A center back has never won the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award – it's almost always gone to a forward or attacking midfielder these past 24 years – but Charlie Davies believes that could change in 2020.
On Thursday’s episode of Extratime, the former US men’s national team forward laid out the case for Columbus Crew SC captain Jonathan Mensah. Columbus lead the Supporters’ Shield race as the final 10 regular-season games get underway, and the captain’s anchored a defense that’s allowed a league-low five goals against.
Mensah, 30, joined Columbus in 2017 from Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala, initially as a Designated Player. He’s also earned 61 caps for Ghana’s national team, including appearances at the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups.
“You know I love my attackers, you know I love my goalscorers,” Davies said. “Salute to everybody doing it for their clubs, but Jonathan Mensah, for me, has been the MVP this year. Just being this relentless, smart, tactical defensive player who you can rely on, who's consistent and everyone who you can see vibes off of. This is a tremendous, talented center back in this league that we're not really accustomed to seeing, a center back with his capabilities and how he's kind of set the tone for Columbus Crew.”
Davies added that if Columbus win the Shield, then it’s a clear-and-obvious choice. But there’s also the broader context of the Crew’s lineup, with Eloy Room capable of game-saving plays and Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayan helping to help form arguably the league’s top midfield trio alongside Artur. That duo joined from Atlanta United and Tigres UANL, respectively, this past offseason.
But what if Gyasi Zardes wins the Golden Boot, as Extratime co-host Andrew Wiebe posed? The striker has nine goals on the year and just trails LAFC star Diego Rossi (11), so that could complicate things.
“I'd say, 'Congratulations, here's the Golden Boot, and the MVP still goes to Jonathan Mensah,'” Davies said. “Unless you are scoring at just at a phenomenal rate like we saw Josef Martinez do, like we've seen Carlos Vela do where you know this guy's scoring loads of goals, hat tricks, big goals, big moments and doing it every single match, just dominant, then you say, ‘OK here is the trophy, MVP and the Golden Boot, you've done it.’ That's not what we're seeing from Gyasi. Yeah he's scoring goals, but we're also seeing Zelarayan and Nagbe and Pedro Santos. We've seen a number of attacking players do their job and look great at times.”
Vela’s the reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP after posting 34 goals and 15 assists last year to break several regular-season records. Jeff Agoos (center back) was a finalist in 2001 and Tony Meola (goalkeeper) won in 2000.
Perhaps everything will change during this most-irregular season.
“One player who's remained the same and has remained impactful every single match has been Jonathan Mensah, and for me that is why he gets the MVP,” Davies said. “Right now, if the season ended right now, this would be it."