- With MLS at the midway point, we pick an MVP for each of the 22 clubs. Some picks are significantly easier than others.
Major League Soccer’s unbalanced schedule and oddly timed All-Star break can make it tough to determine when, exactly, the middle of the season actually is. Week 17 should, in theory, be it, given that the regular season is 34 games. But as we sit here today, several teams have played fewer than 17 games. Some have played more.
Even with that disparity, though, it seems like as good a time as any to use this week’s Power Rankings as a time to reflect on the season so far for each of the league’s 22 teams. With so little movement in the rankings (especially at the top), we’re eschewing the normal procedure and naming a midseason MVP for each team. For some squads, that’s harder to determine than others.
MIDSEASON MVP: Victor Vazquez. Jozy Altidore’s form has been red-hot, and while Sebastian Giovinco hasn’t been quite as transcendent as he had been the last two seasons, he’s still always a danger. That said, my pick for midseason team MVP is Vazquez. The new arrival from Cruz Azul is joint top of the league in assists, and he got another on Friday in a 2–0 win over the Revolution. He also helps his team in numerous other ways, circulating the ball in the attacking third in a way that helps Altidore and Giovinco do what they do best.
MIDSEASON MVP: Nemanja Nikolic. Plenty out there expected Nikolic to be good, but 14-goals-in-17-games good? Its highly doubtful that even the most optimistic Fire fan saw that coming. Nikolic is the obvious choice for midseason MVP, but the entire roster is littered with contenders. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Dax McCarty and David Accam all have helped change the culture and direction of this club in 2017.
MIDSEASON MVP: David Villa. If you’re waiting for the 35-year-old Villa to slow down, you may be waiting a little bit longer. Villa is an easy choice for NYCFC’s midseason MVP, and it goes well beyond his 10 goals and six assists. Villa is a player that is so constantly available for his teammates, his squad takes on an entirely different look when he’s not on the field. NYCFC might be good without him, but with Villa, it's an MLS Cup contender.
MIDSEASON MVP: Ike Opara. SKC has received key contributions all year from positions all over the field, but one of the most important comes in the back. The oft-injured Opara has been healthy and in wonderful form, with his stellar one-on-one defending a big reason why SKC’s defensive unit is the league’s best in goals allowed. Kansas City’s high-risk style of play needs a player in the back that can put out fires, and nobody in the league has done that better than Opara this season.
MIDSEASON MVP: Maxi Urruti. With Mauro Diaz sidelined and only just recently starting to make his on-field comeback, the pressure was on the rest of FC Dallas’ attacking corps to produce. That’s exactly Urruti has done, though not in the same way Diaz would have. With nine goals and three assists on the year, Urruti is looking like the go-to striker Dallas thought it had when the club bought Cristian Colman in the offseason.
MIDSEASON MVP: Miguel Almiron. Atlanta paid big money to get Almiron for its inaugural season, and so far he’s been worth every penny. The Paraguayan is a terror in open space, with a fifth gear that’s incredibly hard for defenders to match. That wouldn’t be so worrisome on its own, but Almiron is also adept at finding open space. In an Atlanta team with no shortage of attacking talent, Almiron is the straw that stirs the drink.
MIDSEASON MVP: Diego Valeri. Valeri has been the cornerstone of the Portland Timbers for each of his four full seasons in the league, and the first half of his fifth has been exactly the same. Valeri is the key to everything the Timbers do in the attacking third, with that being especially in a 2017 season where the Timbers have struggled on the defensive side of things.
MIDSEASON CO-MVP: Romell Quioto/Alberth Elis. It’s tempting to go with 11-goal scorer Erick “Cubo” Torres, but instead I’m going to split this award between wingers Quioto and Elis. The two MLS newcomers have stepped right in and given the Dynamo one of the most fearsome wide attacks in the league, with either capable of delivering a killer pass, making dangerous runs and finishing off scoring chances from just about any angle or distance. Cubo’s goal total is worthy of praise, but the help he gets from his wingers shouldn’t be overlooked.
MIDSEASON MVP: Kemar Lawrence. Bradley Wright-Phillips has been good, but not great. Sacha Kljestan hasn’t impacted games in the same way he has in previous seasons. With all that in mind, the pick for the Red Bulls is Lawrence. The left back has been in great form through most of this season, shutting down opposing wide players and chipping in on the attacking end with four assists. The Red Bulls haven’t been consistent for most of this season, but Lawrence certainly has.
MIDSEASON MVP: Cristian Techera. The Whitecaps have been mediocre at best on both sides of the ball and have spread around the scoring responsibility quite a bit as well. That can make it tough to choose a midseason MVP, but Techera seems to be the most obvious choice. The Uruguayan’s technical play and free-kick mastery have lifted the Whitecaps multiple times this season, keeping the squad in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt.
MIDSEASON MVP: Romain Alessandrini. Alessandrini has two more goals and five more assists than anyone else on the Galaxy. Two of those goals and one of those assists were game-winners. That means the Frenchman is directly responsible for half of his team’s wins, and 60% of its goals. Yeah, it’s safe to say he’s pretty valuable.
MIDSEASON MVP: Joe Bendik. Cyle Larin and his eight goals would be an easy choice here, but we can’t in good conscience award the midseason MVP to a player whose DUI charge endangered members of the community he plays for. Besides, Bendik has also been instrumental to Orlando City’s season. The goalkeeper is in second in the league in saves and has made multiple huge late stops to preserve points in a competitive Eastern Conference.
MIDSEASON MVP: CJ Sapong. Similar to FC Dallas, the Union went shopping in the offseason to get a go-to goalscorer when they had one already sitting on their roster. Sapong’s eight goals lead the team by a factor of two, and his strong hold-up play has been essential to how the team builds going forward. Haris Medunjanin and Chris Pontius, midfielders who have helped provide many of Sapong’s chances, are honorable mentions.
MIDSEASON MVP: Lee Nguyen. The Revolution should be better than they are considering the attacking pieces they have in place, but at least Nguyen has performed up to expectations so far. The American generates just about everything good the Revs have to offer going forward, with seven goals and six assists to his name.
MIDSEASON MVP: Cristian Roldan. His name may not show up on the stat sheet very often, but Roldan has come into his own in his third season as a professional with Seattle in 2017. The midfielder has paired up seamlessly with Osvaldo Alonso in the center of the park, becoming an effective-box-to-box force that links defense to attack with few headlines to his name. There’s a reason why he’s played every minute of every game with the Sounders this season.
MIDSEASON MVP: Justin Meram. Federico Higuain is still running the show on the attacking end, but Meram’s strong season alongside him makes him the pick. Meram’s breakthrough campaign has seen him score three game-winning goals, while also leading the team in assists, all from a wide position that allows the central duo of Ola Kamara and Higuain more space and time in which to work.
MIDSEASON MVP: Christian Ramirez. Had he played in Minnesota for longer, Sam Cronin might have been the choice, given the stability he has brought to the space between the Loons’ midfield and back line since his arrival from Colorado via trade. Instead, though, I’ll go with the obvious choice. Ramirez’s nine goals have proven that his NASL scoring record was no fluke, while keeping his team in the hunt for a playoff spot in its inaugural season.
MIDSEASON MVP: Chris Wondolowski. Jahmir Hyka, Danny Hoesen, and Marco Ureña have all contributed in spurts in the attack. Victor Bernardez and David Bingham anchor a back line that’s above-average in the league. But the Quakes are in a playoff spot thanks to old reliable Wondolowski, whose eight goals and six assists lead the team in both categories.
MIDSEASON MVP: Alan Gordon. This is probably the hardest team to pick a midseason MVP for in the league. Tim Howard has been in good but not great form between the sticks, and few others have stood out. I’m going to go with Gordon, who may only have two goals, but both of them have been game-winners (plus, he embodies Pablo Mastroeni's Human Spirit). That counts for a heck of a lot with a team that’s currently at the bottom of the Western Conference with the second-worst attacking record in the league this year.
MIDSEASON MVP: Ignacio Piatti. The Impact have had a rough go of it this season, requiring big contributions from young up-and-comers like Jean-Yves Ballou Tabla and Anthony Jackon-Hamel. At the center of it all, though, is once again Piatti. The Argentine leads his team in goals with eight and is often at the center of good things going forward. The Impact’s squad may not be strong, but Piatti is still making an impact in a down season.
MIDSEASON MVP: Albert Rusnak. Real Salt Lake hasn’t had much to celebrate in an especially tough year, but the new signing's immediate impact is a positive. The 22-year-old Slovakian has taken over the keys to RSL’s attack and has looked mostly up to the task, with three goals and five assists. Those aren’t gaudy numbers, but few numbers associated with RSL are these days.
MIDSEASON MVP: Bill Hamid. D.C. United has by some distance the worst attack in the league, meaning that its results this season have largely been dictated by whether Hamid can make enough saves to keep the team in the game. He hasn’t always been able to, but the fact that Hamid leads the league in saves by a healthy margin tells you all you need to know about how much he’s relied upon.