What started as an exciting stretch run for the myriad 2011 MVP candidates back at the start of September has fizzled of late as the MLS regular season comes to a conclusion this weekend. No fewer than eight players throughout the league have legitimate claims on the award, and until the final whistle of the Los Angeles Galaxy's road match against the Houston Dynamo on Sunday sounds, any one of those players still has time to rise abovet he rest. Finish strong this weekend, and book your ticket to the annual awards banquet during the MLS Cup Final festivities.
For the injured Landon Donovan of the Los Angeles Galaxy, his season is essentially through, so he won't have the same last-minute bully pulpit on which to make his case for MVP. However, the star of the league, and the one player that has near unanimous recognition as the best American talent in the game, shouldn't worry about what the competition might post this weekend.
By virtue of his statistics for the year - 12 goals and 3 assists measure as quite pedestrian for the 2009 MVP award winner, but still put him in the top 10 in scoring - and his leadership on a team that captured the Supporters' Shield with three games in hand and will finish a season ranked as one of the best ever inMLS, Donovan must be given serious consideration to receive his second career MVP.
Using an adage for MLS that is borrowed from baseball, games in April count the same as games in September, so why shouldn't player performance be recognized in a similar manner. Indeed, by virtue of Los Angeles' strong start to the 2011 regular season, the team was able to fend off challengers to its position at the top of the MLS standings through a summer that required the Galaxy to also put resources into the CONCACAF Champions League competition.
Donovan has proven his worth to the team in ways that superstar teammate David Beckham has not. While DB23 is enjoying his best MLS season to date, the Galaxy have enjoyed a seven-game unbeaten streak when the Englishman does not play. Donovan, the true heart and soul of the Galaxy, is by all measures the captain of his team.
The Galaxy No. 10 will inevitably take a hit in his MVP credentials because of playing time missed through injury and national team duty, but the numbers support just how valuable Donovan has been to his team's Supporters' Shield level success. Anything short of a top-three finish in this year's balloting will only show how much Donovan is taken for granted as the greatest American soccer player of all time.