With the MLS season reaching its midway point, it is tough to argue against New England and D.C. being the best teams in the league right now, and part of the reason for that is the recent form of two MLS All-Stars who have stepped their game up considerably. SBI correspondent Carl Setterlund takes a look at the hottest players in MLS.
Unfortunately for all the female SBI readers, this post isn’t to discuss David Beckham’s new Emporio Armani campaign (forgive me if I don’t link to the pictures), although Becks’ name could well come up in this conversation anyways. I’ve scoured the league trying to find out which two guys are really in-form right now and come up with two players that are absolutely on fire: DC United forward Luciano Emilio and New England midfielder Steve Ralston. Emilio has been even hotter than Landon Donovan in his current stretch, while Ralston has flown under the radar but made a big impact for the best team in MLS record-wise.
Here is a closer look at the two hottest players in MLS:
After becoming the first 20-goal scorer since 2004 (Carlos Ruiz) and winning the MLS MVP award in his debut season, Emilio had a slow start to his 2008 campaign. Who knows whether it was DC United getting on a roll that helped Emilio or vice versa, but the Brazilian-born DP is on perhaps his hottest run in his MLS career. With attacking options galore, it’s been Emilio that has separated himself from the rest of the pack in DC United’s current six match unbeaten streak (5-0-1). Take a look at what Emilio has done during that stretch:
- 5/24 – 3-2 W vs. Toronto – 1 goal
- 5/29 – 2-2 T @ New England – 1 goal
- 6/7 – 2-1 W @ Chicago – 1 goal
- 6/14 – 4-1 W vs. New York – 3 goals
- 6/22 – 3-1 W vs. San Jose – 1 goal
- 6/29 – 4-1 W vs. Los Angeles – 2 goals, 1 assist
You read that correct, that’s nine goals and an assist in just six games. That leaves Emilio with sitting in second place in the race for the MLS Golden Boot behind Donovan, with 10 goals at the half-way point. However, if he keeps up his current pace for a little longer, Emilio should find himself alone at the top of the goal-scoring table, and he just might be able to eclipse his 2007 goal tally in the process.
Sometimes things get better with age. Usually soccer players aren’t included in this mantra. There’s aging gracefully, and then there’s what 13-year veteran Steve Ralston has been doing. Already the MLS all-time assist leader and the holder of all the iron-man records, Ralston has been putting on a clinic like he’s 24-years-old, not 34.
Although he’s always been primarily a right midfielder, ever since the departure of Clint Dempsey, Ralston has been slowly but effectively turned into an attacking mid. The transformation appears complete. While Ralston’s 6 goals and 4 assists are by no means gaudy numbers, take a look at what Ralston has done in the last six matches:
- 6/6 – 2-1 W vs. Dallas – 1 goal
- 6/12 – 2-0 W @ Houston – 1 goal
- 6/18 – 1-1 T vs. New York – 1 goal
- 6/21 – 1-2 L @ Salt Lake – no goals or assists
- 6/28 – 2-1 W vs. Toronto – 2 goals
- 7/4 – 2-1 W @ Los Angeles – 1 assist
Out of those goals, all five either tied the game or served as the game-winner, and the assist was on the winning goal as well. Just as important, Ralston’s contributions have come during a stretch when Taylor Twellman has played just 41 minutes and other contributors like Shalrie Joseph (Grenada), Kenny Mansally (The Gambia) and Khano Smith (Bermuda) were away on national team duty. The New England captain has led the squad to a 4-1-1 record during that stretch.
There’s my argument for the hottest players in the league right now. Think I might have overlooked someone in giving the attention to attacking players? Let me know who you guys think are the most in-form players right now. Share your thoughts below.