With the season winding down, talk of course starts to shift towards the postseason and postseason awards. The biggest award is the Most Valuable Player award, which is supposed to go to the best player in the league. There was an article posted on SBNation earlier today looking at the short list of players that should be considered for the MVP award. Included in that list is the New York Red Bulls' Thierry Henry. A case was certainty made for the captain, who has 9 goals and 13 assists on the season, but MLS leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips didn't make the cut (he was given an honorable mention). The article made some waves on Twitter given Wright-Phillips' snub. I don't agree with Henry being placed over Wright-Phillips this year, and here's why.
This is the most obvious piece of evidence for Wright-Phillips is his amazing run at the MLS scoring record. His 24 goals (thus far) is not only best in the league, it's exactly half of the Red Bulls 48 goals scored this season. The person who follows him up on the Red Bulls in terms of goals scored? Thierry Henry with 9, which is 2.6 times less than what Wright-Phillips has scored this year.
That's Wright-Phillips conversion rate of shots on target. So far this season Wright-Phillips has taken a total of 50 shots on goal, 24 of which have been in the back of the net.
That's the number of minutes that Wright-Phillips has played in MLS this year. He's appeared in 28 of the Red Bulls 30 games this year. This means that he has played 2215 minutes out of a possible 2700 minutes, or 82% of the Red Bulls season. He's been a workhorse for the team, playing over 60 minutes in 24 of 28 games in which he has appeared.
Value Over Replacement
Value over replacement is a baseball stat that is meant to show how valuable a player is compared to an "average" player of that position. While this stat has not been applied to soccer, it is worth looking at how the Red Bulls could have fared without Wright-Phillips. In the 30 games so far, here's how the Red Bulls have fared with and without Wright-Phillips.
With (2215 minutes):
- 41 Goals Scored (24 by BWP, 17 by rest of team)
- 54.02 Minutes/Goal Scored
- 36 Goals Against
- 61.52 Minutes/Goal Conceded
- +5 Goal Difference
Without (485 minutes):
- 7 Goals Scored
- 69.29 Minutes/Goal Scored
- 10 Goals Against
- 48.5 Minutes/Goal Conceded
- -3 Goal Difference
Andre Akpan/Saer Sene
I grouped these two players together since they were traded for each other. Akpan only appeared 5 times for the Red Bulls for a grand total of 16 minutes. Petke didn't trust him, so we didn't get to see much of him this year. However, in his time in the league dating back to 2010, Akpan has only scored 10 total goals in 41 games played. Sene is a different case as he had a good debut season in 2012, but has been suffering from an injury ever since. While he's appeared in 5 MLS matches for the Red Bulls so far (90 minutes), he has failed to produce.
Cahill was the Red Bulls leading scorer last year with 12 goals. While he has performed well for Australia this year, with a good showing in the World Cup, he has not met expectations with the Red Bulls this year. He has only scored 2 goals so far this year, and has been injured or invisible for most of the year. The latest game against the LA Galaxy is a blatant example as Taylor Twellman remarked about not noticing him right before he took a ball and passed it forward, from near the Red Bulls' box.
Peguy Luyindula helped lead this team to the 2013 Supporter's Shield by being a distributor, then he got hurt early this year, and hasn't seen regular playing time until recently. While he's listed as a forward on the team website, Peguy is usually used in an attacking midfield role when he is called upon. Against LA Petke put him in that exact position behind Wright-Phillips. It's hard to ask someone who's best asset is ball distribution to pick up the slack on scoring.
You might be wondering why I am including Henry since he's the second leading scorer, and that's exactly the reason why. His 9 goals are second only to Wright-Phillips, which makes him a natural choice to pick up the scoring. Only problem is, his role on the team recently has been to play more of a wing position, dropping back, and working the ball up through the midfield. Like Peguy, you can't ask a guy doing that to score a lot of goals. The fact he has 9 so far this year is a testament to how skillful he is.
So, let's summarize why Bradley Wright-Phillips deserves to be named MVP. His 24 goals leads MLS, and has converted close to half of his shots on goal. He is a workhorse, playing in over 80% of the available minutes from MLS games this season. His value to the team can't be replicated by any player currently on the lineup, and the team fares much better with him on the field.
What do you think about Bradley Wright-Phillips as possible league MVP? Do you agree with the original article that has Henry over Wright-Phillips. Let us know in the comments.