Dwayne De Rosarios dismantling of a mostly reserve Real Salt Lake side on Saturday, which included an amazing hat-trick and assist in the first 31 minutes of action, was one of the most dominating displays in MLS history, promptly pushing De Rosario to near forefront of the MLS MVP conversation in a year where no clear-cut choice has emerged. Its easy to look at De Rosarios numbers and fall in love with his candidacy. Hes leading MLS with 13 goals and boasts an impressive 11 assists. In a season where attacking players arent exactly setting records in those categories, those numbers are positively eye-popping.

The thing is that even with those gaudy stats, De Rosario is not the leading candidate for MVP honors. Not even close. Lost in the hype of the video game numbers hes put up over the past two months is the fact that DeRosario was essentially a non-factor for the first half of the season, so much so that Toronto FC and New York both traded him away. While De Rosario was floundering in Toronto and disappointing in New York, there were other players building strong MVP candidacies and helping their teams establish their places in the MLS standings; and at this point, no player has done more to carry a team over the entire 2011 MLS season than Brad Davis. The Houston Dynamo midfielder has been the lynchpin of the Dynamo attack all season, a season that has seen Houston try desperately to add attacking talent to complement Davis. Even after injuries sidelined forwards Brian Ching and Will Bruin, Davis kept on producing chances for his teammates. He not only is tied for the league lead in assists (14) but has also created more scoring chances for his teammates than any other player in the league. Davis has done that by being incredibly consistent and impressively durable. Despite the fact that he plays on the wing - where rough challenges and the physical style in MLS often forces players to miss matches - Davis has started all 31 games for Houston is second only to Joel Lindpere in minutes played among MLS wingers (though both have seen time centrally as well). Above all, Davis has carried the Houston attack even when the team has lacked quality options around him. While other attack-minded MVP candidates like De Rosario, Brek Shea and Mauro Rosales have enjoyed success in systems with strong attacking weapons around them, the Dynamo offense hasnt been exactly considered high powered for much of the year (though recent acquisitions of Carlo Costly and Luiz Camargo have helped). Despite this, the Dynamo sit in first place in the Eastern Conference with a month to play, and rather than slowing down after a season of leading the charge, there was Davis last Saturday, delivering another game-winning assist in Houstons vital 1-0 win at FC Dallas. Davis doesnt have the MVP award locked up just yet, but only because the Dynamo still havent secured a playoff berth. That said, with the team getting healthy at the right time and Geoff Cameron rounding into form (giving Davis some sorely-needed support), Houston looks like a safe bet for the post-season and a good possibility to finish first in the East. If the Dynamo finish atop the Eastern Conference, or even simply make the playoffs, it will be hard not to give the MVP award to Davis, the one strong constant the team has had all year - a player who has produced at a high level all season long, even when his teammates have struggled. That is the definition of a Most Valuable Player. Continue reading: 1, 2 , >>