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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
MLS Power Rankings: MVP candidates

By Scott French

Depending on which list you gander at, there appears to be at least 15, perhaps a few more, candidates for Major League Soccer's MVP award. OK, whatever.

It's then most wide-open race in league history, but the length of your list could depend on where you stand on Philadelphia's Sebastien Le Toux (struggled half the season, but has been tearing it up the past six weeks or so) or Seattle's Fredy Montero (scoring consistently, but overshadowed by teammates) or Chicago's Dominic Oduro (a dozen goals, but how many has he missed?) or even the Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez (a beast on the league's best defender, but he's, er, a defender).

Some brief thoughts on the true contenders, listed alphabetically:

Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle): MLS's best defensive midfielder makes Seattle go, but Montero and Mauro Rosales figure to siphon votes away -- Rosales with very good reason.

Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake): RSL's season turned rocky after Javier Morales' injury, and the Utahns' captain and midfield leader took the club on his shoulders.

David Beckham (Galaxy): MLS's biggest name has been fantastic in the final year of his five-year contract, providing service opposing teams can only envy. His 15 assists lead the league.

Brad Davis (Houston): The league's best left-winger has been this season's most effective creative player.

Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United): Double-digit goals (14) and assists (12) and could prod D.C. to the playoffs following a three-year absence, but he was unloaded earlier this year by Toronto FC and New York.

Landon Donovan (Galaxy): Everyone agrees Donovan is MLS's premier talent, and if this hasn't been his best season, it's been very good, and his influence on L.A.'s success -- especially his work off the field -- has been significant.

Omar Gonzalez (Galaxy): L.A. is the best team in MLS because of its defense. The third-year center back is enjoying a monster campaign.

Thierry Henry (New York): Is there a silkier player in MLS? No, and the French superstar has 14 goals despite nagging ailments all year. If New York's campaign hadn't been such a disappointment, he'd have a real chance.

Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia): Not so great until the past two months, but he's been one of MLS's two best players -- with De Rosario -- down the stretch. If Philly can pull out an Eastern title, he'll get due consideration.

Mauro Rosales (Seattle): The shoo-in for MLS Newcomer of the Year has impressively engineered the Sounders' attack.

Brek Shea (FC Dallas): Lots of European interest in the tall winger, who might have run away with this award if not for the Hoops' nosedive near the finish.

Our vote? Give us a couple of weeks to think about it.

This week's rankings:




1. GALAXY (18-4-10, 64 points), Last week: 1
Week 30:
Idle
Remark: Only one game -- the Champions League group finale at Motagua -- matters before the playoffs begin
Team MVP: Three candidates, and we voted in this order: Beckham, Donovan, Gonzalez
Next: Sunday vs. Chivas USA at Home Depot Center, 6 p.m. (ESPN and ESPN Deportes); Thursday, Oct. 20, in CONCACAF Champions League Group A game at Motagua (Honduras), 7 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

2. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (16-7-9, 57 points), Last week: 2
Week 30:
No Montero? No Rosales? Sounders fall out of Shield race with 2-0 home loss to Philadelphia
Remark: 57,000-plus expected for Saturday's home finale, Kasey Keller's final regular-season game
Team MVP: Newcomer Rosales, although Alonso will get votes, too
Next: Saturday vs. San Jose, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel); Tuesday in CONCACAF Champions League Group D game vs. Monterrey (Mexico), 7 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

3. PHILADELPHIA UNION (11-7-14, 47 points), Last week: 5
Week 30: Freddy Adu
, Brian Carroll tally as Union wins, 2-0, at Seattle
Remark: Philly's first West Coast win is a big one, sending it atop the Eastern Conference
Team MVP: Carlos Valdes' play in the back is worthy, but it's Le Toux's form that has rekindled the Union's Eastern title hopes
Next: Saturday vs. Toronto FC, 1 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Thursday, Oct. 20, at New York, 5 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

4. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (11-9-12, 45 points), Last week: 4
Week 30:
Idle
Remark: Kei Kamara's “suspension” rescinded? He high-tails it to South Africa to join Sierra Leone's national team
Team MVP: It might be Omar Bravo, for everything he provides beyond the goals
Next: Saturday vs. New York, 1 p.m. (Telefutura-KFTR/Channel 46); Wednesday, Oct. 12, in a friendly vs. Guadalajara (Mexico), 5:30 p.m.

5. REAL SALT LAKE (15-11-6, 51 points), Last week: 3
Week 30:
Another three-goal loss, this one 3-0 at Vancouver. That's four straight losses, and only one of them -- the Galaxy's comeback -- wasn't a blowout
Remark: Kyle Beckerman's done until the playoffs: Two more games added to his suspension for head-butting Daniel Paladini
Team MVP: Beckerman gets the nod in his best pro campaign
Next: Friday at Colorado, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

6. COLORADO RAPIDS (11-9-12, 45 points), Last week: 6
Week 30:
Idle
Remark: Rapids need to overcome 1-0 first-leg deficit to end Real Salt Lake's four-year Rocky Mountain Cup run
Team MVP: Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz has been the iron man for a team beset by injuries
Next: Friday vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes); Wednesday, Oct. 19, in CONCACAF Champions League Group B game at Santos Laguna (Mexico), 5 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

7. HOUSTON DYNAMO (10-9-13, 43 points), Last week: 7
Week 30:
Idle
Remark: New stadium, under construction, starting to make an imprint on the skyline
Team MVP: Davis is among the contenders for the league honor
Next: Friday at Portland, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

8. COLUMBUS CREW (12-12-8, 44 points), Last week: 8
Week 30:
Idle
Remark: The last Supporters' Shield winner to double-up with the MLS Cup crown? The 2008 Crew.
Team MVP: Forward Andres Mendoza's class wins out
Next: Saturday at New England, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

9. NEW YORK RED BULLS (9-7-16, 43 points), Last week: 9
Week 30:
Idle
Remark: Joel Lindpere has been better in year two. “I put these two years [in New York] together, this is the best time of my career,” he says
Team MVP: Henry's the key figure, but Lindpere will get some attention
Next: Saturday at Sporting Kansas City, 1 p.m. (Telefutura-KFTR/Channel 46); Thursday, Oct. 20, vs. Philadelphia, 5 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

10. CHICAGO FIRE (7-8-16, 37 points), Last week: 10
Week 30:
Idle
Remark: Rio Ferdinand en route to the Windy City? English report says maybe
Team MVP: Oduro's breakthrough season must be recognized
Next: Wednesday vs. FC Dallas, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday at D.C. United, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

11. FC DALLAS (13-11-7, 46 points), Last week: 11
Week 30:
Idle
Remark: Dallas hasn't scored in 360 minutes -- that's four straight MLS shutout losses. A friendly finish to the regular-season schedule could be a decent playoff prep
Team MVP: Shea took a huge step forward, but Hoops' declining form will hurt him in the league tally
Next: Wednesday at Chicago, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. Vancouver, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Tuesday in CONCACAF Champions League Group C game vs. Toronto FC, 5 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

12. D.C. UNITED (9-10-11, 38 points), Last week: 12
Week 30:
Idle
Remark: Ben Olsen on De Rosario: “I am not even surprised anymore with some of the stuff he does. I've seen it as a fan of his, and I've also seen it being on the other side for 10 years. This is what he does, and this is why we wanted him”
Team MVP: De Rosario added dimensions, made D.C. a complete team
Next: Wednesday at Vancouver, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. Chicago, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, Oct. 19, vs. Portland, 5 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

13. PORTLAND TIMBERS (11-13-7, 40 points), Last week: 13
Week 30:
Idle
Remark: League's lowest payroll: just $2.65 million and change, so each point has cost $66,314. Compare with New York ($13.4 million, $311,560 per)
Team MVP: Jack Jewsbury provided a foundation -- and a personality -- as the club grew up
Next: Friday vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, Oct. 19, at D.C. United, 5 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

14. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (7-11-14, 35 points), Last week: 15
Week 30: Chris Wondolowski
nets Nos. 13 and 14 in 2-1 win at New England
Remark: Frank Yallop says he's ready to “clean out some people. They can go on with their careers and we can move on as a club”
Team MVP: It's Wondo, the 2010 Golden Boot winner who could repeat after pulling even with Henry and De Rosario
Next: Saturday at Seattle, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)




15. CHIVAS USA (8-12-12, 36 points), Last week: 14
Week 30:
Idle
Remark: Two more chances, against the league's two best teams, to better last year's win total, also eight
Team MVP: Dan Kennedy gets our vote for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year
Next: Sunday vs. Galaxy at Home Depot Center, 6 p.m. (ESPN and ESPN Deportes)

16. TORONTO FC (6-13-13, 31 points), Last week: 16
Week 30:
Idle
Remark: Five years, no playoff berths. Longest previous wait: Real Salt Lake didn't reach the postseason until its fourth season
Team MVP: It could be Dutch forward Danny Koevermans, so deadly the last part of the season. Or Julian de Guzman, who finally demonstrated the qualities Reds fans have been looking for
Next: Saturday at Philadelphia, 1 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Tuesday in CONCACAF Champions League Group C game at FC Dallas, 5 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

17. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (5-16-10, 25 points), Last week: 18
Week 30: Camilo
converts two penalty kicks, and first BC Place victory is 3-0 over Real Salt Lake
Remark: Twenty-one of 31 goals have come from Eric Hassli and Camilo
Team MVP: Hassli was a revelation, even if he cooled off at the end
Next: Wednesday vs. D.C. United, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday at FC Dallas, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

18. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (5-15-12, 27 points), Last week: 17
Week 30:
Irvine's Benny Feilhaber scores, but Revs drop third straight, 2-1 to San Jose
Remark: Long-delayed ankle surgery ends A.J. Soares' season; he ought to be a Rookie of the Year finalist
Team MVP: When the Revs win, it's Shalrie Joseph. When they lose, like this year, it's still Joseph
Next: Saturday vs. Columbus, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

All times Pacific