Ric Tapia - Getty Images
The youngster has come on over the course of the season to make a case as Chivas USA's most valuable offensive player in 2012. We break down the numbers and offer our case.
The numbers have been low, and surely nobody would contend that Chivas USA's 2012 season has been of high quality on the offensive end. With a league-worst total in goals scored, and a scoring rate of 0.6875, talk of picking a player who stood out among the pack may seem rather absurd. But I think there is a clear case to be made of making midfielder Miller Bolanos the team's offensive MVP of 2012, unless matters change drastically in the final two matches of the season.
Bolaños currently leads Chivas in most offensive categories in league play. He leads the team in assists, with four, leads in both shots and shots on goal, and sits second in goals, to Juan Pablo Angel. If we use the metric of production where goals count for two points and assists one, here's how Chivas' players shake out:
|Juan Pablo Angel||4||0||8|
|2 players tied||0||2||2|
|5 players tied||0||1||1|
Again, the numbers aren't particularly pretty, but Bolaños leads the pack, and has provided some balance in scoring and setting up goals.
Now, let's compare the number of points earned from goals scored. In this case, we'll only count those goals that led to the draw or win (in other words, the third goal in a game that ends 3-3):
|Name||Game-winning or -tying goals||Number of points|
|Juan Pablo Angel||3||5|
In this category, JPA comes out on top, with Bolaños and Correa close behind. What are the comparisons for these three players in league appearances and minutes played?
|Juan Pablo Angel||19||1,004|
As the leading scorer on the team, Angel also has the best scoring rate, of a goal every 251 minutes, as opposed to Correa's 347.5 minutes per goal and Bolaños' 589 minute pace. To put these leading rates in perspective, and to allow you to grind your teeth freely, the leading scorer in MLS, Chris Wondolowski, is currently scoring at a rate of one goal per 90.79 minutes, or very nearly a goal a game.
So, we can conclude that Bolaños has the best numbers on the team in part because he has played the most minutes relative to the other "top" scorers. If JPA had played a similar number of minutes, he would probably have more production. While that is certainly true on one hand, in that a player absolutely cannot score if he is not on the field, his scoring rate indicates it would not be significantly higher. He would be projected to have scored three more goals if he played as many minutes as Bolaños, which would give him a significant lead in goals. But Angel has suffered multiple injuries this season, and unlike, say, Correa (whose projected goals tally would also be three additional goals if he had played the same number of minutes as Bolaños), JPA's absence has had as much, if not more, to do with injury than with Robin Fraser's selection policy.
As a result, the numbers conclude that the offensive MVP through 32 games can really only be Angel or Bolaños. That the Ecuadorean leads the team in all major offensive categories except goals (where he is second), and that his production comes both from goals and assists (versus Angel's goals-only production) the evidence seems compelling that Bolaños should get the nod.
Here's where it becomes a downer, both in the short-term and potential long-term. Bolaños has to sit out Chivas' next game against the Colorado Rapids, because he's gotten five yellow cards and is suspended. So the Goats' top offensive producer will definitely be out of at least one of the final two matches. And given Fraser's often-puzzling lineup choices, there's no guarantee he'll return for the season finale.
In the long-term, there's also no assurance Bolaños will return next season, mostly because he is widely believed to be on loan from LDU Quito (the team never disclosed whether he was signed outright or on loan - another brilliant legacy of MLS secrecy). Although most of us who watch the team regularly expect another rebuilding project on the horizon, Bolaños is a young player who has shown steady improvement over the course of the season and has made his way into the lineup on a regular basis during a stretch when few players have gotten any consistent playing time. He looks to have made his case that he should return in 2013, but that may not be in the cards. We'll have to wait and see what happens during the offseason, of course, but it would be quite a shame to lose arguably the team's offensive MVP after just a season on the team. He's done his part, now the team needs to step up and ensure he remains on Chivas USA next season as well.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!