"Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value" – Albert Einstein
To play on your emotions, I should write about the match last Saturday against Seattle (and let's not think about Wednesday's game). As a fan, that was the most unexpected and unbelievable game I have ever witnessed. For those first 45 minutes, it was simply the most perfect moment in Dick Sporting Good’s Park history (for me at least). Shock and awe (Blitzkrieg) football. Therefore I will leave it and let the real journalist scribe an ode to it and turn to a topic that, with two games remaining, continues to be a point of debate. Below is my internal discussion on who is the Most Valuable Rapid (MVR).
The performance on Saturday would seem to indicate to me that Deshorn Brown cemented or submitted for our approval his most valuable Rapid candidacy for this season. He was simply electric. Forty-five minute highlight showing the fans what he can be. Before this game I had a gut feeling throughout the year that he was the best. This weekend at the C38 Supporter’s Group tailgate, voting had begun for the Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards. During Saturday afternoon’s voting, Clint Irwin was running away with the Player of the Year vote. Even with voting now closed, the question bugging me is "who has been the one player that we can look back upon and say, without their contribution, this year might have been different?" What metrics can we look at to find that hidden gem?
Goals scored, minutes played, goals stopped, man of the match, intangibles…these are only a few ways to measure the success of any one player to the team on the field. In most sports it is easy to pick that one offensive stat and run with it. In baseball it’s homeruns, in football it’s touchdown passes, in basketball it’s points score, and so forth. If we look at just the stat of points scored, then POTY points to the fabulous rookie season of Deshorn Brown. With 9 goals scored, he has accounted for almost a quarter of the Rapids tallies this season. Obviously for a team to succeed they have to score more goals then their opponent and Brown has clearly shown that he is the most valuable scorer.
But wait - in Game 4 of the season against our arch nemesis, our number 1 goalie, the goalie who helped us win the MLS Cup, went down with a broken arm. In comes a soccer journeyman to his first MLS game, into the hornet’s nest that is Rio Tinto (being generous here), and helps the Rapids steal a point and eventually earn our first Rocky Mountain Cup in six years. From that first game, the legend of Clint Irwin grew. He then had to face 3 consecutive penalty kicks in the next three games. In one he even stone walled RSL’s Saborio sealing our first victory. As opposed to scoring goals, one must also prevent goals and Irwin has done a great job at limiting the opposition to a 1.00 Goals against average, 2nd in the league behind Sporting K’s Neilsen. Throw in Irwin’s 10 shutouts (4th in league) and he has been the team savior. If we look at the stat of goals prevented, Irwin is clearly POTY.
Now hold on for a second, sure goal scoring is great and saving shots helps, but what if the opposition can’t shoot or their A-Listers (designated players) are shut down? Since Shane O’Neill has stepped on the field, the Rapids have a record of 10-3-8 when he starts. Having solidified the back four and helping Drew Moor out, O’Neill’s appearance on the pitch has a +16 rating of goals scored versus goals allowed. Does Irwin get shell-shocked week in and week out due to the defense in front of him? Does any serviceable goal keeper not look good when you have a back 4 of Klute, O’Neill, Moor, and Wynne? With the stat of Goals Scored versus Goals Allowed, clearly O’Neill must be POTY.
This doesn’t even mention Dillon Powers awesome Rookie campaign. (5 goals, 6 assists). What about the quiet effectiveness of Nathan Sturgis (4 goals on only 7 shots). Chris Klute, left back extraordinaire? (7 assists). How about the rock that is Edson Buddle who has scored 3 game winning goals? And what about the appearance of Vincente Sanchez? In all of 6 games he has been a spark plug, opening up the pitch and allowing the scorers valuable opportunities. Rapids have a lot of effective moving parts this season. Can any one player be labeled Most Valuable?
The data so far:
Goals Scored -
Brown (9 goals)
Powers (5 goals)
Buddle (5 goals)
Harris (5 goals)
Sturgis (4 goals)
Goals Scored and Assists -
Man of the Match Winners (according to MLSsoccer.com and assume 3 points for 1st, 2 points for 2nd, and 1 point for 3rd):
Irwin (22 pts)
Brown (18 pts)
Buddle (15 pts)
Thomas (10 pts)
Powers (9 pts)
Plus/Minus (okay bare with me on this one but let’s take a page from the Hockey stat and say players on field both score together and get scored upon?)
Average Rating (through Saturday's Match):
No matter how you crunch the numbers, there is still no clear-cut winner for POTY. I think Irwin and Brown are both deserving of POTY, with maybe a third place tie between O’Neill and Buddle. How to decide for sure? Throw in the fact that the Rapids probably wouldn’t be in this position if Ceus had been between the posts and I think the decision becomes clear. The Cinderella story that Clint Irwin has been this year truly makes me think the most valuable Rapid is Irwin. Maybe this year we get Irwin a slipper because the shoe fits.