It was a mostly good weekend for Revs fans. They went on the road to play against a good Orlando City team and managed a draw in the pouring rain. They did so while managing to rest most of their starters as well, making 9 changes to the starting lineup. They were able to make that many changes because, with Seattle losing 2-1 against Sporting KC on Saturday, they officially clinched the shield!!! It’s the first major league trophy for the Revs and a testament to how good this team has been in 2021. There are however still a few weeks left to the season and there will be time enough then to wax poetic on how Bruce Arena has turned this team around.
Instead I want to talk today about Alexi La…
Ok. Sorry. I can’t not.
Thanks Elmo, now get back to being the focal point for some ruthless Nashville SC mockery!
Where was I? Oh yes. Alexi Lalas…
We heard @AlexiLalas said something wild on the pregame show ?
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) October 25, 2021
Before the Revolution’s 2-2 draw at Orlando, Lalas was in the broadcast booth discussing MVP candidate Carles Gil. I can’t seem to find the clip on the internet, but the gyst of his comment was “Carles Gil doesn’t score goals, he’s not an MVP candidate“.
I think we can mostly agree that this is a hot take, designed to invoke outrage. Gil has been atop many media pundit lists for MLS MVP for most of the season. This, in spite of the fact that he’s scored relatively few goals this season. Let’s take this opportunity to lay out the competition for MVP, and Carles’ case as the best of the best.
The Golden Boot Chasers
Kamara is the current golden boot leader. He has 17 goals this season and has been absolutely vital to the “press high and create chaos” brand of soccer that DC United has employed this season. Part and parcel with that high energy attack is an unusually high number of PKs. DC leads the league in PKs earned at 10, and Kamara has converted 8 of those. To many, the high percentage of his goals coming from the penalty spot might be a bit of a knock.
Ruidiaz has been the spearhead atop the Seattle attack. Heck, at times this season he WAS the Seattle attack. The Sounders have had to deal with myriad injuries this season to key players. They’ve been without Lodiero, Frei and Morris for at least large swathes of the season. Throughout it all Ruidiaz has been the constant in the lineup that they’ve come to rely on, to the tune of 16 goals.
Carles Gil’s assists have to go to someone right? The rangy striker from Poland has really grown into his role with New England after somewhat underwhelming last season. His 16 goals to date are good for 2nd in the league.
The Combined Goal/Assist Crowd
Salloi has perhaps one of the strongest shots at statistical MVP. He’s tied for 2nd in the league with 16 goals scored, but he’s got another 8 assists on top of that. That combined 24g/a is tops in the league. Add in Sporting KCs lofty position in the table and he’s a strong candidate, in my opinion.
If we’re going to heap praise on Salloi for his combined goals and assists, we have to give equal due to Gustavo Bou for his 15 goals and 9 assists.
The Case for Carles
What do all the above mentioned players have in common? They’ve all scored more than 15 goals. To Lalas’ point the players coring the goals tend to move the needle for MVP voters. In 4 of the past 5 seasons, the MVP winner ranked in the top three goal-scorers in that season.
So why is Carles Gil and his relatively paltry 4 goals even in consideration for the league honor? What does he do on the field that puts him above all those high powered goal-scorers?
The Eye Test
Carles Gil’s skill on the ball is undeniable. While he’s garnered a reputation as a sublime passer of the ball (and he’s got the stats to back it up) he’s perhaps one of the most technically proficient dribblers in MLS.
Okay, Carles Gil. Okay. ? pic.twitter.com/nQ7DlJ22EJ
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 4, 2021
He just understands, so well, where his next move is before you’ve even had time to realize he actually brought that ball down. This is just one of the many ankle breaking dribbles Gil has delivered in 2021.
His bread and butter this season has been his ability to pick out the killer pass that leads to a goal. He does so here while also showcasing his propensity for a perfect first touch.
That is just one of his league leading 18 assists. The ability to control the ball instantly and follow that up with an inch perfect cross is next level.
No self respecting list of Carles highlights would be complete without this goal.
You may have noticed all of these highlights are taken with Gil’s right foot. He’s a left footed player. The eye-test makes a strong and obvious case for MVP.
The statistical case for Gil’s candidacy is even more straightforward. He’s an attacking midfielder, a position that is most valuable when creating goal scoring chances. These statistical categories would include assists, key passes, and chances created. Gil, of course leads in all 3 categories.
Carles’ 18 assists is 3 better than Djordje Mihailovic in second place. His 106 key passes is 24 higher than the next highest. He’s created 24 “big chances”, according to fotmob, also good for best in the league.
Just a reminder. He missed 6 games this summer with an injury. That doesn’t include the limited minutes he got as he was eased back in afterwards. He missed nearly 20% of the season with the mysterious ailment. He spotted the rest of the league 6 games and he still came out on top. He’s still got significant leads in pretty much every metric that measure chance creation.
If your definition of MVP is “the best player in the league”, the case almost makes itself. If your definition of MVP is “I only care about goal scorers” then maybe this Elmo is your spirit muppet.