Midseason awards are a lot like halftime leads: nice to have, but a lot of things can go a lot of different ways down the stretch.
Still, they're fun to talk about (fine, argue about) – and now, we've come to the big one: Which player, in the eyes of MLSsoccer.com's editorial staff members, has been the most valuable so far?
Fair warning: Don't expect one candidate to run away with the early balloting. Heck, you could name three guys – Nemanja Nikolic, Dax McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger – from the worst-to-first Chicago Fire alone.
Who's your guy, out of the field below – or did we miss him entirely? Let us know in the comments section below.
Simon Borg, Editor-in-Chief
Two goals and five assists in 15 matches is obviously not an MVP-like haul on the surface, but to rely purely on stats is to grossly diminish what the German midfielder has meant to the Fire both on and off the field. He’s the one constantly making all the little plays that don’t appear in the box score. If the Fire are now playing with a championship swagger, he’s responsible for it.
Ben Couch, Senior Editor
When you get traded from a Supporters’ Shield contender to the league’s last-place team, and you’re on a Supporters’ Shield contender while your former squad is mayyyybe sneaking into the playoffs? That’s a sign. So is stepping into a downtrodden situation and declaring “our ceiling is as high as we want it to be.” For everything happening in Chicago, the conversation starts there.
Andrew Wiebe, Senior Editor
I’m a firm believer that the MVP ought to play for a good team. As in, a no-doubt playoff team and MLS Cup contender. The Fire and Toronto FC don’t have a dominant presence – How can you choose between Basti, Nikolic, David Accam and Dax? With Sebastian Giovinco struggling to replicate 2015’s dominance, who is Toronto’s singular, irreplaceable shining light? – but NYCFC do, and he’s already got a shiny trophy with Landon Donovan’s name on it. That’d be David Villa, who I think is still the most valuable player to his team in the league. With him, the blue side of New York looks like the only way is up. Without him, would they be a playoff team? Probably? Maybe? Fortunately, that’s a scenario Patrick Vieira hasn’t had to even imagine.
Arielle Castillo, Senior Editor
Who can turn the world on with his smile? This Atlanta United star looks perpetually thrilled just to be here. But his midfield production – including some eight assists so far – really, like Lebowski's rug, ties the whole thing together.
Matt Doyle, Senior Writer
Basti. Chicago have been doing stuff like this since he arrived, and he's always at the heart of it:
They're 10-2-3, +20 GD when he plays. They're 1-1-2, -2 GD when he doesn't. (I also want to give a small shout-out to C.J. Sapong here, because Philly would be a goal-less trainwreck without that man. In terms of raw "value" he's up there with Basti and David Villa, and nobody else here is gonna write that, but I've got you C.J.)
Nicholas Rosano, Senior Editor
David Villa. When I think about these awards, I like to picture what the team might be like without the player. And while Jack Harrison is quietly putting the sophomore slump trope to bed, I have a hard time imagining NYCFC's top-three attack is anywhere close to that without Villa in the lineup. Other teams – even (especially?) Chicago – are equipped to get by without one of their important players, but I just don't see it for an Villa-less NYCFC.
Benjamin Baer, New Media Editor
This is a bit of an odd choice, as some would argue that Dax isn’t even the best center midfielder on his own team, but to me those arguments should fall on deaf ears. The tone that McCarty has set since his arrival has been one of the main reasons for the Fire’s turnaround. His play on the field has also been exceptional, bossing the midfield in a similar way he did for the Red Bulls (who have felt the loss of McCarty) and playing inch-perfect passes to break opponent lines.
Charles Boehm, Contributor
Schweinsteiger and Dax are patrolling the engine room and David Accam is marauding the flanks, but it's the relentless scoring of Nemanja Nikolic that has powered Chicago's startling ascent to the top of the standings. The Hungarian international is on pace to demolish the MLS single-season scoring record, and he's blowing up our old ideas about the Fire en route.
David Gass, Contributor
Dax McCarty. Ben Baer has convinced me here to go with Dax. I already believed someone from Chicago deserves this award but was having trouble landing on who. Dax has been a top performer and, as we know, a vocal leader. The trade for him was the start of their turnaround and even without Schweinsteiger, I believe they would easily be in playoff position.