We here at Dirty South Soccer are notorious for exaggerating our fandom, especially on social media. We often joke about our players deserving the Ballon d’Or or being the best player in the world. We like to have fun and acknowledge our team’s really good players. However, when it comes actually writing, we try to take off our Red, Black and Gold tinted glasses and be as unbiased as possible. That’s why when I saw this “Top 30 Players in MLS” list tweeted out by Sebastian Salazar, I had to write a response to it.
First of all, I should preface this and say there’s no disrespect intended to Sebastian here. His list is fine and there will likely be more like it coming on ESPNFC soon that we’ll disagree with. This is a more general response than aimed at bashing him.
As you can see, one Atlanta United player made his cut. That was Miguel Almiron at #11. Hey, that’s respectable for someone new to the league. Most sane people would probably look at that and be impressed that a young player in his first season in a new league would be ranked that high. However, I’m not one of those people.
If the “Best 30 Players in MLS” is all about judging talent and not just ranking the 30 “Most Accomplished” players in the league, then ranking Almiron at #11 is almost a joke. Lets look at the five comparable players who he has ranked ahead of Miggy: Nico Lodeiro, Sacha Kljestan, Dax McCarty, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ignacio Piatti.
All of those players are fantastic players but are one or two dimensional. I think the biggest aspect of Miguel Almiron’s skill set that us Atlanta United followers are blessed to see on a weekly basis is just how well-rounded his game is. Everyone sees his offensive output, both with goals and assists. His dynamic runs from midfield penetrating into the box are unmistakable. But, it’s his work rate and defensive contributions that go unappreciated by the casual viewer of the Five Stripes. He works incredibly hard when Atlanta doesn’t have the ball. His recoveries throughout the season have been through the roof. I can’t count the amount of times he’s won possession somewhere in the midfield and turned that into a dangerous chance on the attacking end. It’s stuff like this that makes him an elite player in this league.
All of those five players are more than deserving to be in the Top 10 of a list like this, but Miguel Almiron should not be behind any of them. With no bias at all, there’s no reason Miggy shouldn’t be a Top 5 player on every single list like this. His multi-faceted skill set something we haven’t seen much of in MLS. An argument can be made for putting him Top 3 already. There’s no doubt that Sebastian Giovinco has earned the top spot, both on talent and track record. David Villa at number two is a fine choice. After those two, I can’t see a concrete argument for any other player to be ranked ahead of Miggy.
Overlooking the misplacement of one Atlanta United star, it’s hard to comprehend how Josef Martinez didn’t make the list. Granted he’s only played nine career MLS games, but if his goal record in those games (nine in nine) isn’t enough to prove his talent, then I don’t know what is. Former USMNT and MLS striker, Herculez Gomez has our backs:
Wait.. no josef?— herculez gomez (@herculezg) July 8, 2017
The two-month spell on the sidelines has cooled Josef’s stock among the national media since Atlanta United really haven’t had any national television matches since his return. However, that doesn’t excuse the ignorance of his ability to keep his impressive offensive statistical output intact. He’s come right back from injury and proven that he’s nearly impossible for any defense in the league to contain. Even if he doesn’t score in a match, he’s getting at least one clear cut chance in every match he’s played since arriving in Atlanta. He’s 105 minutes shy of qualifying for the official MLS leaderboard, but currently Martinez has the best goal per minutes played ratio in the league. Barring a severe drop in form, he’d be right up there with Nemanja Nikolic fighting for the Golden Boot — hell, at the rate he’s going, he may catch up to him even with the long injury layoff.
I don’t think there’s much bias involved in saying that Miguel Almiron was severely underrated at #11 on this list and not having Josef on it at all is laughable. It’ll be interesting to see what other lists show.