight goals and an assist in just 12 appearances for the Black and Gold. The thought of getting him and Carlos Vela on the pitch together consistently is terrifying, and something that really needs to happen now if Bob Bradley's men are to salvage their playoff hopes.

Honourable mentions: Marcelino Moreno, Tyler Miller, Alvaro Medran, Donovan Pines, Djordje Mihailovic, Luiz Araujo, Jr Urso, Vito Wormgoor, Sebastian Blanco, Brian White.


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