Castillo: Did the MLS MVP race change after an eventful weekend?

Bradley Wright-Phillips - New York Red Bulls - Close up, celebration

Following an eventful MLS weekend slate – injuries! goalfests! upsets to narratives! – and with the season speeding towards playoffs, it’s time to look at the MVP race once again. Earlier this month, say, and last month, the front-runners were pretty clear. But this is MLS. Things change, and quickly.

So how’s the running looking for the rest of the season? There might be some space for new entrants into the field, while some other near-shoo-ins could hang on despite setbacks. In no particular order, here are some top prospects. What do you think?

Sebastian Giovinco

Toronto FC’s fun-size wonder sits second in assists to he New York Red Bulls' Sacha Kljestan, with 13 – but he’s got 16 goals to his name, too, tying for the top of the Golden Boot race. He’d be a pretty clear winner… if it wasn’t for the super-unfortunate pair of injuries he picked up this past weekend vs. the Montreal Impact. It looks like he might be out for as long as four weeks, which clears a lot of space for someone else to dazzle, and for his star to fade a tiny bit.

Sacha Kljestan

The longtime fan favorite finally got a long-deserved USMNT call-up on Monday – so was Klinsmann indeed paying close attention to his performance for his club? Two weekends ago, Kljestan set a club record for most assists in one season – 15 – and has notched five of his own. He continues to stay in top form so these numbers will likely only go up.

David Villa

Surprisingly, the NYCFC Designated Player couldn’t score against Orlando City this past Sunday, and he’s usually good for at least one. In fact, in the past he’s often entirely carried the team on his back, even when he shouldn’t have had to really do so. Still, in the combination of leadership and performance, he’s everything you’d want in a team captain, leading the league in shots on goal (55) and tying at the top of the Golden Boot race, with 16 goals.

Bradley Wright-Phillips

The New York Red Bulls and their fans can count on their star forward to create some action – and some scoring – even in otherwise ugly or dull days. (Just see this past Sunday’s home bout vs. the New England Revolution, in which he scored the match’s only goal.) Like his teammate and pal Kljestan – who himself called BWP the real MVP – he boasts another club record, this one of all-time goals. Red Bull Arena even installed this handy, changeable sign to mark each new one.

Ignacio Piatti

The Argentine midfielder usually gets overlooked thanks to teammate Didier Drogba’s sheer wattage. But while Drogba’s been in and out of play, thanks to injuries, Piatti’s been happily holding down the fort, racking up 14 goals and five assists so far this season. It still puts him out of the tie for the goalscoring top, but his contributions can’t go overlooked.

Mauro Diaz

This FC Dallas playmaker lacks some of the marquee star power of some other folks on this list, but that’s only because people continue to foolishly sleep on him and his team. Dallas are comfortably sitting at the top of the league, and the midfielder has plenty to do with it, thanks to his essential role in their attack. He ranks second in overall assists behind Kljestan, with 10.

Jelle Van Damme

The Belgian LA Galaxy defender gets less credit than flashy goalscorers, but in his short time in MLS he’s proved one of the best center backs in the league. He got 10 votes on our staff’s informal MVP poll earlier this month, just missing the top-five cutoff. and has even managed a couple of assists, too. Only thing here – he, too, picked up an injury over the weekend, and will be sidelined for a couple of weeks.

Diego Valeri

The Portland Timbers' sometimes-shaky season means that some people may have overlooked the No. 10 perfection of this loveable, bearded Argentine. He’s racked up 10 goals and seven assists of his own, this season, for the defending MLS champs. Also, this really doesn’t count towards on-field stuff, but off the field, he’s a super MVP, too, a supporter of gender equality, a charity volunteer alongside fans, and a ukulele-player to boot.