USL MVP Race: Taking stock of the Championship’s top five contenders

Quick Hits
  • With barely a month left in the USL Championship season, it’s a good time to take stock of the MVP race
  • Which players have the best chance of taking home the league’s most prestigious award? Let’s talk about that
May 25, 2022; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Republic FC midfielder Rodrigo Lopez (8) reacts after scoring a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes during the second half at Heart Health Park. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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This is an excerpt from Monday’s Weekend Recap. Subscribe to our free newsletter to get future editions of the Weekend Recap delivered right to your inbox.

With barely a month left in the USL Championship season, it’s a good time to take stock of the MVP race. This weekend saw some of the top contenders for the league’s most prestigious award put in game-changing performances. 

Let’s run through my top five.

Rodrigo Lopez, Sacramento Republic

With seven assists, including the game-winning assist this weekend against Oakland, and 48 chances created, a top-ten tally in the USL Championship, Rodrigo Lopez is one of the elite creators in the league. 

The veteran midfielder sits to the left of the striker, bunkering into the midfield if the Republic need a defensive boost or a helping hand in possession. His timing for late runs into the box in attack is also unmatched. The U.S. Open Cup run shouldn’t factor into the USL MVP race, but Lopez has been a star in that competition while leading Sacramento to a respectable fourth in the Western Conference.

Mitchell Taintor, San Antonio FC

San Antonio lead the USL Championship in points and have allowed fewer goals than every team outside of Louisville City. Mitchell Taintor is the heart and soul of their defense-first system. His range and defensive timing make Taintor a special center back – and his ability to drive the ball forward and capitalize on set pieces makes him that much more valuable.

After a stunning last-minute equalizer a week ago, Taintor has five goals and his do-everything style is vital to the USL’s best team.

Leo Fernandes, Tampa Bay Rowdies

Over the weekend, Tampa Bay avenged their loss in last season’s championship game with a 3-1 victory against Orange County. Leo Fernandes had a goal and assist to carry the load. He should’ve had two assists, slaloming into the heart of the opposing defense and threading a perfect through ball to force an own goal shortly before halftime. 

The Brazilian forward is given full license to roam in Tampa Bay’s 4-2-3-1 attack, picking up possession and dribbling past countless opponents. The result? 13 goals for a title contender in the East.

Alejandro Guido, San Diego Loyal

No team in the Western Conference is as hot as San Diego, and Alejandro Guido does everything in their midfield. His passing range is unmatched, and I’d posit that no player in the USL has as much skill or confidence with the ball at his feet. Wearing the No. 10 jersey, Guido actually serves as a link player who carries possession from half to half rather than a stuck-in, slow-moving creator. Still, he’s in the top thirty for chances created in an increasingly direct offense.

The ex-LAFC midfielder is also a useful defender in the middle of a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 block. His impact cuts both ways.

Sean Totsch, Louisville City

If Taintor’s five goals from the center back spot for the leading team in the West deserve a shout, then a seven goal scorer for the best team in the East needs to receive consideration as well. 

Sean Totsch is an unflappable presence in Louisville’s back four, sitting on the right side and spraying passes to spark fearsome attacks. Totsch is an excellent positional defender and his ability to hold a high line is vital to his team’s high-flying 4-1-4-1 press. He’s also a rock and hasn’t missed a single minute since late May. Louisville have lost just twice in that stretch.