Major League Soccer

Every MLS team's very early MVP candidate: Western Conference

Chris Smith
The West has some real MVP contenders.
The West has some real MVP contenders. / Photos by Shaun Clark/Getty Images & Lyndsay Radnedge/ISI Photos/Getty Images.
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On Thursday, we posted a list of every Eastern Conference team's very early candidate for the MLS MVP award.

You're all likely still reeling from the night's World Cup qualifying action between Mexico and the United States, as well as Canada's trip to Costa Rica.

Need a little break from the tension? Take a look at our Western Conference list.

1. Austin FC: Sebastian Driussi

Austin FC have started the 2022 campaign very, very well and have scored more goals (11) than any other team in the league so far.

Three of those goals have been scored by Sebastian Driussi - one against FC Cincinnati in a game where he also provided an assist, and a brace against Inter Miami.

We've always known the Argentine has talent, but this season he looks like the real deal. He looks lively and clinical, and you never quite know what he's going to do from one moment to the next.

2. Colorado Rapids: Diego Rubio

The Rapids quickly recovered from their opening-day beating to LAFC by taking seven points from their next three games.

Diego Rubio has been the architect of their turnaround, netting and assisting in the 3-0 win over Atlanta United then opening the scoring in the 2-0 victory against Sporting Kansas City.

Rubio has also completed more dribbles (5) than any of his teammates and is doing his level best to prove the Rapids didn't need to sign a DP forward after all.

3. FC Dallas: Alan Velasco

Jesus Ferreira stole the show with a hat-trick against the Timbers, but in his 94 MLS minutes so far, DP forward Alan Velasco has looked every inch a club-record signing.

The Argentine winger scored just 23 minutes into his FC Dallas debut to finish off a 2-0 win over Nashville, then set up Ferreira's opener in the 4-1 thumping of the Timbers.

In what is basically one full game's worth of minutes, Velasco has created two chances, completed four dribbles, and attempted four shots. He's 19 years old!

4. Houston Dynamo: Darwin Quintero

He's 34 years old, but Darwin Quintero remains ruthlessly effective and well capable of magical moments in the blink of an eye.

The Colombian striker's brace was the difference in the Dynamo's 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps and accounts for two-thirds of the team's total goal haul so far.

Quintero's legs likely won't sustain those sorts of performances over a 34-game season, but he might just be the crucial difference between Houston returning to the Playoffs or slipping below the line again.

5. LA Galaxy: Chicharito

Like last season, this one is easy, right?

Chicharito has scored two of the Galaxy's four goals so far this season, continues to do so much with so little service, and has become even more of a leader for his team.

The Mexican striker was so close to winning the Golden Boot in a bad team last season. If he and Douglas Costa can find a connection, Chicharito will do so much more than that.

6. Los Angeles FC: Carlos Vela

Staying in LA and sticking with Mexicans, Carlos Vela very much looks like he's back in business.

His injury-ravaged 2020 and 2021 campaigns seem firmly behind him after four goals and an assist in his opening four appearances of 2022. For good measure, he leads LAFC in chances created (9) and shots (12).

Vela's legs have slowed a little but it doesn't seem to affect him, with the 33-year-old smart enough to pick his moments to pounce.

7. Minnesota United: Dayne St. Clair

Far few people have noticed that Minnesota United have remained unbeaten across their opening four games. Perhaps it's because they've mainly done it by keeping out goals rather than scoring them, but here we are.

He's only actually been given a chance due to Tyler Miller's injury, but Dayne St. Clair has been phenomenal between the sticks. The Canadian keeper has kept clean sheets in each of his two appearances so far - both 1-0 wins - making no fewer than eight saves. His xG Against this season is 3.16, but he's yet to concede.

Surely, there's no way St. Clair loses his spot to Miller now.

8. Nashville SC: Hany Mukhtar

Mukhtar is on the verge of exploding again this season.
Mukhtar is on the verge of exploding again this season. / Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville SC's transition to the Western Conference has been anything but smooth, but if Hany Mukhtar keeps on doing Hany Muktar things, that'll change soon.

The 27-year-old has provided the assists for two of his team's three goals so far in 2022 and has been desperately unlucky not to score a couple himself, blasting a few remarkable efforts just off target.

Mukhtar probably should have been the MVP in 2021 ahead of Carles Gil and we don't doubt he'll soon start running up the numbers to make a case again this time.

9. Portland Timbers: Yimmy Chara

There's a very good chance Yimmy Chara will occupy the top two spots in the MLS Goal of the Year voting, so it's only fair he makes this list.

The Colombian scored a ridiculous bicycle kick goal in a 2-2 draw with the Revs in Week 1, then went and did the same thing just a week later in a 1-1 stalemate against LAFC.

That's some way to climb to the top of your club's scoring charts and if we know Chara - who has added an assist for good measure - he won't be done there.

10. Real Salt Lake: Bobby Wood

Bobby Wood made a slow start to life in MLS last season, scoring just three goals in 20 appearances. But he's already hit two at the start of the new campaign, and they were important goals, too.

The first was the winner in a 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders in Week 2, while the second opened the scoring as Real Salt Lake beat Nashville SC 2-1 most recently. Wood also assisted Sergio Cordova's goal to kick-start a 3-2 comeback win over the New England Revolution.

A big striker coming up with big moments - this is exactly what RSL sign Wood for.

11. San Jose Earthquakes: Francisco Calvo

Like with Inter Miami in our Eastern Conference feature, we're really clutching at straws trying to find a candidate for the Quakes.

At a stretch, Francisco Calvo has scored two of their four goals, netting a brace to salvage a 3-3 draw against Columbus in their only point of the season so far. He also leads the team in clearances (10), interceptions (17), and shots blocked (4).

That's about as good as it gets for San Jose so far.

12. Seattle Sounders: Jordan Morris

Okay, so Jordan Morris only has one goal to his name this season. But then, he's only started twice, and has found the net twice already in the Concacaf Champions League.

And that's what we're going to lean on, the fact that Morris has already shown bursts of form, despite still working himself back to his very best following that long spell on the sidelines with an ACL injury.

Morris has the ability to drag the Sounders up the Western Conference and maintain their status as year-on-year challengers, he's that good. He's just got to get his feet under him. But the signs are promising.

13. Sporting Kansas City: Remi Walter

At this point, we're all just poking SKC with a stick and asking them to 'do something'. The season-long injury to Alan Pulido really has hurt them, way more than we could have imagined.

Remi Walter has once again provided some stability in midfield, topping out among his teammates for tackles (14) and posting 87% pass accuracy, while he's level with Johnny Russell on five chances created.

But Peter Vermes is going to need a forward to emerge in this spot if SKC are to have the sort of season expected of them.

14. Vancouver Whitecaps: Tristan Blackmon

Similar to the Quakes and SKC, Vancouver Whitecaps have really stumbled out of the blocks.

Much depends on Ryan Gauld getting back to his best form but for now, full-back Tristan Blackmon has been the standout performer.

The defender, acquired from Charlotte FC in the offseason, has tackled, intercepted, and battled everything in sight. He also opened the scoring in an eventual 3-1 defeat against his former club, LAFC, last time out.

During that game alone, he made seven clearances and two tackles trying to hold Vela and company at bay.

But again, paging Ryan Gauld.

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