As MLS teams finalize plans for the upcoming 2023 preseason, we take one last moment to reflect on the 2022 season. One last chance to cast your votes for who you think had the most impact on the first-ever, MLS Cup-winning LAFC side.
We start, of course, with the heart and soul of this LAFC team. The captain, El Rey himself, Carlos Vela but not for all the reasons you would think. In past seasons, Vela put the team on his back. There was very much the sense that if he wasn't on top of his game offensively, the entire team's production and subsequent results, would suffer. That proved to be the case for most of his time wearing the black-and-gold. All of that changed in 2022. This past season Vela did something not many great players do, something that truly separates the greats from the legends. He took a step back.
No, that doesn't mean he lacked in production, he finished the season with 12 goals, 12 assists, and 79% pass success rate. To use a basketball analogy, he pulled a Michael Jordan with the Bulls. He began to trust his teammates, began to understand that he can get his anytime he wants, and that getting his teammates involved can sometimes be the exact recipe for success. No stat shows this more than when we compare his record-breaking 2019 season shots taken with the 2022 MLS Cup winning season. In 2019 Vela unloaded a whopping 161 shots, scoring 36 goals. This year, he amassed 60 shots to score his 12 goals. 100 shots fewer, but one big MLS Cup richer. Sometimes the best, but most difficult thing the most talented player on a team can do, is take a step back while still pushing the team forward. Vela did it masterfully.
The biggest reason Vela was able to take those steps back, was down to our next nominee, Chicho Arango. The name of the game is scoring goals and Arango has mastered that art like few others in the MLS. In 2022 Arango continued his amazing goalscoring pace as he found the back of the net 18 times. He did have four assists, but his job is scoring goals and he is damn good at it. It’s hard to believe there were even whispers at one point that he could possibly be sold in the middle of the season. Luckily, those whispers didn't get any louder, because it was Arango who scored the game-winning goal in the final seconds of the Western Conference Championship match, against bitter-rivals LA Galaxy. That moment alone could be enough to get him MVP honors.
If there is one position consistently great for LAFC, it’s the midfield. We saw it when the team had Eduard Atuesta, and after his departure that trend continued with the emergence of José Cifuentes. After a breakout 2021 season, Cifu continued to improve and took massive leaps forward in 2022. He finished the year with seven goals and seven assists in 26 starts. Midfielders are often referred to as the string-pullers in an attack, needing to connect the defense with offense. Being the ones turn a transition into a deadly counter-attack and Cifu has been wonderful at that. The Ecuadorian had an impressive 80% pass success rate with 45 key passes. Perhaps its time we give him his flowers while we can, because the thing about incredible talent, it’s hard to keep in the MLS for too long.
Crépeau has you covered.— LAFC (@LAFC) October 22, 2022
Yesterday's Save of the Match presented by @FLEXpowerna.
This season, FLEX Power Tools will be donating one hundred dollars to @HabitatLA for each save made by an #LAFC goalkeeper. pic.twitter.com/GVUvc6BVgH
The case has already been made for Maxime Crepeau for other awards, so we won't hit you with a repeat of all the stats. Just a reminder of his 10 clean sheets and 67% save success rate. The best thing Crepeau did for LAFC was provide consistency. After several seasons of a rotating door at the goalkeeper position, Maxime cemented himself as the No. 1 from the start. While he may not have been the league’s best in 2022, or a CVS receipt-long highlight reel of saves, LAFC didn't need all that. They just needed a great goalkeeper who wouldn't lose them matches with mistakes or moments that make you go, what? Crepeau was exactly what the team needed, exactly when they needed. Proving that in no greater moment than in the MLS Cup Final. Of all the incredible signings the team made in the offseason, he was by far the most important, and he showed why throughout 2022.
So, who do YOU think should take home the honor of being the 2022 MVP for LAFC?
2022 LAFC MVP
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