Voices: Sam Jones

MLS MVP Power Rankings: Seattle's João Paulo enters the mix with league's elite

Welcome back to the MVP Power Rankings, the Power Rankings that are somehow even more subjective than the actual Power Rankings. Truly a sports blogging miracle. It’s crazy, but with no set criteria for what “most valuable” actually means, we just got together to 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 nearly halfway into the year and these kinds of assessments are beginning to mean a little more. To the votes.

Receiving votes

Damir Kreilach, Jonathan Mensah, Nani, Andreu Fontas, Hany Mukhtar

Jonathan Mensah and Andreu Fontas are your “A Couple of Us Wanted to Make Sure a Defender Got Included in an MVP Vote” Defenders of the Month.

But I’m the one who voted for Fontas and have no problem using my platform to advance my agenda of making sure everyone knows Fontas, a center back for a top-three team in the league, is leading all of MLS in American Soccer Analysis’ “goals added” metric. Every single player. Recent players to hold that title are Cristian Pavon, Carlos Vela and Miguel Almiron. It’s been that way almost all season for Fontas. He’s a crucial piece of why Kansas City have found sustained success this year and deserve a little more love.

Anyway, Nani, Damir Kreilach and Hany Mukhtar all received a vote or two here – and for good reason. None of them really play the same position, but each of them have seven goals on the season to go along with four assists. Except for Kreilach. He’s got five assists.

Not going to lie, I’m pretty excited to see Joao Paulo here. As someone who thinks he should have received far more buzz for Newcomer of the Year last season, this feels like vindication in some small way. Because it really isn’t all that surprising to see him here. He’s been consistently excellent for over a year now.

This season, with Seattle reeling from injuries and absences all over the field, JP has logged 15 starts and over 1,300 minutes while being a steadying force for a team that just finished having the best start in MLS history. Among midfielders in MLS this year, the Brazilian is in the 93rd percentile for assists per 90, in the 90th percentile and above for almost every passing metric while being in the 97th percentile in touches, all while being in the 88th percentile for tackles. The 30-year-old does everything and does each thing better than nearly everyone else. Just a phenomenal player.

Are we respecting Salloi enough here? He’s got nine goals and three assists this season, and it feels like half of those goals have been late winners or equalizers. He just seems to show up at the right times. That’s probably because he’s showing up consistently. Salloi is in the 98th percentile for expected goals among attacking mids and wingers. Nothing about this breakout year has been a fluke.

On top of that, goals added likes him more than anyone else on this list except one. His 12 goals plus assists are good for second in the league. And he’s the biggest contributor on a top-three team in the league. It almost feels harsh to have him in fourth. But…

Chicharito is Chicharito. And no one has been better when healthy this season. He’s averaging more than a goal per 90 minutes this season. That’s best in the league among players with more than 500 minutes played. But he’s been missing with a calf injury since June 26 and the Galaxy have suffered without him. Maybe that’s more of an argument for how valuable he is, though? Either way, it feels pretty impressive that despite missing five games now he’s still second in the league in goals.

I could tell you about how Ruidiaz is the Golden Boot presented by Audi leader and how good Seattle have been despite his most talented teammates being unavailable. Or I could remind you that just last week Ruidiaz and several actual children won an MLS game. I saw plenty of people say after Seattle’s win over Austin that all you needed to win a championship in MLS is Brian Schmetzer, Raul Ruidiaz and literally any 10 other dudes. I’m not sure anyone was kidding.

Key passes are defined as “the final pass leading to the recipient of the ball having an attempt at goal.” Carles Gil leads the league in key passes with 72. The next closest player is Bebelo Reynoso with ... 42. The difference between Gil and Reynoso, the second-best player in the league at creating chances, is the same difference as Reynoso and the multiple players tied for the honor of “82nd-best Chance Creator in MLS.”

On assists alone, Gil has the highest goals plus assists in the league. He’s three goals and assists better than any other player and he’s scored twice. And he’s first in goals added among attacking players.

Carles Gil is simply on another planet for New England right now.