It is hard to look beyond Alex Bono as Toronto FC’s playoff MVP thus far.
And if the Reds progress to the MLS Cup final the 23-year-old will be building a case as the most valuable player in the entire postseason, period.
Bono kept his first clean sheet of the playoffs against the Columbus Crew on Tuesday, with one particular save from point-blank range vital in preserving the 0-0 tie.
The American was only beaten by a contentious penalty and a deflected shot over 180 minutes in the conference semi-finals against the New York Red Bulls. In the second leg of that matchup, a terrific Bono stop denied Bradley Wright-Phillips a goal that could have sent the sixth seed through.
Bono’s performances could prove to be particularly important given the high standard of goalkeeping that has been enjoyed by all of the clubs still in contention. Tyler Deric was excellent before his season was ended by a domestic violence charge, while Stefan Frei has long been established as one of MLS’ best stoppers.
Opposite Bono during this conference final is Zack Steffen, who was outstanding as the Crew stunned Atlanta United in the knockout round.
Steffen is likely to be one of Bono’s closest rivals for a spot in the United States men’s national team. With Tim Howard and Nick Rimando now in the twilight of their careers, Brad Guzan would appear to be the U.S.’s clear No. 1. Then there is Bill Hamid and the inexperienced but highly rated 22-year-old Ethan Horvath.
After that, Steffen and Bono enter the conversation along with FC Dallas’ Jesse Gonzalez. All are 22 or 23 and yet to be capped by the senior team but have had some kind of involvement with U.S. Soccer in recent years, and it would not be a surprise to see any of them present at the next training camp in January.
Bono was voted your man of the match for his first-leg heroics at Mapfre Stadium. The full rankings are below.
1. Alex Bono +189
2. Victor Vazquez +138
3. Steven Beitashour +115
4. Nicolas Hasler +80
=5. Chris Mavinga +70
=5. Justin Morrow +70
=5. Greg Vanney +70
=8. Eriq Zavaleta +69
=8. Michael Bradley +69
10. Jonathan Osorio +46
11. Drew Moor +24
12. Raheem Edwards +17
13. Tosaint Ricketts +5
14. Armando Cooper -10
15. Marky Delgado -35