The 2014 MLS MVP race has a number of viable candidates. This is the third in a series in which Planet Futbol writers state their case for why they believe a specific candidate sticks out above the rest. The league will name its MVP on Dec. 2.
He who scores five more goals than the next closest man shall be Most Valuable Player. It’s as simple as that.
Bradley Wright-Phillips did not just win the Golden Boot in Major League Soccer this season. He ran away with it. If you’ve ever seen BWP’s clicking-his-heels goal celebration, well, he could have done that across the finish line in the goals race in 2014. It was no contest.
Wright-Phillips tied the single-season MLS goals record with 27, joining Roy Lassiter and Chris Wondolowski, while becoming the first member of the Red Bulls (or MetroStars) to ever win the Golden Boot. Kenny Cooper finished second in 2012 and Juan Pablo Angel finished second in 2007. In other words, this is a franchise that has craved a striker to have this kind of year. And BWP’s timing was impeccable.
The Red Bulls went 10-3-5 in the games Wright-Phillips put a ball (or two or three) in the net. For the season, they had 13 wins and 11 draws. They, basically, couldn’t win without him. During the six-game stretch from March 15-April 16 when Wright-Phillips did not score, the Red Bulls won just once. Coach Mike Petke is thankful his next-longest stretch without a goal was three games.
This team was not equipped to handle long scoring droughts from No. 99. Examine Wright-Phillips’ main MVP competition. You’ve got Lee Nguyen, who had a breakout season in New England and is getting strong consideration for his 18 goals. But Nguyen’s five assists are below what you’d expect from a playmaking midfielder.
You’ve got Robbie Keane, whose 19 and 14 makes him the best overall playmaker in the league, but he did not finish first in either category, much less run away in either category, and let’s not forget Keane has the best attacking supporting cast in the league.
The other serious candidate is Seattle’s Obafemi Martins, who, like Keane, is in the top five in both goals and assists, but well off the pace of the league-leader in both categories. Thierry Henry talked about Wright-Phillips as MVP candidate recently, saying at a playoff presser, “No disrespect to anyone, but Bradley’s been (scoring) since Day 1. Not (that he just) finished well, not played well in the middle or started well. He started, was still there in the middle and finished strong. And the (MVP Award) is for the player of the season.”
Unfortunately, a comment Henry made earlier in the season–on the occasion of Wright-Phillips setting the club's single-season scoring record–may have a negative impact on MVP voters. Henry said BWP “should have had 50 goals this year.”
In the same interview session, Henry explained that he was just trying to poke his teammate to set the bar even higher, and he also endorsed him for MVP, but he may have gotten into the minds of voters that BWP is more the lucky recipient of great service than anything.
But let’s not forget, if scoring goals was easy, everybody would be doing it more often. Fact is, they don’t. So, go back to the original point of this endorsement for BWP as MVP. The man scored five more goals than the next best goal scorer in MLS (Dom Dwyer) this year. Additionally, his team really could not win without him scoring goals.
And ask yourself, how valuable is that? The answer is, “Most Valuable.”