NOTE: Article has been updated to reflect statistics accumulated as of October 21.
Defining value can be a tricky proposition. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines valuable as “having desirable or esteemed characteristics or qualities” and “of great use or service.” But what does that mean when applied to specific examples? Value is very much situational, and often quite subjective.
The MLS Most Valuable Player award is no different, and for Sebastien Le Toux, the definition of value may determine whether or not he receives the league’s highest individual honor. The largest strike against him has nothing to do with performance, but it’s a legitimate consideration. You know the age-old debate: Should a player on a non-playoff team even have a chance to be deemed the most valuable in the league? The opposing logic is that Player X’s team wouldn’t have made the playoffs without him and they didn’t with him, so where’s the value added?
That’s where defining value comes into play. Should the award determine the player who has contributed most to a playoff team, or rather most to any team in the league, period, regardless of position in the standings? For instance, say Landon Donovan single-handedly makes the playoff-bound LA Galaxy 10 points better, yet Le Toux makes the Union 11 points better. Is Donovan still more valuable? What if it’s a larger discrepancy than just one point?
Ignoring the playoffs element for a moment, does Le Toux deserve it? Absolutely. The expansion draft selection has done everything humanly possible to help his club win, and then some. With one match left, the Frenchman has 13 goals, adding 11 assists for the highest combined mark in the league.
And the two most commonly cited offensive statistics only begin to tell the story.
Le Toux is the heart and soul of the Union, beloved by the fan base for being everything a professional athlete should be. Here’s a challenge: Find a single bad thing anyone has said about him this year. Won’t be easy.
There’s a reason. The guy flat-out leaves his heart and soul on the field every single match. And then he stays long after the final whistle signing autographs, taking pictures and talking with fans, to the point where members of the media have commented that it can be tough getting ahold of him for post-game interviews in a timely manner because he spends so long with the fans. Now that’s the kind of player (and person) any club wants as the face of their franchise.
[inline_node:287672]But being a good person doesn’t help win MVP awards (although maybe it should be a factor when you consider the impact it has on cultivating fan loyalty, which in turn translates to increased home support), so why does Le Toux deserve the nod when no other player from a non-playoff team has won the distinction in MLS history?
Simply put, his value -- more specifically, his percentage involvement in the Union’s total number of goals this season (34) -- has also been unprecedented. The MLS record for a single player’s percentage involvement in his club’s goal is 61.1 percent, set in 1999 when current Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis accumulated 18 goals and 15 assists out of 54 total goals (Kreis won the MVP that year with the Dallas Burn).
Le Toux currently sits at 70.6 percent.
When compared to some of the other top offensive MVP candidates on playoff-bound clubs, it’s clear why Le Toux deserves to be in the thick of the conversation despite missing an important ingredient.
Sebastien Le Toux: 70.6%
Chris Wondolowski: 54.5%
Fredy Montero: 52.6%
Landon Donovan: 52.4%
David Ferreira: 51.2%
Edson Buddle: 45.2%
Juan Pablo Ángel: 44.4%
Javier Morales: 39.0%
Omar Cummings: 38.1%
Staggering, isn’t it? This statistical-driven metric doesn’t even consider the fact that Le Toux’s work-ethic is second to none. He's regularly seen tracking back to help the Union on the defensive side of the ball and applying pressure when the opposing defense or goalkeeper has possession. Then there's his versatility to play multiple attacking positions as needed to compensate for injuries or lineup adjustments. Not to mention his reputation as the consummate teammate.
One of only two players with double-digit goals and assists this season (Fredy Montero has 10 goals and 10 assists, with Jaime Moreno the last to accomplish the feat prior to this season when he had 10 goals and 10 assists in 2008), Le Toux’s 2010 campaign has been nothing short of historic. Yes, there is still one match left, which could help certain players distinguish themselves. But with media voting already underway, should Le Toux be strongly considered for the league’s MVP award?
The simple answer is an emphatic yes, unless of course too many decide to rule him out by definition.