Two New York Red Bulls players were named as finalists for the Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player Award. Striker Bradley Wright-Phillips and midfielder Sacha Kljestan were nominated for the award along with New York City FC striker David Villa.
Wright-Phillips won the Golden Boot after leading MLS with 24 goals, a number that includes seven game-winning goals and no penalty kicks. He also added five assists. Kljestan notched 20 assists, which includes 16 primary assists. He also scored six goals.
The winner of the award will be named on November 6th. Finalists were selected based on voting from current MLS players, MLS club staff, and media members.
Brenden Joseph, SNY.tv
The New York Red Bulls had another successful year in 2016, finishing in first place in the Eastern Conference. The team's individual standouts are being recognized for their prolific and productive season.
The last (and only) Red Bulls/MetroStars player to win the league MVP award is Amado Guevara in 2004. Despite winning the Golden Boot and tying the league record for goals scored in 2014, Wright-Phillips was not one of the three finalists for the MVP award that season. This year, he's earned a nomination, even though he's scored three fewer goals than his historic output. While some may claim that Wright-Phillips is undeserving of the award because he's a pure finisher and benefits from playing with a prolific distributor, his numbers don't include penalties like Villa's.
Sacha Kljestan winning the MVP award would be the culmination of a career year. In addition to his 20 assists, he continues to be the leader of the Red Bulls' high press. Kljestan also rejoined the U.S. national team for the first time since 2014. After putting in solid performances in September and October friendly matches, he appears to have earned a starting spot for crucial upcoming World Cup Qualifying matches against Mexico and Costa Rica.
It's possible that NYCFC's Villa is the frontrunner for the MVP award. In theory, Kljestan and Wright-Phillips would split the voting and credit for the Red Bulls' season. Villa, who scored 23 goals, has both a strong pedigree (former Spanish international and La Liga standout) and a penchant for garnering headlines.