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    LAFC’s Denis Bouanga worthy of all MVP consideration
    • October 21, 2023

    Denis Bouanga has as good a case as anyone among the 30 nominees for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award.

    Leading Major League Soccer with 19 regular-season goals, three ahead of the nearest pursuer heading into the final matchday, Bouanga’s first full season as a winger with the Los Angeles Football Club met the loftiest expectations for what the Frenchman could do in a game model that excels at creating goals.

    Even if one of the handful of players trailing Bouanga in the Golden Boot race pulls off a historic performance and passes him for the honor Saturday, it would not change the fact that no MLS player was more prolific than him in 2023.

    Entering LAFC’s 34th regular-season contest, Bouanga has 11 more goals than any other MLS player for the calendar year. In 42 games across all competitions, the powerfully nimble forward played a part in 45 goals, scoring 32 of them.

    Over the 25 games he made a goal contribution, LAFC stands 16-5-4. The 17 times he did not, LAFC is 3-8-6.

    For the purposes of the MVP discussion, only regular-season accomplishments should be considered by the players, coaches and technical staffs around MLS, as well as select media who are invited to participate, according to the criteria.

    LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo claimed to not know or care about the voting process, and doesn’t think much of the concept of an individual award like MVP for a professional soccer team.

    Asked if Bouanga is the LAFC MVP in 2023, he demurred.

    “He’s a very important player amongst others,” the coach said following two momentum-gathering wins that featured five Bouanga goals. “I do not think I would do this group justice to point out one player and I won’t do it.

    “If you look over the past six years of this organization’s existence, the one thing that’s been consistent has been scoring goals regardless of who plays.”

    Bouanga would be the third different LAFC player to win the Golden Boot in the past five years, joining Carlos Vela (34 goals) during his MVP-winning campaign in 2019 and Diego Rossi (14 goals) in 2020.

    As special as Bouanga has been, Cherundolo noted “the interesting fact is all three of those players are playing in a winger position, so that does speak for our game model, our idea of how to score goals and to attack defenses. I’m not sure that’s been replicated anywhere else and that’s pretty cool.”

    Scoring is expected to lead to winning, so Bouanga’s impact in that is clear. When he helped LAFC (14-10-9, 51 points) get on the board this MLS regular season, they’re 9-2-3.

    With a chance to secure the No. 2 seed in the West, a result against a strong Vancouver Whitecaps FC side vying for a top-four spot would be a convincing entry into the MLS postseason as defending champions.

    The Whitecaps (12-10-11, 47 points) have generally played the Black & Gold tough at BC Place over the past six years. Bouanga scored twice at Vancouver in April in a CONCACAF Champions League win, and one more against the Caps at BMO Stadium in June during a rare LAFC loss when his name appeared on the scoresheet.

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    “A game changer,” said goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, who returns to British Columbia for Decision Day after joining the Canadian national team on a quick trip to Japan during the recent international break.

    “Denis has been on fire for us the whole year. He took the challenge upon himself with the first year fully integrated with the group and he responded really well.”


    When: Saturday, 6:09 p.m.

    Where: BC Place, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

    TV/Radio: Apple TV+ – Free/710 AM, 980 AM

    ​ Orange County Register