MLS Positional Rankings: Wright-Phillips, Giovinco take top spots up front

By Ridge Mahoney
In classifying players up top, we distinguish between strikers and second forwards even though many teams line up with just one true forward in a 4-2-3-1 formation or variation thereof.

We list Giovani Dos Santos as a forward because he often plays close to goal and his partnership with Robbie Keane, or lack of same, was an issue for the Galaxy this season. In the cases of wingers who also line up at forward occasionally, such as Gyasi Zardes and Dominic Oduro, they are included in the section devoted to outside mids/wingers that is forthcoming in this series.
SA's Top 10
1. Bradley Wright-Phillips (NY Red Bulls)
2. David Villa (New York City)
3. Cyle Larin (Orlando City)
4. Dom Dwyer (Sporting KC)
5. Ola Kamara (Columbus Crew)
6. Fanendo Adi (Portland Timbers)
7. Robbie Keane (L.A. Galaxy)
8. Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
9. Patrick Mullins (D.C. United)
10. Yura Movsisyan (Real Salt Lake)

He’s the only player to score more than 20 goals twice in MLS, and by notching 24 in 2016 Wright-Phillips set a league record of 68 goals in three consecutive seasons. Nudged by one goal for the Golden Boot, Villa’s two-year total of 41 is also impressive. Larin fell three goals short of his rookie record of 17 but forged a good alliance with Kevin Molino that helped broaden his game.

Dwyer heads a group of players who each notched 16 goals; none of his were penalty kicks. Kamara took command after the trade of Kei Kamara to cement his place among the top scorers, and Adi matched the 16 goals he tallied in 2015. Keane signed off on his spectacular MLS career by adding 10 goals that increased his all-time total to 83 during the regular season and nine in the playoffs.

Altidore went into monster-mode to bag five goals in the playoffs to burnish an otherwise modest output of 10 during the regular season. After failing to score in seven games for NYCFC, Mullins bagged eight in 14 matches as D.C. surged into a playoff spot. RSL struggled with Movsisyan (nine goals) hobbled by a foot injury late in the season; it couldn’t win any of the seven games in which he didn’t score despite taking pain-killing injections.
SA's Top 10
1. Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC)
2. Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
3. Giovani Dos Santos (L.A. Galaxy)
4. Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
5. Michael de Leeuw (Chicago Fire)
6. Matteo Mancosu (Montreal Impact)
7. Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders)
8. Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact)
9. Mauro Manotas (Houston Dynamo)
10. Jack Harrison (New York City)
Giovinco ended up third in goals (17) and second in assists (15) during the regular season and notched fours in both categories in the playoffs. His electrifying play needs only a bit more focus is needed when the officials’ calls don’t suit him. Despite incredible obstacles -- the firing of his head coach, the medical issues of Dempsey, intense pressure to produce -- Morris won the Rookie of the Year Award and an MLS Cup. Dos Santos rang up excellent numbers (14 goals, 12 assists) and will need to adjust with a new coach and changed cast of teammates in 2017.

The Quakes tried to find the right partner for Wondolowski, but Quincy Amarikwa struggled before suffering a season-ending injury and Adam Jahn was traded to Columbus. Still Wondo scored 12 goals to hit double-digits in a season for the seventh straight time. De Leeuw scored seven goals in 18 games after debuting in July, and twice scored in three consecutive games. Mancosu’s four playoff goals helped propel Montreal to the Eastern Conference finals. Dempsey missed one-half of the season yet managed eight goals in 17 games.

With 10 goals, a controversial refusal to sit on the substitutes’ bench, and a nagging back injury, Drogba bid adieu to MLS. Manotas scored six goals in just 1,024 minutes of play. Harrison needs to find his best spot on the field; four goals and seven assists as a rookie suggest great potential.
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