New York City FC has had an interesting season. Until the international break in June, the team was on fire, in first place in the Eastern Conference, and still had Valentín Castellanos. But then, Ronny Deila left for Europe, and Nick Cushing was put in charge. As expected, Castellanos went to Europe to play in La Liga, and rightfully so.
The Pigeons then saw a few months of poor results, and began to fall a little down the table. Fortunately, they finished the season with a few wins, and in third place. One major part of the success and survival this year was Alexander Callens. Not only did the center-back perform well, but he was also the bright light during the struggles.
Callens wore the NYCFC badge not just on his shirt, but on his heart. He exemplified what it meant to play for the Bronx side all season long, and he played his heart out every single game. Plus, he was not just a defensive powerhouse, but an attacking threat as well.
Moreover, Callens was one of the three final candidates for Defender of the Year in Major League Soccer. Based on that, his defense and offense, and how he played for NYCFC, he should be named the team’s MVP.
Alexander Callens proved he is the MVP for New York City FC
New York City FC have many talented players, but Alexander Callens was the player that played 100% in every game that he played. He did miss some time due to injury, but so far he has played in 36 overall fixtures, with 27 of the 36 in the MLS regular season.
In those fixtures, Callens might not have led in every statistic, but with the eye test, he was undoubtedly everywhere. When a clearance, block, interception, or more was needed, he was there. He still had the second highest passing percentage amongst the defenders, and had the highest number of successful passes throughout the entire team.
Throughout the regular season, Callens led his center-backs in tackles, with 41, and was fifth overall. While he was sixth on the team with 36 total blocks, he led the Pigeons with 20 blocked shots. This highlights how he was there when he was needed.
However, the reason Callens really stands out compared to his fellow defenders is because he made the plays when they mattered the most. If no one else was there to defend, then the center-back stepped in.
In addition, Sean Johnson led the team to 14 regular season clean sheets, and both Callens and Thiago Martins were the only players to be a part of 12 of those 14 matches. Hence, it was not just Johnson's saves, but Callens' defensive skills. His ability to mark opposing players, and also run with them to decrease shooting opportunities, helped limit the defensive work needed overall as well.
Offensively, Callens was off the charts. He had the most shots from a defender on the team, and scored six goals in all competitions. He also had the one assist, which came in the final regular season match of the year. But more importantly, the Peruvian had no fear with going forward, and often became another option in the attacking third.
No other player on the team can say they were both strong in the defense and offense. Callens was a vital player, and likely without him, New York City FC would have been farther down the table. His performances on the pitch, and then the passion for the club, is why he should be the MVP, and not just the team’s Defender of the Year.