Martin Rivero is quite possibly the most valuable playmaker in MLS today. Here's why, and here's why no one talks about it.
Martin Rivero is quite possibly the most valuable playmaker, and perhaps the most valuable player, in Major League Soccer, and here is why:
Just the other day, RSL Soapbox released a list of players who are the top "Playmakers" in the league by the metric of the amount of "Key Passes" they make per minute. A "Key Pass", according to Opta, who lists the stat is the following:
Second Assist/Key Pass
A pass/cross that is instrumental in creating a goal-scoring opportunity, for example a corner or free-kick to a player who then assists an attempt, a chance-creating through ball or cross into a dangerous position.
The final pass or pass-cum-shot leading to the recipient of the ball having an attempt at goal without scoring.
According to RSL Soapbox's Matt Montgomery, Rivero ranks #7 in the league when you compare his number of minutes played to his number of key passes created. He's #6 in that list for his overall passing accuracy with a number of 81%. He's tied with Landon Donovan for overall Key Passes at #3 on the list.
He is also the youngest person on this list (beating Paulo Jr. by a little more than a year) and also the lowest paid player on the list, beating Paulo Jr. by $15,000. The Rapids have on their hand a top 10 player, an absolute bargain, and of this at only 22 years of age.
That totals to $666.00 (no, for real) per Key Pass, if that's how you want to measure his value. Compare that to guys who are ahead of him: Graham Zusi makes $1082 per Key Pass if you do the same calculation. Morales? $5,448. And Landon Donovan makes an insane $32,000 per Key Pass. If you're judging a playmaker's value by his production of key passes alone, Martin Rivero is the most valuable player in MLS by far. It's barely close.
And yet, Rivero wasn't mentioned in the 24 under 24. In fact, not a single Rapids' player made the 24 under 24. Matt Doyle rationalizes it as the following:
2. Martín Rivero, attacking midfielder, Colorado Rapids
Why he should have made it: A true No. 10 who’s been productive (one goal, eight assists), who’s shown he can handle the physical rigors of the league, who’s been willing to track back defensively, who hasn’t griped and who serves as good a dead ball as anybody save David Beckham, Federico Higuaín or Brad Davis.
That’s Designated Player territory. Rivero’s absence is a pretty glaring oversight.
Why he didn’t make it: The God’s honest truth is that Rivero didn’t make it because he’s not a prat. If he was moody, myopic and prone to the "me first" behavior many of us associate with the typical Argentineenganche (think Juan Román Riquelme), he’d have captured everyone’s imagination. We want our No. 10s to be tortured artists, not hard-working, team players.
It's not just a glaring oversight, it's absolutely damning of the entire "24 under 24" ratings system, and so much so that the ratings system is made an absolute joke. The rationale that Doyle uses is proof positive of the kind of absolute nonsense that goes into making these kinds of rankings. Again, look at that leaderboard from the Soapbox and then look back at the 24 under 24 list.
Yes, it's old news, but to see it finally splayed out before you, it's pretty clear that Rivero deserves a lot more attention than what he's been getting from Major League Soccer.
The argument could be made, and I believe it has been, that were Rivero playing for a team with a better record, he would be absolutely getting the credit he deserves. I think that's a little in error because I don't think it has anything to do with the record of the club he plays for, so much as... I don't think MLS is ready for the Rapids to be a club with a playmaker like Rivero yet. That might strike you as just as dim as Matt Doyle's response about "he's not a prat" but hear me out on this one.
The Rapids, for a long time, have been described by MLS as being one of those tough guy teams. The "thug meme" writ large. Anytime anyone talked about the Rapids, they had to mention how "physical" we were. Old habits die hard. Plus, honestly, I don't think the Rapids have really gotten much attention this year. Unlike New York, where Rafa Marquez can sneeze and generate enough news for a daily cycle, or Los Angeles where Landon Donovan eating fish and chips could generate enough spin to dry your clothes. In Colorado, where Pareja's revolution is looking like a much rougher journey than expected, a diamond like Rivero is sadly missed. Combine the fact that the journalists at the MLS don't know how to talk about the Rapids with the fact that they don't generally worry about how to talk about the Rapids and you lose valuable stories like the fact that somehow the Rapids have brought a true #10 to their team and at only 22 and in his first year he's already outperforming guys who have been in the league for many seasons.
A real diamond in the rough.