Everyone seems to know who the stars are in MLS. But what about those players who aren't stars, but are still churning out great performances every week?
These are some of the most underrated MLS players this year.
Victor DecolongonGetty Images
He's been perhaps the steadiest goalkeeper in MLS this season. While goalkeepers across the league have had their embarrassing moments of howlers, Melia has largely been free of costly mistakes. Goalkeeper stats need to be taken with a grain of salt, but his save percentage is just shy of 80 percent, the highest of any regular starting goalkeeper in the league, and his goals against average is 0.69, far lower than any other goalkeeper who has started at least half as many matches as Melia. So it was a surprise when the U.S. national team's provisional Gold Cup roster came out and Melia was not on it, but fellow MLS goalkeepers Joe Bendik and Sean Johnson did make it.
Winslow TownsonWinslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
He was traded from the Colorado Rapids to Minnesota United on the cheap, and his exit has appreciably made the Rapids worse whilst making the Loons better. Cronin was a key midfield piece for the Rapids in their successful, ultra-defensive style last year and there are few better at shielding back lines and quickly transitioning out of trouble in MLS than Cronin. He's not a spectacular player, but he plays as a cog who can be counted on for reliable distribution and solid defending.
Brad RempelBrad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
He's been one of the best left backs in MLS this season and it's his steady improvement that has been so critical to the Chicago Fire's better fortunes. Sure, having Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty has helped, but Vincent has also stepped up, holding down his side of the back line and offering dangerous forays going forward. He has three assists this season, and it's his ability to balance the defensive side of the game and attacking service that has made him so good.
Mike DinovoMike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
He doesn't have the sexiest role for the Timbers – he's usually not the one scoring goals and he's not making goal-line blocks either – but he is one of the best cogs in MLS. It's Chara's ability to hold down the midfield on his own as a defensive enforcer that has given the Timbers the ability to be aggressive in the attack and he puts in the work rate to do a job often done by two players. When the Timbers don't have him, they visibly miss his presence on the field.
Eric BolteEric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
While the New England Revolution have had an up-and-down season so far, when things are going right, it’s often that Rowe is part of it. Never mind that the Revs have moved him all around the pitch, and he has played both fullback positions, as a wide midfielder and as a central playmaker. He's versatile enough that he allows the Revs to slot him in wherever he is needed, and if the Revs do make playoffs, he'll be a big reason why.
Bob DeChiaraBob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
When Ring arrived to New York City FC in the offseason, it wasn't to very much fanfare. But they needed someone to shore up their midfield and he has done that. In the central midfield, Ring's ability on both sides of the ball makes everything work a bit better for NYCFC. His work rate is good and he allows City to set tempo in the middle of the pitch. NYCFC has a lot of star power on its roster so Ring slips under the radar, despite how much he helps the team.
Adam HungerAdam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
He may be less underrated after it was his excellent performance holding down the central midfield that led the Seattle Sounders to the MLS Cup in December, but there's still plenty of names on the Sounders alone who would make a "best of" list ahead of him. A gritty, marauding presence in the midfield, Alonso is the key to cutting out opposing attacks and connecting the Sounders in transition. The team hasn't looked that great this year, but it's largely been down to their disjointed attack, and Alonso continues to pull his weight defensively.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY SportsJoe Nicholson
He's a guy who can change games, even if New York City FC coach Patrick Vieira has been hesitant to give McNamara a regular starting role. He made the cut for the USMNT's 40-man Gold Cup pool and it's for good reason. He offers creativity and skill on the ball to spark an attack, and he has a relentless approach to the game. He probably deserves to be starting on a roster somewhere.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY SportsAdam Hunger
It's a wonder that clubs overseas aren't throwing multimillion dollar bids at the Portland Timbers for Adi, but somehow it appears the big target man is still a bit underrated – if not within MLS, then at least outside of it. He's great with his back to goal, he's a deft finisher and his hold-up play is valuable. But for a big guy, he's also good on the dribble and swift with his feet. As far as traditional No. 9 strikers, Adi is one of the best in the league and he could easily be chasing a Golden Boot this season if the Timbers start clicking.
Bill StreicherBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
It's weird to think about Bradley being underrated: He's the third-highest paid player in MLS and he's a regular starter for the USMNT. But for some reason, Bradley often doesn't get the credit he deserves. Whether it's for Toronto or the U.S., he covers a ton of ground, he is excellent at shielding defenses and he's very good at playing through-balls from a deep-lying position. Bradley may not be playing the best soccer of his life – his form probably peaked in Europe – but he's still a very good No. 6 and perhaps the best in MLS.