Sunday's going to be a busy one in MLS. Prepare yourself. Choose your ESPN+ games wisely.
Here are three quick thoughts to mull on before the soccer.
Why Jordan Morris isn’t the MVP of his own team…
Fall is here and the Landon Donovan MLS MVP narratives are building steam, coalescing into full-blown opinions, somewhat heated arguments and comprehensive Twitter threads making the case for why this player or that deserves the honor in this FUBAR year.
I am as guilty as anyone of participating in the horse race. Far guiltier, as you may already know. I’ve had my crop out for weeks now, flailing away to make sure you understand just how good Alejandro Pozuelo’s 2020 season has been and why, for the time being, he’s got my vote. Such is the life of Major League Soccer soccer dot com’s resident narrative builder.
Jordan Morris, as much as I respect his ever-evolving game and league-leading statistical contributions, cannot be MLS MVP, in my mind, because he’s not the most valuable or best player on his own team. That’d be Nico Lodeiro, whose destiny is to be arguably the most talented, productive, complete player in MLS to never finish in the top three of MVP voting.
The man covers the most ground in the league per match by nearly a kilometer, according to Second Spectrum data, and is second in big chances created, second in intentional assists, fourth in expected assists, eighth in overall chances created and has four goals to go along with eight assists. Everything he does is at an all-league level, and he does literally everything.
But Lodeiro will almost certainly never win the MLS MVP award, a shame if only because his contributions deserve individual plaudits. I’m guessing the Uruguayan is plenty content with a steady stream of wins and a couple MLS Cups (and counting). Same for Morris, too.
Perhaps the move in 2020 is for the Sounders, their supporters and national voices like me to choose a Seattle player and unite behind them for MVP. I’m guessing that’ll be Morris, which is fine. He absolutely deserves to be in the running, no matter my opinion about his place in his own squad.
But Lodeiro deserves something for his efforts too, something to put on the mantel next to all those rings. So, by the power vested in me by absolutely nobody, I hereby award Nicolas Lodeiro the 2016-2020 MLS MVP award. He absolutely deserves it.
Will Jhonder Cadiz make his Nashville debut this weekend?
We’ve got a Designated Player debut alert for this weekend’s game in Kansas City. Nashville manager Gary Smith told Tom Bogert that this is the match on Sunday (7:30 pm ET | TV & Streaming) he had circled on the calendar as a possible first run out for Venezuelan forward Jhonder Cadiz, who is on loan from Benfica.
Reading between the lines, it’s unlikely to be a start, if the 25-year-old does indeed play. Smith told the Tennessean on Tuesday night after a second straight scoreless draw that Cadiz was getting “ready to compete at a sensible level.” Sensible feels like an intentional word choice.
“He’s going through his paces at the moment,” Smith said. “He’s working hard. We’d love to try and fast-track him into the group and be ready for us as soon as possible.”
On Friday, Smith confirmed that he's available for selection.
That doesn’t sound like a player ready to put in a full shift, even if Nashville desperately need the punch he’d bring the second-lowest scoring squad in MLS (11 goals, three more than FC Cincinnati). And while the expansion side can’t score, at least they’re still in the playoffs, just above the line in 10th but within two points of the Red Bulls and Impact in 7th and 8th.
It’s not a particularly exciting brand of soccer so far, but so what? General manager Mike Jacobs couldn’t have seen this pandemic coming, but his roster-building strategy turned out to be well suited to the times. Nashville didn’t blow through their TAM. They didn’t give up roster flexibility or stretch to fill DP spots. They have Walker Zimmerman, whose Defender of the Year campaign is heating up, locked down for years to come. They’re building around him, and rightfully so.
Nashville have a solid foundation to build on once there is some semblance of certainty in our society, our world and our league. In the meantime, they might just make the playoffs and have a DP forward rested and ready to power the attack when it matters most. It worked out pretty well, all things considered.
How will LAFC cope without Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez?
Thanks to Wednesday’s postponement, Sunday against the Sounders will be the first time we see Bob Bradley’s team without both of its star Uruguayan attackers. Rossi leads the league in goals (12), and Rodriguez, who started and was arguably man of the match in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying against Chile Thursday, is tied for third in assists (7).
Time to #PlayYourKids, it seems. Which kids are trying to put the ball on Bradley Wright-Phillips’ foot in the box remains to be seen. This has been an up-and-down season for LAFC. More of the same coming, perhaps, though rumors of a standout Copa Libertadores center back from Colombia is news that could help them point towards up.