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Part 2: Handicapping the MLS MVP race
As much as I believe Brad Davis is the clear front-runner for MLS MVP honors, the reality is the race is wide open, and there’s never any telling which way voters will be leaning when the ballots come out. Here is a look at the top candidates:
MLS POWER RANKINGS
The top-heavy West has the top four spots in Ives Galarcep's MLS Power Rankings, but the East's depth claims the rest of the list's top half.
1. Real Salt Lake
2. Seattle Sounders
3. Los Angeles Galaxy
4. Sporting Kansas City
5. Houston Dynamo
6. Colorado Rapids
7. Portland Timbers
8. FC Dallas
9. Vancouver Whitecaps
10. San Jose Earthquakes
11. Toronto FC
12. New York Red Bulls
13. Chicago Fire
14. Philadelphia Union
15. D.C. United
Brad Davis, Houston Dynamo
Why he should win - Most consistent attacking player in the league all season, has carried the Dynamo to first place in the East. Currently tied for the league lead with 14 assists.
Why he won’t win - Voters love big goal totals, so a midfielder with just four goals isn’t going to wow voters.
Brek Shea, FC Dallas
Why he should win - He absolutely carried the FC Dallas offense after it lost reigning MLS MVP David Ferreira early in the year. Shea blossomed into one of the most dangerous midfielders in the league, posting 10 goals and 3 assists.
Why he won’t win - After a grueling stretch of games in August and early September, he hit a wall and has seen his impact dip. A slow finish will cost him against candidates who perform well in the playoff chase.
Mauro Rosales, Seattle Sounders
Why he should win - The unquestioned engine of the high-powered Seattle offense, it was Rosales’s playmaking ability that turned a struggling Sounders attack into one of the best in MLS despite the loss of Steve Zakuani. His 5 goals and 12 assists in 24 matches is impressive.
Why he won’t win - Ankle injury suffered a week ago could cost him a month of playing time at a key moment to impress voters. He also didn’t get off to the strongest start to the season as he settled in with his new team.
Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake
Why he should win - Much like Davis, Beckerman has been a consistent high-level performer and has arguably been RSL’s most reliable player all season long. He helped solidify the midfield after the loss of Javier Morales and played well enough to earn US national team consideration. Three goals and nine assists from a deep-lying midfield role stand out.
Why he won’t win - Defensive midfielders don’t win MVP awards, though Beckerman’s sharp passing make him far more than some destroyer in the middle.
Dwayne De Rosario, DC United
Why he should win - League’s leading scorer also has 10 assists and has been instrumental in pushing DC to the brink of a playoff berth. He has produced 10 goals and six assists for DC since joining in early July. If he keeps up that pace for the final month, he could walk away with the MVP award.
Why he won’t win - Largely ineffective during the first half of the MLS season, so much so that two teams, Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls, both traded him away. Should also be noted that large chunks of his stats have come in a few games. Eight of his 10 goals with DC United came in games vs. San Jose, Toronto FC and a RSL side playing mostly reserves.
Jack Jewsbury, Portland Timbers
Why he should win - Was the driving force behind the Timbers good start to the season, and has been a steady presence both in the attack and in supporting the defense all season. He leads Portland in goals (7) and assists (8).
Why he won’t win - Hasn’t put up the offensive numbers in recent months that he did in the first half of the season, but more importantly, Timbers are looking like a playoff longshot right now.
Landon Donovan, Los Angeles Galaxy
Why he should win - He’s the league’s best player, and he’s put together another strong season (12 goals) on the best team in MLS. Seems simple, doesn’t it?
Why he won’t win - The Galaxy showed during the month of August, and during the occasions when Bruce Arena has rested Donovan, that they can win without him. Donovan also got off to a bit of a slow start before hitting an MVP-caliber stride just before the Gold Cup. His numbers are also below his usual production. Right now he has just three assists (he hasn’t had fewer than six since 2002).
Dominic Oduro, Chicago Fire
Why he should win - The hottest striker in the league right now, Oduro has single-handedly helped boost the Fire offense and give Chicago some faint hope of a miracle run to the playoffs (his 11 goals are twice as many as the second-leading scorer on the Fire).
Why he won’t win - While he should lock-up MLS Most Improved Player, Oduro won’t seriously be considered because the Fire were just too bad for too long this season. That said, he has put up extremely impressive numbers in an offense that floundered for more than half the season.
Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls
Why he should win - He shouldn’t, but he makes the list because he was arguably the league’s MVP at the mid-way point of the season. He could merit consideration with a strong final month (he has 12 goals and 4 assists at the moment).
Why he won’t win - The Red Bulls have woefully underperformed, enduring a horrendous past two months. That, plus the fact that Henry takes too many games off to nurse injuries (or avoid playing on turf) to be considered a true MVP-caliber player. In fact, you could make the argument that Joel Lindpere is more MVP-worthy on the New York Red Bulls than Henry is.
Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia Union
Why he should win - He has been as important to the Union’s survival over the past two months as any player has been to their team. His 8 goals and 8 assists are both team highs.
Why he won’t win - Didn’t have the best first half of the season, and isn’t a really strong candidate, but if he finishes strong he will get some votes.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FOXSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the US National Team.