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MLS 24 under 24: Cristian Roldan got snubbed

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Sounder at Heart has some thoughts on MLSsoccer.com’s annual rankings.

MLS came out with their 24 under 24 rankings and while it saw Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris make the list, Sounder at Heart has some corrections to make. The league and its voters listed Morris at 7 and Roldan at 13. Either this was done just to make a great Joristan Mordan (they wear 13 and 7, respectively) reference or the voters got it wrong.

We took to ranking our own 24 under 24 to compare to MLS and while it showed they got some things right (Miguel Almiron and Jack Harrison stayed the same) the other 22 players were ranked differently.

Staff were asked to rank the top 24 players from MLS’ list of 51 eligible players and then those lists were aggregated to form Sounder at Heart’s definitive list.

Atlanta United led all teams with four players making our list. Dallas, NYCFC, and Real Salt Lake all have three players on the list. Sounders only have two, though only two were eligible.

24. Brandon Vincent - Chicago Fire, Defender

MLS Ranking N/A; Highest Rank 5; Lowest Rank Unlisted

Vincent was left off the 24 from MLS and only was listed on half of our ballots but thanks to one ballot ranking the left back at fifth.

23. Luciano Acosta - DC United, Midfielder

MLS Ranking 21; Highest Rank 13; Lowest Rank Unlisted

Acosta made it on only half of the lists and was considered a bottom-half talent by most.

22. Kekuta Manneh - Columbus Crew, Winger

MLS Ranking 23; Highest Rank 11; Lowest Rank Unlisted

The former Vancouver Whitecap is a player almost everyone is familiar with in Seattle, his speed and ability to beat defenders makes him a tough player to defend. Only one voter left him off the list, me, and it’s a lack of consistency that cost him a spot.

21. Jesse Gonzalez - FC Dallas, Keeper

MLS Ranking 20; Highest Rank 10; Lowest Rank Unlisted

Gonzalez still shares time with Chris Seitz in Dallas and that may be part of the reason he fell on some lists. He could be the future keeper for the USMNT but we’ve said that about Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid before too.

20. Jefferson Savarino - Real Salt Lake, Winger

MLS Ranking 22; Highest Rank 14; Lowest Rank Unlisted

Recency may have played a part in Savarino landing two spots higher than he did in the MLS list with SaH voting happening after he created havoc against the Sounders. His speed and ability to pop up anywhere and find the net makes the 20 year old dangerous.

19. Carlos Gruezo - FC Dallas, Midfielder

MLS Ranking 14; Highest Rank 13; Lowest Rank Unlisted

The 22-year-old Ecuadorian youth DP is a fast and physical holding midfielder who can be an enforcer next to Kellyn Acosta. He took the second biggest drop from MLS to SaH rankings and it is a trend that pops up involving the FC Dallas midfield. Dallas sliding down the table in late summer — after the official voting — probably had some impact.

18. Erik Palmer-Brown - Sporting Kansas City, Defender

MLS Ranking 17; Highest Rank 10; Lowest Rank Unlisted

EPB is one foot out the door with SKC after signing a pre-contract with Manchester City. That should count for something on this list in that Man City thinks he has Premier League potential. His inability to see the field in KC hurts his ranking, though.

17. Ronald Matarrita - NYCFC, Defender

MLS Ranking 16; Highest Rank 11; Lowest Rank Unlisted

The Costa Rican has played everywhere on the left side of the field for NYCFC and prior to his broken foot in late June was having a great season.

16. Julian Gressel - Atlanta United, Midfielder

MLS Ranking Unlisted; Highest Rank 7; Lowest Rank Unlisted

Gressel’s fall on the MLS list may have been due to Atlanta’s relative mediocrity at the halfway point in the season. A starter most of the season, the rookie out of Providence has been a key cog in Atlanta’s midfield. He isn’t flashy like his teammates but he gets the job done and keeps the defensive shape of the midfield intact.

15. Justen Glad - Real Salt Lake, Defender

MLS Ranking 18; Highest Rank 5; Lowest Rank 21

The 20-year-old provides a calming influence for a defense that looked very rocky before Mike Petke took over. With how Glad has played under pressure this year, he deserves a January Camp invite and a chance to take away “the future CB” tag from Palmer-Brown. Glad also is the first player to get a voter from every ranker.

14. Paul Arriola - DC United, Midfielder

MLS Rank 9; Highest Rank 9; Lowest Rank 22

Bruce Arena is trusting Arriola at the national team level and a love for USMNT youth likely led to his boost in MLS rankings. His fall is likely due to being unimpressive and overrated at this moment. He has a chance to be good but he hasn’t taken DC by storm and wasn’t lighting up Liga MX either. Though with how bad DC United is, he gets some benefit of the doubt.

13. Tyler Adams - NY Red Bulls, Midfielder

MLS Rank 10; Highest Rank 4; Lowest Rank 20

The 18-year-old has pretty much been given the keys for the Red Bulls having to be the midfield engine behind Sacha Kljestan. He’s had a great year but the Red Bulls potentially missing the playoffs leads to some questions regarding how big of an impact he is making in games.

12. Yangel Herrera - NYCFC, Midfielder

MLS Rank 6; Highest Rank 1; Lowest Rank 23

Herrera had both the biggest drop (tied) from MLS rank to SaH rank and the biggest difference between highest and lowest ranking. Agtk ranked him second to last largely because of an inability to see him play because of Herrera’s injury and minimal minutes before it, it made it hard to move him up the list.

MLSwatercolorist, who ranked him first did it because when you watch Herrera play, it feels like you're watching someone who is 8 years older and at the height of their game and skill level. When he plays, he owns the midfield and is both dangerous on goal and in clogging up passing lanes.

11. Albert Rusnak - Real Salt Lake, Midfielder

MLS Rank 15; Highest Rank 3; Lowest Rank 18

Another RSL player benefiting from the recency effect after his surgical performance that netted him an assist and almost a goal to go with it. A player who had been tied to Seattle in the offseason, Rusnak has made a good impact as the creative force in Petke’s offense.

10. Alphonso Davies - Vancouver Whitecaps, Winger

MLS Rank 4; Highest Rank 3; Lowest Rank Unlisted

Davies benefits in part from two very high votes to overcome being dropped from a list. His lack of success in MLS and no real defined skill set besides great athleticism hurt him while his Golden Boot showing at the Gold Cup pushed him up others.

9. Yamil Asad - Atlanta United, Winger

MLS Rank 11; Highest Rank 4; Lowest Rank Unlisted

Asad ended up unlisted on one ballot but landed in the top five on three of the eight lists, top 10 on three more. Asad benefits from the players around him, Hector Villalba, Josef Martinez, and Miguel Almiron but even when players have been missing the Argentine has showed up. He averages .65 goals/assists per game and ranks , that’s big for a player who is the fourth choice on this offense.

8. Alberth Elis - Houston Dynamo, Winger

MLS Rank 12; Highest Rank 3; Lowest Rank 22

Another player with a massive range of votes but most landed him in the top half. The 21-year-old Honduran plays with a great mix of speed and pace. His free kick ability is top-notch. He does disappear from games and needs to show more consistency to move up the list but his ability to get a goal or assist every 111 minutes is why he lands in the top 10.

7. Hector Villalba - Atlanta United, Winger

MLS Rank 8; Highest Rank 2; Lowest Rank Unlisted

Villalba was a strange vote, the winger landed in the top on six ballots, 12 on another, and unlisted on the last vote. In Martinez’s absence, Villalba took the striker role and helped carry Atlanta through early summer. While the offense is much better with him on the wing, his ability to score from it is almost unmatched in MLS.

6. Cyle Larin - Orlando City, Forward

MLS Rank 5; Highest Rank 2; Lowest Rank 24

Larin is no doubt a dominant striker but he has disappeared from games and isn’t able to create for himself when the offense stalls. That said, he is clinical in front of goal. If the Canadian leaves for Europe, he should be able to make a living by stretching defenses. His pairing with Dom Dwyer doesn’t help him going forward as he’s played worse with a forward similar to him as opposed to a CAM/withdrawn striker. The one vote that dropped him out of the top eight was due to his DUI, without that he lands higher.

5. Kellyn Acosta - FC Dallas, Midfielder

MLS Rank 2; Highest Rank 5; Lowest Rank 11

Acosta didn’t get close to landing in our top 3, with writers giving him little respect compared to MLS voters. Acosta is able to hit a great free kick but was underwhelming with the USMNT and his just seems to be unable to make a major consistent impact in the FC Dallas midfield. Maybe it is bias around here but when compared to the defense strength and offensive impact of Cristian Roldan, Acosta gets pushed down.

4. Jordan Morris - Sounders FC, Forward

MLS Rank 7; Highest Rank 6; Lowest Rank 10

Morris gets the benefit of there being very little consistent votes in the 2-7 range. Morris is a great forward and winger when healthy. His speed allows him to beat defenders, he makes good runs and can take players 1-v-1. He frustrates us constantly with making the less correct decision (not wrong, but just not the best) and sometimes he can’t finish with his left. It wasn’t so much that we loved him, but with a divided room on everyone else in the top 10, Morris moves on up.

3. Jack Harrison - NYCFC, Midfielder

MLS Rank 3; Highest Rank 2; Lowest Rank 12

The former No. 1 overall pick was one of two players to keep their MLS ranking in the SaH list. He can score and make a big impact for NYCFC. Across the board he is a good player and you can’t argue his goal scoring prowess with ten goals in 31 appearances this season.

2. Cristian Roldan - Sounders FC, Midfielder

MLS Rank 13; Highest Rank 2; Lowest Rank 6

Like I said before, maybe it is bias but Roldan made the largest jump on our list. Moving up 11 spots, it’s Roldan’s ability and willingness to do everything needed to help his team that we suspect less casual observers of the team miss. Roldan has lined up at fullback, the enforcer CM, a box-to-box CM, holding mid, winger, CAM, and effectively played withdrawn striker for Seattle next to Clint Dempsey against Vancouver. Roldan has six goals and three assists, which don’t jump off the page but his 102 tackles rank second in the league. Paired with his rank of 11 in completed short passes and Seattle’s top four MLS defense is why Roldan ranks so high on our list.

1. Miguel Almiron - Atlanta United FC, Midfielder

MLS Rank 1; Highest Rank 1; Lowest Rank 2

Seven of eight ballots listed Almiron as first, the one that didn’t voted Yangel Herrera. It’s impossible to argue against the 23-year-old Paraguayan’s impact on Atlanta’s attack. Almiron averages a goal or assist about every 105 minutes, or almost one a game. Atlanta has the second best attack in the league and it is due to Josef Martinez’s scoring ability and Almiron’s creative ability. Like Villalba, a third of Almiron’s goals have come as game-winners. Just watch his ability on the ball and tell me who else is that good.

Ten more players received votes, though one was not on the eligible list as Nouhou did get a vote. Diego Fagundez and Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla both fell out of the top 24 from 24 and 19 respectively.