By Kevin Koczwara
The MLS Season is coming to a close, which means it’s time to start sorting out annual end of the year awards. The biggest award, and often most misunderstood award, is the Most Valuable Player Award. The award tends to go to goalscorers with gaudy stats rather than player who may be more integral to his team’s success. Well, this year, two of my three picks are holding midfielders because Major League Soccer hasn’t had a real stand-out forward all year.
I will concede Dwayne De Rosario has been a dynamo since being traded to D.C. United from New York Red Bulls. But, he was traded earlier int he year from Toronto FC to New York because he didn’t fit in and was causing a stink over his contract. New York then traded him again because the experiment was working. So, can a player deemed not good enough by two teams be good enough for his final team? I can’t justify it.
So, here goes. This is my list of the top three candidates for MLS MVP this season. Be ready for a shock. These may not be names you associate with end of season awards or flashing lightbulbs. These are the gritty players (2 out of the 3) who make the big difference for their teams.
ONE: Osvaldo Alonso — The man who controls the midfield for the Seattle Sounders has been in the middle of the Sounders impressive season. Without Alonso, Seattle’s attacking players would have to track back and defend more or leave its defense exposed to counter-attacks.
Alsono is the prototypical defensive-midfielder: he wins the ball back, works hard, protects the backline, closes down space in the midfield, provides and easy outlet for defenders and makes smart decisions on the ball. Just a few seasons ago Alsono was playing in the USL and defecting from Cuba. In the last two seasons, he’s become on of Major League Soccer’s best midfielders, best bargain, and the key player to one of the most exciting team in the league. It’s time he got his due, even though it probably won’t happen.
TWO: Kyle Beckerman — Another holding midfielder, and it comes with good reason. Beckerman has got his chance with the U.S. Men’s National Team after an impressive season holding down the midfield for Real Salt Lake. The midfielder has had to do some extra work this season after the horrific injury to the team’s creative fulcrum, Javier Morales, but that hasn’t hampered Beckerman, the team’s captain. He’s come out strong, lead the team, and shown he is one of the league’s best leaders and all-around midfielders week-in and week out.
If Salt Lake lost Beckerman instead of Morales, would the team have made the MLS Cup Playoffs? I’d say no. He’s the main reason the Salt Lake midfield doesn’t get run over. He’s the main outlet for the defense when it’s looking for a safe, positive pass out of the back.
His play has been so impressive that he’s earned another chance at the USMNT.
THREE: Sebastian Le Toux — His goalscoring numbers aren’t the same as last season, but don’t be misled because Le Touxe has had another stellar season for the Philadelphia Union. Le Toux has had his hand in 20 of the Union’s goals — 11 goals and 9 assists — and has done everything asked him.
Despite being last season’s leading goalscorer for the Union, Le Toux was asked to play out wide to allow Carlos Ruiz to be the fulcrum of the team’s attack early on, and Le Toux worked hard at getting into good space, defending more, and creating chances for his teammates. He has shifted into midfield more this season as well, being more of a stabilizing presence and leader of the line. When Ruiz decided he no longer wanted to play for the Union, Le Toux stepped up and made himself the prototypical No. 9 for the Union again, helping the team to its first playoff appearance.