MLS' Extratime Radio starts with the soundbite, "Are you watching the games? Or are you just looking at the stats?" I actually think its quite the opposite when evaluating the MLS Landon Donovan MVP race.
Carles Gil, the dynamic midfielder from New England, is widely considered to be the front-runner for the MVP award. That is, prior to his injury that sent him back to Spain for rehabilitation. Behind him is Raul Ruidiaz, the golden boot leader, followed by MY GUY, Daniel Salloi, and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.
Listening to the pundits talk about Carles Gil, it's clear that they're enamored with the way he plays the attacking midfield role as a number 10. He's unlocking defenses and masterfully setting up goals like you wouldn't believe for the Supporters' Shield leading team. According to MLSSoccer.com, he's got 15 assists and 75 key passes. Both stats are far and away the league leaders.
However. MLS counts secondary assists and not everyone does. FBRef.com attributes Gil with only 9 assists. That's because MLS counts the secondary "hockey" assist and few other leagues or analysts do. Therein lies the best case for MY GUY, Daniel Salloi.
Ruidiaz, Gil, and Salloi have all played approximately 1500 minutes so far (Hernandez is well behind with 863). In that time, Ruidiaz has 13 goals (His other stats won't be updated since I don't do xG math and FBRef hasn't updated as of 12:06 AM). Salloi has 11, Hernandez has 10 and Gil has 2. Two of Ruidiaz's goals came from the penalty spot, as have one of Gil's. Neither Salloi nor Hernandez have scored a PK this year. Carles Gil leads the pack with 9 assists. Salloi is on 5, Hernandez with 1, and Ruidiaz with none.
Per 90, Salloi is averaging 0.95 G+A-PK per 90 this year. That means he's getting averaging an assist or goal per game without it being a PK. Hernandez is on an incredible 1.15 per 90. Gil is in third at 0.60, then Ruidiaz at 0.52.
When looking at expected goals and expected assists per 90, Hernandez leads the pack again at 0.76 xG + xA/90. Salloi is in 2nd at 0.65, then Gil at 0.64, and Ruidiaz at 0.60.
The pack is bunched together to be sure, but here's the strongest case for Daniel:
Chicharito has played slightly more than half the minutes than the other 3 contenders. You can't win the MVP if you can't get on the field. While he's been exceptionally efficient in front of goal this year, Hernandez isn't involved in helping his teammates score. 1 assist. 0.7 xA. He's just not involved in anything other than finishing in the box. It has been great for LA thus far, but what happens if his shooting touch leaves him? Without any other skillset being brought to his team, will he revert to the Chicharito of 2020?
Salloi has the most well rounded game of the bunch. Ruidiaz and Hernandez score but don't set their teammates up to score. Gil has 1 goal from the run of play but is unlocking the attack for New England every game. Salloi is two goals back in the golden boot race and is only a few assists back of Gil. By averaging nearly a goal or assist per game, it has become an almost certainty that Daniel will help SKC get points.
When looking at goal creating actions, it becomes clearer that this should be a two horse race. Gil and Salloi. Per 90, Gil is creating 1.26 goal creating actions (Two offensive actions leading to a goal. Passes, dribbles, drawing fouls). Salloi is at 0.60. Ruidiaz is at 0.23 and Hernandez is at 0.42.
I think it is a two horse race between Gil and the Hungarian Assassin. What gets Daniel over the finish line, in my eyes, is his ability to score and set up his teammates to score. After two rough years, Daniel's dynamism on offense has finally returned and he's putting up amazing numbers. With Gil's injury, there's an opening for Salloi to cement his place in the MVP Race.
Nobody asked me but he's got my vote. What do you all think? Let's duke it out in the comments.