Daily Kickoff - 7.11.24
What you need to know

USMNT parts ways with head coach Gregg Berhalter

Gregg Berhalter has been relieved of his duties as US men's national team head coach. The news follows the program's early exit at the 2024 Copa América, where the US became the first-ever host country to be eliminated in the tournament's group stage. The decision comes roughly two years before the US co-hosts the 2026 FIFA World Cup along Canada and Mexico.

LAFC, Sporting Kansas City book spots in USOC semifinals

LAFC and Sporting Kansas City punched their tickets in the US Open Cup semifinals on Wednesday night. LAFC will take on Seattle in the semifinals, while Sporting KC will face off with USL Championship outfit Indy Eleven after their upset of Atlanta United on Tuesday.

Whitecaps win, Toronto falter in Canadian Championship

The 2024 Canadian Championship resumed Wednesday evening, as Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC opened two-legged semifinal clashes against Canadian Premier League opponents. Both clubs went on the road for their Leg 1 matches, with Toronto FC picking up a road goal in a one-goal loss to Forge FC at Tim Hortons Field, while Vancouver are in the driver's seat following a 1-0 victory over Pacific FC at Starlight Stadium.

Is this the best MVP race ever?

We put together our monthly MVP Power Rankings this morning and, without spoiling too much, I can tell you that Lionel Messi is not in first place. He’s not in second either. That’s right, per the folks watching as closely as anybody, the greatest player of all time hasn’t been the most valuable player in the league this year.

Now, there is a teeny, tiny caveat to that. And the caveat is basically that if Messi had made more than 11 starts this year, this wouldn’t even be close and we would all be giggling about how players like Lucho Acosta and Chicho Arango were putting up career years and still weren’t even really all that close to Messi’s production level. Messi has 25 goal contributions this season. Arango leads the league with 28. Messi has made 11 starts. Arango has made 20. Messi is averaging 2.17 contributions per 90. Arango is averaging 1.42. If both players played every minute of a 34-game season and kept that same pace, Messi would contribute to 74 goals, Arango would contribute to 48. We’re basically talking about the difference between an all-time great MLS team and a team that gets bounced in Round One of the playoffs. I mean, just one MLS team since 1998 has scored more than 74 goals and it was 2019 LAFC.

To be clear, 48 goal contributions are absurd. Carlos Vela holds the MLS record with 49 goal contributions in a season. But Messi has been otherworldly when he’s on the pitch.

He hasn’t really been on the pitch much though. And that’s why Acosta and Arango are getting voted ahead of him in a conversation about the “most valuable” player. It’s hard to be “most valuable” when you’ve started less than half of your team’s games. Eventually, though, he’ll be back from international duty. He’ll have about nine games to catch up to the pack. If he finishes with more goal contributions than Acosta and Arango while leading Inter Miami to a Supporters’ Shield down the stretch, is anyone really going to vote against him?

None of that is a given though. And we haven’t even talked about the fact that Denis Bouanga is right there with the rest of the group and has better underlyings than everyone but Messi. And what about Cucho Hernández in Columbus? He’s only played 14 games but is lighting up teams as usual.

Point is, the field is stacked. But are we watching the best MVP race ever? That’s extremely subjective and probably a question for the Extratime guys who have opinions on Peter Vermes’ first season… as a player. Objectively, there’s not a ton we can do, but I did look at each year’s top contributors since 2013 to see if a certain year had an elite trio of attackers more productive than all the others.

If you’re looking for pure production, 2019 is your answer. And it’s not just because of Vela. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had 36 direct goal contributions (goals plus primary assists) and Josef Martínez had 29. Twenty-nine direct goal contributions would have been the most in MLS in the last three years and all but four years since 2013. Thing is, Vela won that race wire-to-wire.

This year’s group has a chance to challenge that production and to be an actual race. Acosta is on pace for 38 direct goal contributions. And Messi, Arango and Bouanga are one pace for 34 each. That puts this year’s trio at 106 goal contributions, three behind 2019’s 109.

There’s a pretty good argument that two-thirds of the way through the season, we’ve never seen an MVP race quite like this. Ultimately, it might just come down to who wins the Supporters’ Shield. That might sound a bit anticlimactic but don’t forget, that race is turning into an all-time great too. Which I guess means we’re watching an all-time great season?

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