The 2016 MLS Playoffs are in full swing and we are 90 minutes away from knowing which teams will reach the Conference Finals. But that won't stop us from analyzing which players will earn individual awards for their regular-season performance.
The league announced on Tuesday which players have been nominated to the individual distinctions such as Comeback Player of the Year, Defender of the Year, and Goalkeeper of the Year, among others. But the one prize that will have everyone's attention is the 2016 MVP Award, and the three candidates are: Sacha Kljestan, Bradley Wright-Phillips and David Villa.
MLS MVP finalists— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) November 1, 2016
Sacha Kljestan (Red Bulls)
David Villa (New York City FC)
Bradley Wright-Phillips (Red Bulls)
It's easy to understand why these three players were nominated as finalists. There were other worthy candidates, but between injuries and inconsistencies, other established stars like Mauro Diaz, Ignacio Piatti and Sebastian Giovinco didn't make the cut.
Kljestan led all MLS players with 20 assists and added six goals in 32 matches, Wright-Phillips was the league's top scorer with 24 goals in 34 appearances, and Villa contributed with 23 goals in 33 contests.
One player who was surprisingly left out of the top three was Giovinco, the Toronto FC star who finished the year with 17 goals and 15 assists in 28 games. And that's including injuries and a cold streak that reached 10 games without him scoring a goal.
Notably not an MVP finalist: Sebastian Giovinco, who led MLS with 32 goals-plus-assists (17 goals, 15 assists) and played 28 of 34 games.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) November 1, 2016
The winner will be announced on December 6.
There's no doubt voters will have a tough time to pick a winner, as all three players have enough merit to be named as the league's most valuable player in 2016. Unfortunately, only one can win.