Early on Friday I tweeted that I thought Sebastien Le Toux should be MLS MVP. A few followers wrote back that I was somewhere between mad and crazy. That or they thought with my player analysis I might as well join Bob Bradley’s staff.
Before I really defended my selection, I decided to go back, think about the pick, offer the disclaimers and defend my selection.
Let me start with my personal criteria:
• Playing on a winning team is not a necessity.
I’m not sure why this is of requisite importance for folks. In fact, shouldn’t it slightly discount a player who is on a great team?
Look at Javier Morales, surrounded by at least some excellence at RSL. Does Morales perform better because he knows that Kyle Beckerman is going to cover defensively and always make the right pass?
Probably, and he’s better for it. Better players surrounding you, make you a better player no?
• Trade value
All things being equal, would I trade player “A” for player “B” and how would that team fare? This is fairly common criteria in other sports. For example, might Dallas’s Kevin Hartmann merit more MVP criteria selection because all things being equal the Pizza Boxes wouldn’t trade him for Nick Rimando? I think so.
• (Current) statistics are nice-to-haves, not must-haves
I tweeted earlier today that Le Toux has 13 and 10. Thirteen goals and 10 assists. As much as I’m personally awestruck by those numbers for an expansion side, I’m not sure the soccer world publicly has in its box scores the right metrics yet to evaluate player impact.
For example, baseball folks know…now…that OBP (on base percentage) is a better metric on which to evaluate a hitter than batting average. I think–for the numbers available to the public and the media–soccer is still in its batting average days.
• A slight premium on offense
In any sport, if you can score, you’re typically paid more…and worth more to your team. That doesn’t change for soccer.
Sean Franklin, a TSG fave, might be the best rightback in the league, however he’ll never merit strong MVP consideration because when the final score is tallied, unless he putting that ball in the back of the net or he’s the person that just issued that assist on that goal he’s not directly impacting the scoreline.
Even Maicon, who TSG defended as one of the best player’s in the world for the World Cup, has a fight to win best player contention. Note: Beyond Maicon there are few defenders that impactful on the game.
• Intangibles matter
An MVP is about the team and for the team. Unfortunately, this is where Dwayne DeRosario dropped for me here in consideration. After his check-writing goal celebration, there had to be at least one or two teammates on the pitch who looked over and thought, “Oh, jeez, we’re sucking this year and that’s what you care about.” Had to rub guys the wrong way.
This is different from Michael Jordan berating a teammate in practice–though that can’t be outright condoned either. MJ’s hollering at teammates was designed–for better or worse–as motivation with the goal of winning. DeRosario’s antics don’t really promote winning, you know…
And there you have it.
As for disclaimers–and I wish more writers would do this–I should let you know how many times I’ve watched each player this season (and highlights don’t count):
Edson Buddle: About 15-20 times
Chris Wondolowski: About 15-20 times
Javier Morales: About 12-15 times
Sebastien Le Toux: About 12-15 times
Dwayne DeRosario: About 10-12 times
David Ferreira: About 5 to 7 times
Freddy Montero: About 5 to 7 times
Omar Cummings: About 4 times
As you can see, there are probably a few others out there with more qualified opinions on the MLS MVP. However, I think writers casting votes should acknowledge how many times they’ve watched a player.
Okay, off my pulpit…on to another. Let’s go:
Landon Donovan: He’s the most talented outfield player in MLS. He’s a class above. I’m highly interested to see what Donovan does in the playoffs.
To me, he’s drifted in-and-out of games all season. Perhaps, he’s trying to act a bit like the aforementioned Jordan and letting his teammates find their games through the season.
Last year, David Beckham pulled the strings for the Galaxy. Will Donovan own the playoffs? Does his gas tank have it in him?
Omar Cummings: N/A–Apologies Rapids fans. Cummings might deserve to be higher on the list, I just didn’t bear witness.
Javier Morales: Hurt by the quality around him.
Freddy Montero: A very uneven start to the season. Has come on strong at the end. No player in the league has a better first touch.
(Maybe #5) Chris Wondolowski: Certainly MLS’s Johnny-On-The-Spot Award Winner, Wondo has been classy in leading the league in game-winners. Wondo gets open often off the ball and is now finishing his chances.
However, as a self-admitted Cornell Glen demoter, I don’t think it’s coincidental that 6 of Wondo’s 14 goals have come since Giovanni was introduced into the line-up.
That he has only one assist as well is troubling for his MVP candidacy, too.
Wondo is MLS first team, but many of his goals were the results of others creation or the ball just happening to fall to him. That’s not all luck. It may win his team’s MVP, but not the league’s.
4. David Ferreira
Disclaimer: watched a small percentage of Ferreira’s games this year. Might he deserve to be higher? Possible?
I love the way Ferreira plays. He seems a class above as a possession midfielder.
The challenge I have with Ferreira as the MVP is that Dallas has scored fewer goals this year than last year. I think they’ll end up about 5 or 6 shy from 2009′s 50 total. They’ve got a more seasoned Brek Shea at forward and the full season addition of Heath Pearce who frequently joins the attack and has 6 assists.
The biggest change in Dallas has been dropping their G.A.A by more than 33%. That’s been the addition of keeper Hartman and Heath Pearce there.
With a stronger backbone, Ferriera is more free to push forward and create opportunities. Yet, Dallas has less scores.
Getting number four on the list is still pretty good though, no?
3. Dwayne DeRosario
Like I mentioned above, I’ve watched DeRosario about 12 or so times this season. One thing I love about the big guy is his willingness to do the dirty work. DeRosario tackles, take a foul when necessary and will make a run on offense to open space.
He’s notched thirteen for a Toronto side that finds it harder to score than…than Screech if he were playing 11 Lisa Turtles.
That said, I’ve also seen DeRosario–and probably rightfully so–be selfish on the ball and miss teammates who are looking to be on the goal-scoring side of some of his offensive wizardry.
Funny I should bring up selfish, because you just cannot issue that check-writing goal scorer celebration if you’re the leader of the team. Can’t do it. You’re not a man, a leader of the people at that point. You’re a disgruntled employee who just wants to get his…
…and rightfully so for DeRosario, rightfully so. It just drops him in our Most Valuable Player evaluation to third.
2. Edson Buddle, LA Galaxy
When Los Angeles ripped off their early season “no one is going to f*ck with us run,” it was Edson Buddle who was nearly unstoppable.
When the Galaxy got a flat tire midseason, somehow it coincided with Buddle (and yes, Landon Donovan) preparing for and heading to South Africa.
Buddle, who scored Saturday, might be scoring at a little lighter clip since early season, but there is no question that this is because the opponent is making sure they know where he is all times. Further, in an act of lunacy (in my opinion) by Bruce Arena, Buddle–when Los Angeles has defensive problems in a game–is being left to fend for himself as a target man up top with no support.
I may not have coached the USMNT, but I can tell you that the last thing you want to do is wear your main shooting weapon for the playoffs down by having him hacked, leaned-on, and just bump-and-barged all day long. Kind of ironic because Arena allowed Brian McBride to be similarly treated like a pinata at World Cup 2006 without support.
Anywho, with 17 goals in 24 games, why is Buddle–who is easily the best pure goal scorer in the league–second on my MVP ballot?
(1) He should have more. Yes, I just said that. Sometimes, when LA is on it seems that chances come in droves and are not valued by the strikers, including Buddle;
(2) Buddle really needs that service to score. Sure, the LA big man has made a move here and there and lashed his “own goal,” but more often than not it’s a run and a nice service from Juninho, Donovan or Beckham that acts as just shy of 50% of that score.
He’s Gonzalo Higuain Plus.
He’s also the best goal scorer in the league and second on my MVP ballot–I think that’s fair praise.
Oh, and here’s a fun game to play. Take away Edson Buddle from the striker position at the Galaxy and ask yourself, “Just who does Bruce Arena put up there?”
MVP: Sebastien Le Toux
I’ll lead with my weak stat, if you will.
Thirteen goals and 10 assists for his team: that’s an astounding 71% of his teams’ scores at the time of writing that Le Toux was responsible for. The next closest: Dwayne DeRosario with 50% of his teams’ nets.
More? The two games that LeToux missed for Philly? A 3-1 loss to the Galaxy, a 3-0 shellacking by Salt Lake.
Further, and this is more telling, you’re talking about 13 and 10 (and 46 shots on goal I might add…that just speaks to his personal ability to create) for a team that is a sieve on defense meaning that all too often Philadelphia was either playing from behind or it’s attack had to take on a team that was sitting back.
That makes Le Toux’s accomplishments even more impressive with roughly just more than his half the offensive stats coming when the team was already down.
Plus, I look around: would I trade Le Toux for Ferriera? Only if I had downed a 24-pack of Yuengling.
Le Toux for Wondo? Not a chance. Le Toux for DeRosario? Please, leave that attitude north of the border.
Le Toux for Morales? Forgetting age, I might listen to whom else they were putting in the deal. Buddle? Likewise.
Le Toux is my MVP. He carried the Union. He created his own chances and chances for others.
You put Le Toux on, say, Seattle or Los Angeles as a forward or striker and he’s upping those numbers for sure.
Le Toux. MVP.