MVP candidates: Looking at the USL’s MVP race after the first half of the season
- We’re almost halfway through the USL Championship season, so it’s time to start thinking about the league’s Most Valuable Player race
- Between potential Golden Boot winners, effective defenders on great teams, and creative attackers, there’s no shortage of quality candidates
© USL Championship
It’s been a hugely exciting USL season so far and as we hit the halfway point this week, it’s time to start thinking about the MVP race.
Solomon Asante took home the award in 2019 and 2020 with Phoenix and Hadji Barry won the honor last year after a record-setting Golden Boot season. Both of those players had strong 2022 seasons, but a few other candidates really stand out for me at this point.
Alejandro Guido, San Diego Loyal
A former Los Angeles FC and Tijuana player, Guido is the beating heart of San Diego’s attack. He combines 80th percentile or better forward passing rates and defensive contributions with jaw-dropping dribbling and passing vision. The Loyal base their system on patient possession that turns into direct play when a gap pops up, and the 28-year-old central midfielder enables that approach with his smart attacking play.
Guido’s MVP case is held back by a modest two goals and three assists, but the eye test strongly backs San Diego’s talisman.
Mitchell Taintor, San Antonio FC
In one of the USL’s stingiest defenses, Mitchell Taintor stands out as the man who makes San Antonio tick. Starting as the leftmost center back in a defensive trio, he regularly ranges across the field to intervene and cover for his teammates. Taintor also often carries the ball into the opposing half and launches long balls to spark San Antonio’s counter attacks. Pair those things with his four goals on set pieces and the fact that he’s playing for the league’s best team on points, and Taintor has a clear case for the award.
Leo Fernandes, Tampa Bay Rowdies
With seven goals and three assists, Tampa’s left wingback-turned-striker has the numbers to catch the eye of any MVP voter. The Rowdies are unbeaten in their last seven games and seem to be headed towards another year where they finish on top of the East.
Fernandes’ role in that success can’t be understated. Capable on either wing or deeper in the midfield, he is a powerful ball-carrier with goalscoring instincts. His presence opens up space for his teammates and he’s in the 83rd percentile for expected assists this year, which illustrates that doesn’t miss a chance to play into those openings. Fernandes is a true star.
*Insert Golden Boot Winner Here*
A number of players have cases thanks to their goalscoring. With that in mind, Las Vegas’ Danny Trejo (nine goals) and Oakland’s Ottar Karlsson (10 goals) stand out. Both clubs rely on their forwards for the lion’s share of their attacking production, and if either team makes the playoffs, the narrative power of a Golden Boot winner dragging his club to the postseason just might make the difference.