I grew up really, really caring about baseball. In baseball, a sport that is as much an individual pursuit as it is a team game, awards given to players really, really matter. Careers can be made on a Cy Young or an MVP, and even lesser awards like the Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers are hotly debated. Every year the same question pops up when it's time to crown MVP: should the award go to the best player in the league, or should it be given to the player who means the most to his team? Despite the debate, the award inevitably goes to the best player, meaning the guy with the best stats. Hit a lot of homeruns and collect a lot of RBI, and you're likely to be the MVP. All that talk about what "valuable" actually means is just a bunch of window dressing.
In our game, soccer/football/futbol, individual awards also matter, but are hardly as important. MLS MVP candidates are tossed about, and naturally the fans of the teams with players up for the award care; but the sport is so intrinsically different, and quality of performance often so subjective, that handing the trophy to a clear cut choice is almost impossible. Unless a goal scorer simply dominates, kicks in a bucket load of goals through the entirety of the season and makes it difficult to choose anyone else, bestowing the award on the most deserving candidate will be more about opinion than stats.
In both sports, there's a natural predilection to give the award to a player on a winning team. Even if one player in particular shows himself to be more important to his club than anyone else in the league is to their's, if the team itself is poor, he's unlikely to garner more than a handful of MVP votes. Star on a good team, and there's a very good chance you'll be mentioned as an MVP candidate.
Because that word "valuable" actually means something in MLS, a player who appears to be carrying his team or raises his game at the exact moment that it's most needed, will take the lead in the race. The end of the season matters more than the beginning and the middle, and a long campaign saved or raised by timely play will get a player moved to the top of the list.
There is, unfortunately, a flip side to that "good team" coin; if the team is consistently good because it is stocked with talented players working in concert with none standing out from the pack, then it's possible for one of the best teams in the league to be shutout of the individual honors. Which just might be the case for defending MLS champion and third in the league on points Real Salt Lake.
Because, though RSL are one of the league's best teams, may end up with the Supporters Shield before all is said and done, and has a wonderful shot to repeat as champions, they have no identifiable preeminent performer. There's quality across the board at RSL; Javier Morales is having a great season, but so is Alvaro Saborio, Fabian Espindola, Kyle Beckerman (injury aside), Jamison Olave, and others. Aside from Morales and maybe Saborio, it's difficult to make a case that any Laker deserves MVP consideration. RSL have been steady all season, are deadly at home, and have no appreciable weaknesses when it comes to league play. As a friend of mine put it to me recently, right now, RSL has swag for days.
We don't look at RSL and see a Fredy Montero, an attacking star pulling the team along as they come down the home stretch. We don't see a David Ferreira or Guillermo Barros Schelotto, orchestrating much of what the team does and carrying the creative load. Jason Kreis and the RSL organization have put together a team that doesn't rely on any one player to make things happen; watch them play, and that becomes obvious. RSL has very good to great players who make them better when they're in the game. But none of those players are individually so important that RSL becomes significantly worse when they're not in the game. If we're talking "most valuable", that makes RSL a team without a candidate.
If they repeat as MLS champions, I'm pretty certain none of their fans will care.