MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. -- MLS players get their say in the annual voting for the league's Landon Donovan Most Valuable Player award. But ask them who the best player in the league is, and a different name keeps coming up -- a prior MVP, but not the reigning one.
In an informal poll of MLS stars, one player who didn't play against Toronto FC attacker Sebastian Giovinco much last year -- the LA Galaxy's Giovani dos Santos -- rated the Atomic Ant among the league's top talents.
So, should Giovinco -- the 2015 MVP -- have repeated last season, instead of seeing the trophy go to New York City FC striker David Villa?
Not necessarily, Dos Santos said -- echoing the results of the 2016 balloting, which saw Villa run away with the club and player voting while the media votes were split evenly between Giovinco, Villa and New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips.
“I think Giovinco is one of the best players in the league,” said dos Santos, “but I think last year Villa had a great year and deserved the MVP.”
Wright-Phillips is of a similar mind, regarding both Giovinco's talent and the balloting.
“Toronto could be playing terrible and he can just do one or two bits or magic that no one else can do in the league," Wright-Phillips said. “I saw a lot of articles or comments saying that he should have been in there, but he got injured at a crucial time. I feel like everyone knows he's the best player, but that shouldn't what be MVP is. It's who's done the best throughout the season, who stood out. That's what it should be. And I think David Villa did that all season, and he won the MVP.
“Obviously Giovinco, if he's playing to his best every season, he could win it every year. That wouldn’t be fun, would it?”
Goalkeeper Tim Howard didn’t go up against Giovinco last season, joining the Colorado Rapids after the clubs’ lone regular season meeting, so while he acknowledged the Toronto FC star’s brilliance he also had praise for one of his Western Conference opponents -- FC Dallas' Mauro Diaz -- as well as the MVP.
“For me, Diaz was lights out,” said Howard. “He’s a special player at Dallas. He makes that team. With him they’re one team, without him they’re a whole other, a whole different team. I thought he was really special.
“David Villa, he lit the place up last year. There are so many good players, which makes this league special.”