Like it is in every league where it's awarded, choosing the MLS Most Valuable Player is an inexact science. Is it our version of the Ballon d'Or, going to the league's "best player"? Should it go to the player who most affects his team's ability to win? Can a defender win it? How about a goalkeeper? Should a player whose team misses the playoffs be docked?
There is no "right" answer to any of these questions, of course, but every year those of us in the media debate them all over again.
History tells us that offensive players usually win, with the only exception coming in 2000 when goalkeeper Tony Meola put together one of the greatest seasons of all time. Otherwise, the award goes to goal scorers and playmakers, usually on very good teams.
The general consensus seems to be that the Chicago Fire's Mike Magee is the odds-on favorite right now. The LA Galaxy's Robbie Keane and the Montreal Impact's Marco DiVaio are probably somewhere reasonably close behind. Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales, the Portland Timbers' Diego Valeri ... I'm sure we can go through most of the top teams in the table and find someone who's deserving of consideration.
But who's the obvious choice from the Sounders, quite possibly the Supporters' Shield winners? There doesn't seem to be one, but that's at least partially because several players have put in potential MVP-quality performances:
Although Martins has only payed in 17 of the Sounders' 27 games, he's had an enormous impact. His eight goals are tied for the team lead and his four assists are third. His five game-winning goals are also tied for the league lead. He's done all this in 1,204 minutes. If he continues to produce at this clip he could end up with 10 or 11 goals and 4-6 assists. Those numbers still don't jump off the page, but maybe this will: the Sounders a 9-4-1 in his starts and have gone 11-4-2 in games he at least plays. Without him, it's almost impossible to see the Sounders being in the Supporters' Shield right now.
I'll admit that if the season ended today, Gspurning probably wouldn't even win the Goalkeeper of the Year award let alone the MVP, but bear with me for a moment. As it is now, he's tied for the most shutouts (10), has the third best goals per game figure (1.02), the fourth best save percentage (71.9) and the fifth-most wins (12). No other goalkeeper is in the top 5 in all four of those categories and it's still within the realm of possibility that Gspurning could end the season as the league leader in all of them. If he can sweep those categories, his case would be very strong to be the second ever goalkeeper MVP.
Just looking at his personal statistics, you'd be excused for overlooking Alonso -- and that's probably what will happen when the national voters start making their decisions. But if this is an award about which player is most important to his team, Alonso has to be considered. The Sounders have gone 2-4-1 in the games Alonso has missed. Even more telling, the Sounders have been outscored 14-6 in those matches. With Alonso holding down the center of the midfield, the Sounders are 13-4-3 with a goal difference of 31-13. To put that in context, the Sounders would end up with 79 points if they could keep up that pace over a 34-game season (which would shatter the current MLS record). The more advanced metrics are also a fan as, according to WhoScored.com, Alonso has the league's best passing percentage (88.7), while attempting the fourth most passes per game (55.8) and making the third most tackles per game (3.8). He's also the only Sounders player who's getting any national attention.