Well, it looks like Juan Pablo Angel has some friends on the internet. Despite playing in just over a quarter of Chivas USA's matches in 2011, the forward was voted team MVP by you, the fans, in a late upset vote. Here's the order of the finalists.
Juan Pablo Angel - MVP
Other (no comments provided as to the identity of this/these players)
Although he had a pretty good season with two outstanding games, I put Braun in, to see if you were really paying attention, and you were! Congrats on not voting him MVP, because that would have been silly. Now, the battle ended up coming down to Angel and Kennedy, but like I said, a late surge by JPA fans pushed him ahead in the end. Congrats to Angel!
Let's now compare Angel's case, and see if it matches up to my pick for team MVP.The Case for (and against) Angel
Juan Pablo Angel joined Chivas in mid-August, technically after the end of the summer transfer window closed, as it was unclear for several days if JPA was actually joining Chivas or not. Following a rather poor campaign with the Galaxy, where he scored three goals and pitched in one assist in 22 appearances (17 starts). With the Galaxy, his scoring rate was 0.18 goals per 90 minutes.
Once JPA joined Chivas, he scored seven goals in nine appearances (all starts). Obviously, scoring more than double the number of goals with Chivas in a fraction of the games means he turned in a much better season with Chivas than with the Galaxy. His scoring rate with the Goats was 0.79 goals per 90 minutes. That is good for best on Chivas this season, so his appearance seems to have improved Chivas substantially, at least regarding scoring.
There are several demerits to an MVP case for Angel, however. Most glaringly, he only appeared in about a quarter of the teams' total matches. If Chivas had been able to not only make the playoffs, but go on an impressive winning streak to end the season, courtesy of Angel's scoring, then we could justify the low appearance totals. But that isn't what happened. In fact, Chivas hit a slide that doomed their postseason chances shortly after JPA's arrival. This is not causal, as the bigger problem during the slump came from injuries to the defense and major defensive mistakes, but Angel did not fire Chivas to greater heights. In the games JPA played with Chivas, their record was 1-5-3. Six points in nine matches is obviously not a good return.
Of course, one could argue that Chivas might have done worse in the homestretch if Angel wasn't on the team. In fact, six of his seven goals with Chivas occurred in games that they won or tied. Even removing his two goals in the win against Toronto, where Chivas won 3-0, his goals in the other three draws directly led to 3 points. Maybe it wasn't a lot, but Chivas may have skidded further down the standings without him.
So, who do I believe was the team MVP? None other than Dan Kennedy, who finished second in the fan vote.
The Case for (and against) Kennedy
The man (usually) in black had a breakout season in 2011. Despite showing glimpses of his potential in past years, injuries derailed him until this year. After missing the first two games of the season while still recovering from injury, Kennedy started the third game and never relinquished the position. Compared to other goalkeepers, he had an impressive statistical season, finishing fifth in saves (100), tied for second in shutouts (9), tied for second in saved penalty kicks (2), and sixth among starters with at least 15 starts in save percentage (70). I already made a case that he should be considered for the U.S. Men's National Team. That hasn't changed. I think next season could potentially help Kennedy much more, if Chivas are able to upgrade the defense and prevent total breakdowns that were a bad habit on the backline this season.
If you look back through the match reports this season, when Chivas got a win or a draw, more often than not I credited Kennedy for preserving the points, as he was asked to make remarkable saves to keep Chivas afloat, especially late in games. Given the other MVP candidates, if we imagined the team without any of them this season, it would have meant a weaker team, obviously. But compare the loss of JPA, Pearce, LaBrocca, or 'other' to the loss of Kennedy. I submit that losing Kennedy for a replacement-value goalkeeper would have been more costly than a replacement-level outfield player for any of the others.
I think the demerits from naming Kennedy MVP are few, but they come to mind. Although a good goalkeeper can help a team earn a shutout or preserve a victory or draw, they (normally) don't contribute offensively. Goals are necessary to actually win matches, as a season of scoreless draws (however incredible) would result in just 34 points. That's only two points worse than how Chivas finished the season, but it is 12 points worse than the final playoff qualifier, New York Red Bulls. So goalkeepers are vital, but a team needs outfield players who can score goals.
The question, then, is which outfield player would deserve the recognition over Kennedy? Nick LaBrocca was the key player on the offensive end over the entire season. While LaBrocca also had a breakout season, he lost his rhythm towards the end of the campaign. Whether it was because he was tired, other teams were doing a better job of marking him, or the arrival of JPA meant he took a different role on the field is unclear. It was probably a combination of those factors. But while LaBrocca was the clear MVP through the first half of the season, comparing his body of work to Kennedy's over the entire season leads me to go with Kennedy.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!