New England Soccer Today

50/50 Friday (MVP edition): Who deserves this year’s MVP Award?

Every Friday, New England Soccer Today will tackle a pressing issue in the world of soccer. Each topic will be argued by a different writer each week, with guest writers periodically appearing to add some flavor to the mix.

This week, our writers argue who should win this year’s Most Valuable Player Award. Sean Donahue makes the case for Sebastien Le Toux, while Brian O’Connell stumps for Chris Wondolowski.

The Case for Sebastien Le Toux:
Many have argued not making the playoffs all but eliminates a player for league MVP contention, but when a player has the impact Sebastien Le Toux had on the Philadelphia Union, the fact that they missed the postseason must be overlooked.  Le Toux was the only player in MLS to finish in the top 5 in both goals (14) in assists (11) this season, playing a key role in 25 of the Union’s 35 goals.

Le Toux’s numbers speak for themselves, but what’s more impressive is that he was able to make such an impact on an expansion team. Any team assembling a complete roster of players who have never been together before is likely to struggle in their first year, but Le Toux at times carried the team on his back and helped them to 8 wins and 35 goals, just three short of the highly talented Red Bulls offense.

The 26-year-old Frenchman was left unprotected by the Seattle Sounders a year ago, but must be leaving his former team questioning their decision after he became the star of the Union this year.  While Philadelphia struggled in the first half of the season, Le Toux continued driving their offense, including an early hattrick against D.C. United that gave the Union their first win. Le Toux’s performances stayed constant throughout the season and when the Union defense put in some good showings after the all-star game, he helped turn many close games into victories.

While many will point to Wondolowski’s impressive 9 game-winning goals, it’s easy to overlook that Le Toux scored or assisted on 7 game-winners for the Union. That’s 7 of Philadelphia’s 8 game-winning goals. And the 7 points they had from 1-1 draws? Le Toux scored or assisted on 6 of the 7 goals in those matches. Take Le Toux out of the equation and it wouldn’t be D.C. United talking about one of the worst seasons in league history. Instead, thanks to Le Toux, the Union can go into next season knowing they are just a few moves away from contending for the playoffs.

The Case for Chris Wondolowski:
Chris Wondolowski is the very definition of “Most Valuable Player.” Here’s why: down the stretch, during those all-important final slew of games, games which can either make or break a season, Wondowlowski scored all ten of his team’s goals, which helped launch San Jose to their first playoff run in their current incarnation.

They say that the best players shine the brightest then their teams need them the most. Is there a more important time of the season than those played in September and October? Needless to say, very few of those goals were junk goals. Wondo has channeled Reggie Jackson and heroically adopted the Mr. October persona this year. Before Wondo returned to San Jose (who originally drafted him in 2004 before they became the Houston Dynamo in 2006) mid-way through last season, the Quakes missed the playoffs all three seasons. In his first full season? Playoff City. I mean, if that isn’t being your most valuable player, then I should probably re-order my vocabulary book from third grade and relearn everything I’ve missed since then.

And if you still don’t buy what Wondo’s accomplished this season, let’s look at it from a historical perspective. Nine of his eighteen goals this season were game-winners. Take away those nine goals, and San Jose loses nine victories, which, suffice to say, makes them Chivas USA without him. Oh, and if that doesn’t clinch it, he’s scored 53% of his team’s goals (34), which is second all-time only to Carlos Ruiz, who scored 24 of LA’s 44 (55%) goals in 2002.

And if you want to talk about tangible value, compare Wondo’s salary ($48,000) to Edson Buddle ($178,000) and David Ferreira ($300,000). Value? Wondo’s a Maserati with a Mazda price tag.

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