Is De Rosario the 2011 MLS MVP?

Until Saturday’s match versus RSL, Dwayne De Rosario was a good pickup for DC United.  The team was playing better with him in the lineup and he gave them an offensive spark that they had lacked with Dax McCarty.  Then on Saturday night he took it to a new level.  First he fed Andy Najar a beautiful pass that the Honduran converted for the first goal of the game.  Then Najar returned the favor and served up a ball that De Rosario headed home.  Next it was Josh Wolff who had the assist that De Ro slammed home.  Finally, the Canadian national in the 31st minute struck a free kick that curled so perfectly into the top left corner that the crowd and players could only shake their heads in awe.  And like that, Dwayne De Rosario had fastest hat trick in MLS history, DC had a critical three points, and the league could only gasp at the incredible play of the former MLS Cup MVP.

So Dwayne De Rosario now has the inside track for the Golden Boot but now scribes are wondering if he could garner even more hardware.  After winning his third Player of the Week recognition today (all with DCU), the discussion in the media has centered around whether he can win the Most Valuable Player award at the end of the season.  Despite being named to the MLS Best XI team a record five times, he has never been named MVP.  Is this the year the midfielder/forward finally wins the award?

It depends on how much you emphasize the word “valuable” in MVP.  Since coming south on I-95, DC United is 5-2-5 in games he has started and has scored 22 goals; he has scored ten of those goals and assisted on another six.  Overall he has 13 goals and eleven assists, best for first and fourth in the league respectively.  Regardless of where he plays (attacking midfielder, forward) or with whom he plays (Wolff, Charlie Davies), he continues to make plays for DC.  Because of their excellent record in games he has started, DC is making a playoff run a year after having the worst record in MLS in 2010 and their worst season in franchise history.  Saturday’s hat trick was his second in DC; as Samuel Chamberlain notes his first was also critical as it rescued a point at home for DC in their 3-3 draw with Toronto.  He also notes De Ro has scored the game winning goal three times in DC’s five post-acquisition wins.  Statistically, De Rosario has a great case but in terms of value to his team, his case is eve better.

But if De Rosario wins the MVP award, he will be a unique awardee, in that he will be the first MVP winner in a major sport to play for three different teams.  It’s important to note in this discussion why that is the case.  De Rosario started the season with Toronto FC but everyone knew his time was short with that team; the previous season he had shown publicly his discontent with his paycheck.  While with Toronto he looked like an aging player who had alienated the fans and fellow players.  When he was traded to the Red Bulls, he was seen as a star that would propel the already soaring club to a desired MLS Cup.  Except he didn’t.  While with New York De Ro looked out of place and was not the offensive creator that the Red Bulls had sought.  When DC came to them wanting to swap similarly underperforming Dax McCarty straight up for him, the deal was made and people wondered who was getting the better deal.  If you vote for Dwayne De Rosario for MVP, you are essentially voting for a half-season MVP performance, as he has only really played like an MVP since the DCU trade.

Will Dwayne De Rosario win the MVP?  Two things will help him, one in his control and one outside his control.  The first factor is if DC makes the playoffs.  Fairly or unfairly in all sports MVPs are judged on how their teams do; a failure to make the playoffs would undercut his “valuable” argument.  However, if DC makes the playoffs (and especially if they secure a top three spot in the Eastern Conference) it will be hard to argue that Dwayne De Rosario was not the key player in taking a team that last year was miserable into the playoffs.  The second factor is the players he is competing against.  Landon Donovan has the stats, but he has been overshadowed down the stretch by his teammates and scored just one goal in the last seven games.  Brek Shea looked like a lock but he and Dallas have begun to slow down as the season wears on.  Kyle Beckerman has been dominant defensively and in the midfield, but it is hard for guys who don’t score to win an MVP.  If no one else has a huge highlight-worthy night, the award might be De Ro’s to lose.  In the end, factors both in and out of his control might finally give Dwayne De Rosario a long-awaited MVP award.

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