This is (almost) it. Each month we check in with the MLSsoccer.com staff to get their thoughts on the 2022 Landon Donovan MLS MVP race. With just a few regular-season games left, this is our last barometer before these same people help decide the actual award a month or so from now.
Twelve MLSsoccer.com writers, voices and editors voted in this one. A first-place vote received 10 points, a second-place vote received five points, a third-place vote received three points, a fourth-place vote received two points and a fifth-place vote received one point.
- Carles Gil, New England Revolution (7 points)
- Jose Cifuentes, LAFC (6)
- Jesus Ferreira, FC Dallas (4)
- Cristian Arango, LAFC (3)
- Ilie Sanchez, LAFC (3)
- Lucas Zelarayan, Columbus Crew (2)
- Brandon Vazquez, FC Cincinnati (1)
- Luciano Acosta, FC Cincinnati (1)
- Kai Wagner, Philadelphia Union (1)
- Victor Wanyama, CF Montréal (1)
So, we ended up with 10 people outside the top five. I didn’t check, but I’m assuming it’s a record. It seems like most of the voters spent their time either deciding between Philadelphia Union players, LAFC players, trying to be kind of hipster about their choices or, sometimes, all three.
It’s too many names to really highlight, but can we all just agree that everyone listed here has been both 1) Excellent at soccer and 2) Critical to the success of a good to even great team? Cool? Cool.
If you thought you’d come here to see if we settled the Andre Blake vs. Daniel Gazdag discussion the Union fans have been having for the last couple of weeks, I’m going to assume you didn’t really expect this curveball.
Jose Martinez got a nice push from the good folks at Extratime and deservedly so. Per FBref, El Brujo enters this week in the 92nd percentile in tackles plus interceptions per 90 among midfielders. He’s in the 92nd percentile as well for the percentage of dribblers he tackles per 90. You can’t get by him. He’s been a crucial part of the best defense in the league.
Of course, the same thing can be said for Blake. The only keeper who has an argument to Blake’s throne atop the goalkeeping leaderboard is New England’s Djordje Petrovic, who’s played half the minutes. Blake is second to Petrovic in goals allowed versus the expected goals totals he’s faced. He’s been good enough to keep out 8.5 goals relative to the xG Philadelphia have allowed. The next closest player, Portland’s Aljaz Ivacic, has kept out 4.5.
Blake and Martinez are both phenomenal. But having them tie is a perfect illustration of why players like them – as well as Kai Wagner, Gazdag, Ilie Sanchez, Cristian Arango, Jose Cifuentes, Luciano Acosta and Brandon Vazquez – are at a disadvantage in an MVP race. They have too much production around them. It makes it harder to be “valuable.”
Reynoso has spent the better part of the second half of the season turning Minnesota United from a team that looked set to miss the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs into one of the hottest teams in the league. Minnesota’s incredible second-half form stems from the fact Reynoso decided at some point he would just start doing the group project himself until everyone else picked it up.
He has 10 goals and nine assists on the season – with eight of those goals and six of those assists coming after the June international break. Since Reynoso’s brace in a win against the LA Galaxy on June 29, the Loons have won eight of the 11 games Reynoso has started. He is an X-factor for Minnesota in a way few players are for their team.
Unfortunately for the Loons, they might be missing their playmaker for a bit.
And we’re back to talking about how good the Union are.
Over the course of the season, Philly’s attacking trio of Gazdag, Julian Carranza and Mikael Uhre have transformed into a terrifying three-headed monster. Gazdag has been the best of them though. He has a club-record 18 goals on the season and four primary assists. That’s enough for the third-highest direct goal contribution mark in the league.
But once again, a Union player’s MVP case is going to be derailed by the talent of their teammates. Carranza has 20 direct goal contributions on the season and Uhre has 12. Gazdag has been the leader for the group this season, but he hasn’t carried the team quite in the same way our next two players have.
You might be able to tell by the number of points these next two players have, but it seemed like everyone was just filling in names below first and second place because they were required to. Only two players got first-place votes, and Driussi is deservedly one of them.
Austin have been one of the single best stories in MLS this year, and they’ve been powered offensively by Driussi’s 20 goals and seven assists. He’s second in the Golden Boot presented by Audi race and second in goal contributions this season. Driussi has been outstanding and has consistently found a way to find the net beyond the rate his underlying numbers suggest. Almost no one has meant more to their team’s success this year.
For me and plenty of other votes, Mukhtar is your current choice for MVP.
He leads the Golden Boot race with 21 goals and 11 assists on the season. He’s first in the league in American Soccer Analysis’ goals added metric. And absolutely no one has been so singular in their contribution to quality outcomes for their team.
Nashville SC have 48 goals on the season. Mukhtar has directly contributed to 32 of them. By the way, did I mention he’s one of five MLS players to ever rack up 20 goals and 10 assists in a season? Anyway, when you’re contributing to 66% of your team’s goals, I think we can go ahead and declare you extremely valuable.
Nashville simply wouldn’t be a threat in attack without Mukhtar. Heading into the last month of the season, he’s your MVP.
Mukhtar v Driussi: Who will show off their MVP credentials? | Quicker Stats