Defenders do not get much run in MVP discussions. This year certainly won’t change the trend. Boswell’s place on this list serves as a nod to him and other Defender of the Year candidates like Matt Hedges (FC Dallas) and Chad Marshall (Seattle). None of them will win MVP this year, but they still play vital roles in the success or failure of their sides.
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Fabian Espindola, D.C. United forward
If only Felipe Martins had kept his desire to whack Espindola to himself. Espindola found himself on track to make a compelling MVP case for one of the league’s best teams before he missed time with the injury incurred after that cheap shot. He won’t win the award now, but his excellent season (9 goals, 9 assists in his first 23 appearances) played a large part in United’s revival nevertheless.
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Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy forward
Donovan failed to meet his usual standards during the first quarter of the season, but his decision to retire at the end of the season prompted him to return to his best form. His numbers (10 goals, 18 assists in his first 27 appearances) are staggering considering he scored his first goal on May 25. His slow start and the presence of the more consistent Robbie Keane will likely torpedo his MVP candidacy, though.
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Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City forward
Sporting’s recent struggles have obscured the prolific season from the continually improving forward. Dwyer now holds the club record for goals in a season (20) after his impressive campaign, but the second-half swoon may limit his potential as a genuine candidate for the award.
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Pedro Morales, Vancouver midfielder
Vancouver relies on Morales to inspire a team without a genuine number nine to provide the end product. Morales meets the necessary standards time and again (10 goals, 10 assists in 29 appearances) to provide the Whitecaps with enough sharpness to fuel their playoff push.
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Diego Valeri, Portland midfielder
Credit the clever Argentinian midfielder for providing an often brilliant touchstone in a difficult season for the Timbers. His creativity stitches everything together (9 goals and 14 assists in his first 30 appearances), while his penchant for scoring stunning goals offers plenty of highlights to bolster his candidacy.
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Lee Nguyen, New England midfielder
Nguyen punctuated his growth over the past few years with a breakout 2014 season. He leads the league in scoring by a natural midfielder (13 goals, including seven game-winning goals, tops in MLS) and pulls the strings for a Revolution side likely to make the playoffs. The primary black mark on his candidacy: a lack of production during the Revs’ eight-match losing streak this summer.
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Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York forward
Wright-Phillips is in the midst of a potentially historic season. The single-season goals record (27) is firmly in his sights. His status in this race is fairly straightforward. If he reaches that mark (he currently sits on 24 goals with four games to play), then he will likely win MVP. If he does not, then he may fall short given his lack of assists (1 assist in 28 appearances) and the Red Bulls’ tenuous hold on a playoff berth.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsRick Osentoski
Obafemi Martins, Seattle forward
The former Nigerian international serves as the hub for Seattle’s attacking thrust. His production (15 goals, 10 assists in his first 27 appearances) spurs Sounders FC's potent attack. If Sounders FC wins the Supporters' Shield, then his case will strengthen even more.
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY SportsJaime Valdez
Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy forward
Keane’s consistent excellence serves as the foundation for the Galaxy’s Supporters’ Shield push. His numbers are stellar (17 goals, 14 assists in his first 27 appearances), but it is his ability to bring others into the play and his constant influence on matches that places him atop this list. “Anyone with a brain in a game, it’s hard to say that Robbie wouldn’t be your first choice,” Galaxy manager Bruce Arena told reporters earlier this week.