Early Season MLS MVP Candidates

MVP

With most teams having played 10 matches this season I thought now would be a good time to look at the early favorites for MVP this season. A disclaimer before we begin though, I will only be looking at the top 4 teams from each conference and picking a potential winner from each, and also this is solely a personal opinion, so come at me if you wish. Let’s start out West!

MVP
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych

MVP Candidates for the Top 4 Teams in Each Conference

1. LAFC

There is only one name that it could be at LAFC and that is none other than Carlos Vela yet again. The man, when healthy, has been at the top of MLS for years now and it seems like this season is no different. In LAFC’s first 10 matches he has scored 4 goals and added 3 assists. Shooting wise he is hitting the target 43% of the time and scoring at an outrageous clip of 17%.

Looking beyond the stats though, the eye test is enough to tell that this guy is one of, if not the best the league has to offer. He can create, score, and simply take over the game whenever he feels like it. For the neutrals and LAFC fans, I hope he continues this form because he is genuinely a joy to watch and deserves all the praise for how he’s taken this league by storm.

2. Austin FC

My current favorite for MLS MVP (although we all know Gazdag is my guy but we’ll get there) is Sebastian Driussi. The man has come out of the gates on fire notching a goal contribution just about every 80 minutes and testing the keeper on more than half of his shots. He has boosted what many, including myself, would be a bottom 3 team in Austin into the Supporters Shield race and he doesn’t seem like slowing down anytime soon.

He has already surpassed his 2021 goal tally in 8 fewer games and is only trailing his assists by 2. The man is a menace in front of goal and creating goals for others and if he and Austin keep up this form I can’t see anyone but him walking away with this award.

3. LA Galaxy

Chicharito is really the only guy on this LA team that has been scoring consistently. He has 5 goals in 10 games and the next highest scorer is a four-way tie in 2nd place with one goal each. What these stats show me is that without Chicha the Galaxy would be floundering, but instead they sit in third place in the West. This is the true measure of an MVP in my opinion. What does the team do if you take that player away?

The issue with my criteria is it would mean Andre Blake would win every year which now that I think about it isn’t an issue at all.  Obviously, the criteria for the award is a little more in-depth and objective than that taking advanced stats and the eye test into account it tends to go to “the best player”. Chicha has the potential to win the golden boot and the MVP this year if he can continue to score at a high clip and if the goals he scores keep the Galaxy near the top of the Western Conference.

4. FC Dallas

I will apologize here because most of, if not all of the players on this list will most likely be attackers. The reason is that without goals it is impossible to win. Even if you keep a clean sheet and draw every game 0-0 you finish on 34 points which would have you finish in the bottom 3 of both conferences in 2021. The forward in question for Dallas is, of course, Jesus Ferreira. The man has truly found form over the last 8 months and it’s good for not only Dallas but the USMNT as well.

He has 7 goals and 1 assist in 889 minutes played (g/a every 105 minutes), but he does so much more for teams he is in that don’t show up on the scoresheet. He finds himself right in between being a nine and a 10 so a false nine fits his role pretty well. He sits between the lines combining with his midfielders and bringing more players into the game. He needs to continue his form to keep Dallas pushing for a top-four spot but if he does and the numbers back up his play he will be in the MVP conversation for sure. Now for the East!

1. Philadelphia Union

Since this is a Union-centric page I shouldn’t even have to talk about this one because everyone should already know, but I love this guy too much to stay silent. Daniel Gazdag is the guy for the Union this season. With 5 goals and 3 assists in 10 matches, he is what connects the midfield to the front line. He is the creative mastermind and his goal-scoring is almost as prolific as all of last season. When you watch him play you can tell just how good this guy is by the way he dribbles and picks out passes that others in the league simply can’t.

Still underappreciated amongst his attacking midfield counterparts (Gil, Zelerayan, Mukhtar) I think he is entering that sphere of dominance and if the Union manage to win the Shield with him leading the way it seems all but his award to lose.  His assist numbers certainly need to increase if he wants to remain in consideration but with Uhre bagging his first goal I’m sure there will be plenty more on the way courtesy of Daniel Gazdag. Also, honorable mention goes out to Julian Carranza with 4g/2a.

2. New York Red Bulls

This is our first team with more than one leader in the MVP race. Both Patryk Klimala and Lewis Morgan have started red hot this season and have led Red Bull to second in the East after the first 10 matches. With 6 goal contributions each (4g/2a for Morgan, 3g/3a for Klimala) they along with the stout backline are what could make this team a finals candidate. Having not one, but two prolific attackers make the rest of the team’s job very simple. Get them the ball and good things will happen. That’s what an MVP should be, someone who can take over the game and win it alone if need be.

This isn’t as easy in soccer as it is in basketball where there are fewer players on the court or in football where the QB touches the ball every play, but still certainly possible. Out of these two, I think Klimala is the one who will remain more consistent throughout the season, but both could stay equally as good which may actually hinder each other’s chances of winning the award. That being said I’m sure Red Bull and their fans would trade a potential championship run for an MVP trophy as would Klimala and Morgan.

3. CF Montreal

My newfound love for Montreal is proving fruitful early on and it is all because of none other than Djordje Mihailovic. He along with Driussi is probably my favorite right now to win the award as he is lifting this Montreal team to heights many thought to be impossible. He has 5 goals and 4 assists in 10 matches and has genuinely just been brilliant on the pitch every time I’ve gotten to see him play.

He is the engine of the midfield playing an 8/10 hybrid creating from deep positions and advancing to spots where he can make killer passes or finish off the move himself. Not only is he making his case for MVP but for a USMNT call-up as well. I hope Djordje continues to thrive and with him, Montreal because he deserves praise for how good he is and the lights need to shine on him if he wants to get individual accolades and into the national team.

4. Orlando City

Fecundo Torres is my choice for MVP from the Orlando City ranks. He has 2 goals and 4 assists so far this season and boasts an 80.1% pass accuracy rating which for attacking players in MLS is quite good. For reference, the consensus best-attacking mids in the league (Gil, Zelerayan, and Mukhtar are all under 80%). Torres plays the game in a very exciting way which, along with the joint league leader in clean sheets (Gallese) has turned Orlando into a force in the east.

Despite the clean sheets, the backline is still susceptible to conceding in bunches and Torres’s goals are not extremely easy to come by. It is still early in the season though and if things start clicking in Orlando and Torres is at the heart of it he could certainly be in that MVP conversation.

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych

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