Voices: Sam Jones

MLS MVP Power Rankings: Who leads the race after the first six weeks?

Y’all were so enamored with the team Power Rankings we decided we could do it with players too. Welcome to the MVP Power Rankings. An exercise somehow drowning in even more subjectivity.

Because what even is an MVP? Is it simply the best player statistically? If it’s not, is it the best player by the eye test? What does the word best even mean? And does best actually mean the same thing as a “most valuable” or does that go to the player doing the most to drag their team to their current station in life? Why are we even here? Who owns the internet? Why are scooters and bikes so complicated now?

These are all questions this article won’t be answering. Instead, it’s just going to present a ranking of the “most valuable” players from five to one based on voting from the MLSsoccer.com editorial staff based on whatever criteria they saw fit. On to the rankings.

Receiving votes

Taty Castellanos, Lucas Zelarayan, Alan Pulido, Nani, Antonio Carlos, Nouhou

Congrats to Seattle’s Nouhou and Orlando City’s Antonio Carlos for being the two defenders receiving votes this month. I’ll admit to being the lone Nouhou vote. Consider it a vote from The People. I also just wanted to make sure a defender got included somewhere here. They’re too often neglected in these kinds of things. I regret nothing.

It feels like Columbus’ Lucas Zelarayan and SKC’s Alan Pulido have taken a second to get rolling this year, but I could easily see them moving into the top-five by the next time we do this. Pulido has three goals and an assist over the last two weeks and Zelarayan spent last weekend single-handedly beating NYCFC with two stunning free kicks.

Speaking of NYCFC, Taty Castellanos barely missed out on the top-five here. I had him fourth on my “ballot”/google spreadsheet and I felt pretty confident in my reasoning. Castellanos is fourth in MLS in American Soccer Analysis’s raw goals added metric, he’s scored four goals and assisted on two others, plus his xG+xA is the third-highest in the league. He might be doing it on a better team and a bit less spectacularly than our fifth-place vote-getter, but his underlying numbers seem to indicate he’s been good enough to be considered a top-five player in MLS this year. For now, he’ll have to settle for top-six.

Like Castellanos, Rubin has four goals and two assists this season. Unlike, Castellanos, Rubin has gone the extra mile to entertain the masses.

I mean look at that. I wouldn’t be surprised if people voted him in the top five just for that. Can you blame them? I guess it also helps that Rubin has been far and away the best and most important player on an RSL team that had canyon-low expectations coming into the year, but let’s be real, it’s probably the bike, right?

Cristian is the first of two Sounders to make the top-five and for good reason. He’s second in expected assists this year (behind our next person on this list) with 2.6 xA for the best team in the league. Other than that though, Roldan is the person on this list that’s most difficult to praise. Not because he isn’t worthy of praise, it’s just harder to articulate why he’s so valuable when he doesn’t put up the numbers of other players on this list. The best way to do it is probably this: The best things that happen to the Sounders happen because of Cristian Roldan. 

In a year where Seattle entered with a lot of questions, Roldan has made answering them a lot easier. And they’ve clearly answered all of them despite Nico Lodeiro missing in the midfield. He’s one of those players who just feels like he’s everywhere at all times, he’s stepped up in Lodeiro’s absence, and Seattle wouldn’t be quite the same buzzsaw without him.

Gil is first in raw goals added, first in assists (4), first in chances created, first in big chances created, first in key passes, first in completed dribbles and first in successful crosses. That's a lot of firsts. About the only thing he isn't first in is xG+xA. Because he's second. 

It doesn’t stop there. For even more numbers on how good Gil has been, Joe Lowery did an extremely well-timed deep dive into some of the extraordinary numbers behind Gil's start to the season.

More than anyone, Gil has pushed the Revs to the top of the Eastern Conference. He doesn’t quite have the narrative strength to push him to the top of this list yet, but if he keeps putting up similar numbers, he could easily end the year on top. Eventually, the numbers become the narrative.

Ruidiaz is second in the league in goals scored with six, first in xG+xA and he’s the best player on the best team in the league. That’s a potent MVP combo. Like other Sounders, Ruidiaz may be hurt a bit here by being on a team where he’s surrounded by quality players. It’s hard to be the most valuable when the team would still be...well, at least pretty ok without you. He’s certainly the most valuable Sounder though. If he continues scoring at this rate and Seattle keeps winning, it’s going to be hard to deny him the award.

He’s the league’s leading goal scorer with the league’s best comeback story and he’s done it all while standing in the spotlight on national TV. The Narrative here is powerful and all-encompassing, and uncontained. For now, he’s the clear MVP. Apologies for the anti-climatic ending here. But when everyone knows the right answer, it’s probably the right answer. Only one voter didn’t include him on their ballot and only one other didn’t place him first. They placed him second. Chicharito is the most obvious Power Rankings winner since Seattle.