There exists a debate among sports fans regarding the MVP award. Should it go to the best player, the most deserving player or simply the player most valuable to his team?
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, you can be assured that whomever Major League Soccer names for the MVP award at the conclusion of this season will not embody any of those characteristics.
Sebastian Giovinco, the reigning MLS MVP and widely regarded as the best player in the league, was inexplicably left off the MLS short list for MVP, which included three New York-based players: David Villa of NYCFC and New York Red Bulls teammates Sacha Kljestian and Bradley Wright-Phillips. While all three of those players had fantastic seasons, it’s hard to argue that any of them were better than Gio in 2016.
Giovinco recorded an astounding 17 goals and 15 assists this season in MLS, contributing directly to 32 of Toronto FC’s 51 goals this season. The only men outside of Seba to directly contribute to more goals in league history are himself last year, Chris Wondolowski (34) in 2012 and Jason Kreis (32) in 1999. All three of those seasons resulted in MVP awards for the men involved. It’s an absolute shame that Seba’s will not.
The stats look even more impressive when you compare them to the outstanding seasons the three MVP finalists had. Villa captained a resurgent NYCFC side with 23 goals and four assists to his name, but when you consider that five of his goals were penalties, his numbers pale in comparison to Seba’s. Additionally, Wright-Phillips had an even more impressive season with 24 goals (none of them penalties) and five assists, but still could not match Giovinco’s contribution. Even Sacha Kljestian, perhaps the most deserving of the finalists with six goals and 20 assists, cannot contend with Seba’s incredible play this season.
Additionally, if BWP and Kljestian have each other to provide service and finish chances, can we really determine who is most valuable? Giovinco routinely provided moments of individual brilliance on a weekly basis and has easily produced the best two-season stretch in MLS history. If that’s not even deserving of an MVP nomination, I don’t know what is.
Furthermore, there’s even an argument that no one was more valuable to any side this season than Giovinco was to Toronto FC. He missed all of five games this season for TFC, with the Canadian side winning just one, and scoring just seven goals in those contests. In contrast, they won over 44 percent of the 27 games that Giovinco played, scoring 44 goals. That’s a difference of .22 goals per game with and without Giovinco on the field, one of the highest marks in the entire league. Toronto were a completely different team without the Atomic Ant this season, and the MLS MVP voters should respect that.
However, in a league obsessed with parity and creating stars on every team, it’s no surprise that a repeat MVP isn’t the best move for those on the business side. In order to produce success at the financial level, league executives need every team to have a star, especially in the key markets. Thus, it’s no surprise that the New York teams saw the most love for MVP, while a player on a Canadian team, who are routinely ignored by the largely American fan base of MLS, is left standing out in the cold.
Make no mistake, Giovinco is both the best player and the most valuable in MLS. He is a creative attacking force whose skill in unparalleled in the league. His penchant for clutch finishes and timely passes is unlike anything we’ve seen in the MLS, and he deserves to be recognized as such.