Voices: Sam Jones

MLS MVP Power Rankings: Check out the frontrunners as the 2021 season heats up

Welcome back to the MVP Power Rankings which, again, are somehow even more subjective than the actual Power Rankings. Truly a sports blogging miracle. Crazy to me that with no set criteria we can just declare a player to be the "most valuable" and then put it up on our websit—and wait this is exactly how every MVP vote in the world works isn’t it.

We’ll just go ahead and assume ours is a little more accurate. Because we can. And also because nearly the entire MLS editorial staff voted on this one. Each person picked five players from first to fifth. First place got 10 points, second got five, third got three, fourth got two and fifth got one. Why did I do it that way? I don’t know, seemed to make sense.

At the very least, this is a solid barometer of which players are performing at a high level this season. We’re getting deeper into the year and these kinds of assessments are beginning to mean a little more. To the votes.

Receiving votes

Cristian Roldan, Jamiro Monteiro, Andre Blake, Antonio Carlos

First and foremost, a special congratulations to Orlando City’s Antonio Carlos and the Philadelphia Union’s Andre Blake. They were the only defender and keeper to receive a vote. Carlos is a major part of why Orlando City have quietly allowed the fewest amount of goals in the league this season along with the Columbus Crew and the Seattle Sounders. He’s played all 900 minutes this season for Orlando and has been a steady presence among a backline that hasn’t been fully healthy often. Meanwhile, Blake has a league-leading six clean sheets.

I’m not sure this means that either would even be considered the favorite for Defender and Goalkeeper of the Year among MLS staff — maybe we need to do a midyear DOTY and GOTY power rankings? — but they’re absolutely in the conversation.

Elsewhere, Cristian Roldan continues to do Cristian Roldan things in Seattle which is basically just being good at everything all the time. He’s sixth in non-penalty expected goals and assists in addition to doing consistently effective work defensively. He just barely missed out on the top-five but showed up on plenty of ballots.

Jamiro Monteiro has helped guide Philadelphia to one of the best records in the league and is just really fun to watch. The numbers relative to the rest of the league don’t necessarily back up his inclusion here, but did I mention he’s really fun to watch?

Midfielder · Orlando City SC

Fifth almost feels a little harsh for the MLS leader in goals and assists per 90 minutes. Nani has once again been excellent to start the year and maybe more than any other player has the ability to win a match singlehandedly when you need him to. His goal against Inter Miami over the weekend is a pretty good indication of that.

So far he’s been all you can really ask for from an MVP candidate. The question is now if he can sustain that pace for the rest of the year. He’s tailed off late in the season in recent years.

It’s really hard to describe the breakthrough moment Salloi is having. Like, real "middle of a movie montage” kind of stuff right now. I promise this is the last time we’ll mention it on this site (it’s not) but Salloi had one goal and one assist in 2019 and 2020 combined. He has seven goals and three assists this season. And those are just the surface numbers. The underlying numbers are even more encouraging. Salloi is third in non-penalty expected goals and assists. Basically, he’s not only receiving the ball in quality positions, he’s being effective once he receives it.

He’s been a significant catalyst for the league’s best attacking team and he’s been that completely unexpectedly. The good news is, his expected numbers indicate that it’s not just a flash in the pan. It will take a little more to crack the top three but it’s also probably not a good idea to count out Salloi right now. Especially when he’s producing match-winning moments like his goal against LAFC over the weekend.

Welcome to the part of the MVP Power Rankings where the analysis basically comes down to “Dude just scores goals.” Ruidiaz is third in non-penalty expected goals and is only missing out on the top spot by a tenth of a point. He’s one goal off from being tied for the Golden Boot presented by Audi lead. And he’s also probably hampered a bit in these rankings because his team has a little too much quality around him. It’s tough to be the Most Valuable Player when you’re needed just slightly less than players on other teams for your team to succeed. Actually, everything I’m saying is a perfect lead in to...

Welcome to the part of the MVP Power Rankings where the analysis basically comes down to “Dude just scores goals (and does it slightly better than Raul Ruidiaz).” Chicharito is 0.1 better than Ruidiaz in non-penalty expected goals. He’s one goal better than Ruidiaz in the Golden Boot race. And he’s far and away the single most crucial piece of the Galaxy’s success so far this season. The margins are thin but they still exist. Right now he’s provided a little bit more than Ruidiaz, and that’s why he’s in the second spot.

I wouldn’t quite call it a consensus, but the voting gave us a clear number one here. Gil takes over the top spot in the MVPower Rankings (sorry) and for good reason. Gil has created for his teammates at an almost comical level in comparison to the rest of the league. So far this year, Gil has 54 key passes or "passes that lead to a shot." The next closest player? 32 key passes. So far this year, Gil is leading the league in expected assists at 6.3. The next closest player? 3.5. He’s almost doubling up second place.

In addition to that, he’s third among non-defenders in goals added. Second in non-penalty expected goals and assists. And has a league-leading 10 assists on the season. He’s the reason the Revs are in the top spot in the East and challenging for the top spot in the league. And I don’t see him coming down off this perch any time soon.