Score three goals in the first half of a game against a team that came in with the second best record in the league and you're going to start drawing some attention. So maybe we shouldn't be surprised that Dwayne De Rosario's name has started popping up when people are talking about the MVP of MLS.
As of today, De Rosario is leading the Golden Boot race with 13 goals. He even has 11 assists, also among the league leaders. His combined total of 24 goals and assists is six more than any other player in the league. Even if you throw out his numbers with teams other than United -- and amazingly enough this is his third team this year -- his combined 10 goals and six assists would still be the fourth highest total in the league.
With these numbers probably most prominent in their minds, SB Nation's soccer editors have clearly taken notice. In our latest round of voting, De Rosario is running a solid second almost no matter how you tabulate the points. With 22 editors casting ballots in this round, there's no longer a clear favorite, but De Rosario picked up seven first-place votes, the most of any player. Only Brek Shea 32 total points were more than De Rosario's 26, and you have to imagine support for the FC Dallas midfielder is going to continue trending downward as both he and his team have faded down the stretch.
Personally, De Rosario is currently running third on my ballot. Landon Donovan, who's putting up spectacular numbers for a team that will go down in history as possibly the most dominant in the post-shootout era, is my MVP if the season continues on its current trajectory. Donovan's 12 goals and three assists are made all the more impressive by his doing so in about two-thirds of his team's games.
My second-place vote is currently going to Fredy Montero, and that's admittedly a little bit of projection with possibly some homer-ism mixed in. I can't deny my affinity for the Seattle Sounders forward, and part of that is clearly tied into my watching the team every week. His eight goals and nine assists don't jump off the page the way other players' stats do, but he's come up big in the Sounders' biggest moments (four goals in two Cascadia Cup road games, as well as some key strikes in U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League play) and with Mauro Rosales out for the next couple weeks, I really think he'll shine even brighter.
After much consternation and examining of the numbers, I believe De Rosario at least belongs on my ballot. My initial reaction was that no one can play for three teams, appear in barely half of his current team's games and still be considered the league's "Most Valuable Player." But I have to admit that the numbers are pretty compelling in his favor.
On a per 90 minutes basis, De Rosario is now up to .92 goals and assists over the course of the whole season. That's the best figure in the league by a pretty healthy margin with the Sounders' Mauro Rosales running second at about .83. If we only look at De Rosario's numbers since he joined United, they are even more astounding. In 1066 minutes, De Rosario has scored 10 goals and registered six assists. That's a PPM of 1.35. Suffice it to say, no player has put up those kind of numbers with one team this year.
But the MVP is not just about individual numbers, at least not for me. I want to see that a player is actually contributing to their team's overall success. That's why I didn't think Sebastien Le Toux deserved much consideration last year despite being pretty close to the Philadelphia Union's only offensive force. For all of Le Toux's contributions, the Union were still a bad team, something they would have been even without him.
De Rosario has been just as instrumental to United's offense, the big difference is that he could very well take them from a team on the outside fringes of the playoff race to one that is in the thick of it. De Rosario has contributed to an astounding 72 percent of United's 22 goals since joining the team.
More importantly, United's performance has improved considerably. United has gone 5-2-5 in the 12 games he's started, as opposed to 4-6-6 in games he didn't start. Perhaps even more tellingly, they've outscored their opponents 22-14 in games De Rosario has started, while being outscored 21-27 in the games he didn't. That all has helped the Black and Red move to within a point of the No. 10 playoff spot with at least two games in hand on most of their competition after sitting in 12th prior to De Rosario's acquisition.
Where United sit in the standings when voters cast their ballots will undoubtedly play a large part in how De Rosario fairs in the MVP race, as it should. Coming off a spectacular performance, it's easy to get wrapped up all that De Rosario has done.
It is worth noting that De Rosario's resume is not free of blemishes. The most glaring of them is that United is his third team this season. It's not an irrelevant fact that De Rosario basically wore out his welcome at Toronto FC before proving himself expendable to the New York Red Bulls.
De Rosario's best performances seems to have inordinately come in blowouts, too. Five of his goals and five of his assists with United have come in games his team has won by at least two goals. Prior to Saturday's game against Real Salt Lake, De Rosario had registered just one goal and one assist in five games against likely playoff teams. In games against the Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas, De Rosario was essentially defended out of the game. Facing Chivas USA just a couple games ago, he took a dive in the penalty area to draw a penalty and then missed what would have been a game-winner. These are obviously all more anecdotal than anything, but that's part of the problem with De Rosario's candidacy: He's only played in 13 games with his current team, diminishing any serious statistical analysis because of the small sample size.
Then there are all kinds of unquantifiable things that seem to work in De Rosario's favor. How do you account for the fact that he's one of the only players in the league who has an assist celebration? And that goal celebration he does? That has to be the most awkward thing any player in the league performs on a regular basis (non-Charlie Davies category).
In all seriousness, De Rosario is starting to make a pretty strong case for himself. I'd still like to see how he finishes out the season before making any final decisions, but if he continues to play the way he has and United continues to make a run at the playoffs, he'll be hard to deny.