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Major League Soccer


December 28, 2016
Red Bulls' midfielders Kljestan, Felipe, McCarty get top grades from Soccer America

Red Bulls' Felipe was rated as the best of all central midfielders by Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America.
Red Bulls' Felipe was rated as the best of all central midfielders by Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
If you don't have a midfield, a competitive midfield, then you probably won't have a competitive soccer team.

The Red Bulls proved that and then some in the positive way in 2016 en route to the Eastern Conference crown.

Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America gave the Red Bulls' three middle midfielders high ranks in their annual rankings of that position, which was released Tuesday.

Sacha Kljestan, who became only the second Major League Soccer player to accrue 20 assists in a season, was ranked atop the attacking midfielders. Likewise for Felipe in central midfielders. Dax McCarty wound up second among defensive midfielders.

"In his second season back in MLS, Kljestan topped the league in assists (20) and key passes (3.3 per game) during the regular season," Mahoney wrote. "Like many of his teammates he didnít quite come through in the playoffs but is clearly at the head of the class."

Portland's Diego Valeri was second, followed by FC Dallas' Mauro Diaz.

New York City FC's Frank Lampard, who returned to England after the season ended, was ninth. When he was healthy last season, the former English international connected for 12 goals in 19 appearances.

"Lampard ... terminated a contentious MLS tenure and his critics will ignore the 12 goals he scored on just 33 shots," Mahoney wrote.

It seemed that only time Felipe got noticed was when he scored a goal, but he did more than his share of the dirty work at midfield.

"As much as holding mid is a thankless task, usually life is even tougher for the No. 8, who must work back and forth in transition, hold the ball and keep possession as the attackers move into position, and pass the ball crisply as well as shake it loose and scoop it up," Mahoney wrote. "Felipe does all of this very well."

New York City FC mid Andrea Pirlo was ranked second.

"Pirlo is nothing like Felipe, but he plays so deep heís not an attacking midfielder in the modern parlance," Mahoney said. "He seldom tackles, either, so his graceful touches and elegant passes of any angle and distance fall into this category."

McCarty finished second to the Seattle Sounders' Osvaldo Alonso among defensive mids.

"Of all the stirring sagas generated by Seattle, none are as poignant as that of Alonso, who left his homeland of Cuba to excel as a professional and celebrate his teamís first league title with his beloved father present," Mahoney wrote. "He also led the league in passing percentage (90.3). McCarty is the engine that drove the Red Bulls during an impressive regular season and sputtered a bit in the playoffs.

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