Miguel Almirón is tearing up the league right now and is the leading MVP candidate so far in this 2018 campaign. He leads the league in shots and is tied for third in goals and fourth in assists. He’s only one of four players this year with at least eleven combined goals and assists. If that wasn’t enough, his contributions on defense (specifically ball recoveries) and ability to cover the entire pitch is something that is rarely seen in MLS action. Look at Almirón’s heat map against the Chicago Fire:
Instead of a stat tonight, I give you this...... Miguel Almiron's heat map from tonights game. Sometimes an image says it all.....#ATLUTD #hardwork #everywhere #neverstop pic.twitter.com/P5Dq2U48UV— Lucy Rushton (@lucyrushton12) May 6, 2018
The fact of the matter is that Almirón is too good for MLS in its current state, and he’s still just 24 years old. As we know, he will likely be moving on sooner rather than later. For many of us American fans (like myself) that first started watching soccer with Atlanta United, it might be difficult to understand why Almirón would want to leave a great situation like Atlanta to go a bit of unknown territory in Europe.
For comparison, I’d like to present Shohei Ohtani, a baseball player for the Los Angeles Angels. He, like Almirón, was dominating at a lower level league — Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in Japan. There, he was an MVP and three time all-star by age 22. For the NPB, he was a transcendent two-way player at a seemingly impossible young age. Even though he enjoyed so much success and would’ve continued to be the best player in NPB, he wanted to take the risk and go to the bigger (and best) league available, Major League Baseball.
To put it simply, what Almirón is to MLS is what Ohtani was to NPB. For MLS standards, at his age, it’s incredible to watch every performance from him on the pitch and something we shouldn’t take for granted even if we only get to have him on the squad until the summer.
Do you agree with the comparison? Are there any other players that you can think of? Let us know in the comments!