So it is interesting that I have heard a couple of local people including the owner of RSL mention that Javier should be considered one of the league's MVP candidates, and I think they have it wrong. Not that I don't think that Javi isn't worthy, but because unless you are paying very close attention he doesn't stand out, and while the MLS and the related national soccer media are paying more attention to Real Salt Lake. We are still the smallest market, with one of the fewest number of national TV matches, and to be honest fans or media outside of Salt Lake city know what impact Javier can have on a match.
Oh sure if one of the Crew writers or TV folks watched RSL simply dominate the Crew at Rio Tinto Stadium in mid August. They might be willing to tell you that Javier Morales is a worthy MVP candidate, but as good as Javi was in that match, there are just as many when he plays well but you don't even notice him. That is the reality of a good creative midfielder, he will have moments when he shines and everyone notices, but he will have just as many matches where he simply makes the right passes, or starts the break that leads to a goal. Javier has as many of the second kind of matches as the first, but I don't expect the "mainstream" of MLS media to get that, I don't believe most of them watch every match or in some cases even most of the matches.
more on this and a couple other topics after the jump:
There is one other thing that hurts Javi's MVP case, it is that RSL is almost as good without him as they are with him, and for most of the top MVP candidates that simply isn't the case. If I remove Javi's 6 goals from RSL's league leading 41 goals, we have 35 goals, still in the top 5 in MLS. Heck even if we remove his 8 assists RSL still would have 27 assists, still more than a fair number of teams.
What if you were to remove Dwayne DeRosario from TFC? His 13 goals are almost half of the teams total. What if you removed Sebastien Le Toux from the Union? He was involved in 23 of the teams 32 goals. FC Dallas' David Ferreira's 7 goals and 13 assists, that would leave Dallas with less than half of their offensive total. Landon accounts for more than 50% of the Galaxy's offense. It is a pure numbers game, and so while I can defend Javi as a MVP type player, because of the depth of RSL, I wouldn't even pick him as the MVP of the team this year. Sorry that honor goes to either Nick Rimando, or is shared by Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers. It a guy isn't the standout on his team that nobody would ever question as the team's MVP, what chance does he have of winning the league's MVP award?
Oh David James, really?
I love that you are getting better on TV, but it is kinda clear that you still have a bit to learn about MLS and the reality of soccer in America. David goes off on the whole expansion draft concept in a blog post on the Channel 2 website and to be honest he makes a couple valid points, it would seem that having the Timbers and Whitecaps, who both have full rosters today getting to pick and chose from the current MLS teams is a bit much. But how would you try to balance out the Philly Union, or Toronto FC who had no previous organization, from the Seattle's, Portland's and others that do? We saw that it helped Seattle build a competitive team from day one, and I expect that both teams joining next year will do the same.
You simply miss the point that with a salary cap league, and one in which there is no free agency (for right or wrong) that expecting a new team to build without "cannibalizing" other teams is a bit naive. Let's honestly look at what it takes to make a MLS roster, first you have a limit on international players and salary cap issues. With a 24 man roster you have 2.5 million to spend, and without things like the MLS Draft, Generation Adidas and for most new teams an expansion draft finding a solid 24 man roster without an expansion draft simply isn't going to happen.
Now I will say that I think since both teams have a number of players on their current rosters that they will want to keep that they should instead change this draft to allow each team to lose just one player. That would mean that each expansion team would be able to gain 7 players that are currently under contract with MLS, since I believe that each team has at least 4 players on their current roster that they intend on keeping, that would would give each team a base of 11 players. The MLS draft will add another 4 at least, and that provides each team with a great starting point, while not forcing teams to lose two players off their current roster.
I will not go so far as James, I get the expansion draft and while it is likely that RSL could lose two players from their roster. They lost two when they signed season long loans for Alex Nimo, who has played in 22 matches for the Timbers, and David Horst, who has played in 24 matches for the PR Islanders. We have also sent Luis Gil on loan to AC St. Louis, where he has played in 9 matches. RSL has 21 players who have started in at least one MLS match, we have 18 players who have played in 10 or more MLS matches. So yes we are likely going to lose one or two players but if we do that would mean we would have 19 players with at least one MLS start, and at least 16 who had played in at least 10 matches this year, hardly "cannibalizing". Hmm, didn't I hear that term on one of the big nationally televised games?
Supporters' Shield - What it will take to win it
So if you look at the top 5 teams, the only ones with any chance of winning the Supporters' Shield it looks like this:
- LA Galaxy - 53 points with matches @ Philadelphia Union and home against the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas - according to the MLS Thermometer they are likely to end with 59 points (based on their points per match from their last 5), but I don't think it will be that easy. The Union is a likely win for LA, but Colorado is likely going to have to find a win in the last 3 matches and that win is most likely going to be against LA (if anyone) and FC Dallas has made it clear they want the SS for themselves, so that last match if it follows typical form would be a draw. I see LA getting 5 more points to end the year with 58
- FC Dallas - 49 points with matches, at home against Colorado, @ Real Salt Lake, @ Los Angeles Galaxy - the MLS Thermometer says they are likely to end with 54 points. If there is a team in this hunt that controls their own destiny it is FC Dallas as the two teams above them currently are teams they will face before the end of the season. The Hoops are great at not losing and with 13 draws they fight for every point but I see they coming out with 4 more points (you figure it out) to end with 53 points.
- New York Red Bulls - 47 points with matches at home against RSL, @ Philly Union, and home against New England - The Thermometer has them ending with 53 points and I think that is right on target. They should get a win against New England and Philly but both have trap game potential, and the match against RSL could be the real key to any run for the Shield that NYDP will make. I think missing their top player over the last month (Dane Richards), their Player of the Week Keeper (Bounda Coundoul), contract controversy for Juan Pablo Angel, and a injury for Rafa Marquez, could all make this weekends match with RSL the key to New York and RSL's Shield dreams.
- Columbus Crew - 46 points with matches @ Chicago, @ Toronto FC, and home against the Philly Union - the MLS Themometer has they ending with 49 points and I think they are way low. Chicago is as hit and miss as the Crew are lately so anything could happen in that one, BMO field was a fortress not it is a haunted house where teams are being terrors to the home team, and the Union will fight but I can see the Crew ending up with 6 points to end with 52 points. Yes didn't get the US Open Cup, and they won't get the Supporters' Shield, oh and I will say it now they won't win MLS Cup.
- Real Salt Lake - 51 points with matches @ New York, home against FC Dallas, and @ Colorado - the Thermometer has them ending with 58 points (based on their last 5, which is best in MLS) and they might be right. RSL would love to get a win @ New York to set a team record for wins on the road and to show that they are the team that the national media should be paying attention to (no better time for Javi to show he is a MVP type player). "El Castillo" should provide enough of an edge to get a win over FC Dallas, along with the revenge factor, as FCD are the only team to beat RSL since April. Colorado has been the scene of celebrations in the past for RSL and what better way to end the regular season than by winning the RMC and Shield on the same night? I see a draw against New York and two wins to end with 58 points but I am not sure what the tie breakers are for the Supporters' Shield but I will be finding out.