Opinion: Andreas Ivanschitz will be Sounders’ 2016 MVP

It’s often difficult to draw positives out of three consecutive losses, particularly when those losses are your first three games of the season, but Andreas Ivanschitz certainly makes it easier.

Austria’s former captain has already found the back of the net in 2016 from a simply sublime free kick, and was notably unlucky to be denied on multiple occasions by outstanding saves from Sporting Kansas City’s Tim Melia on matchday one.

Oftentimes in MLS, however, being a consistent impact player when you’re on the pitch means you’re playing for a national team who plays in the same windows of time as your respective MLS team, and therefore you miss out on a significant amount of time potentially tearing MLS opposition apart.  Ring any bells?

During the bleak summer of 2015, when the Sounders lost eight of nine games between June 20th and August 9th, it is worth remembering that a staggering number of key players were unavailable for stretches due to obligations with their national teams (or, if you’re a certain Clint Dempsey, you get in a bit of trouble for not being able to keep your temper in an Open Cup match).  2015’s CONCACAF Gold Cup was the main reason for players being unavailable during this time period, with such names as Marco Pappa and captain Brad Evans among them.

Injuries also harmed the Sounders during their darkest hour of 2015, with talisman Obafemi Martins missing significant minutes due to a groin injury.

In these two areas: Andreas Ivanschitz excels in abstaining.

The Sounders’ number 23 has only missed one club game through suspension in his whole career, coming in the form of a yellow card accumulation for Levante in 2014.  Perhaps more exciting is his injury history, or lack thereof.  Since Andreas made his professional debut for Rapid Vienna in 2000, he has only missed a total of 20 games through injury, with 6 of those coming in the form of a twisted knee in 2011/12 for Mainz.

Oct 4, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz (23) dribbles the ball against the Los Angeles Galaxy during the second half at CenturyLink Field. Los Angeles tied Seattle, 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

For comparison, Clint Dempsey has missed 31 games (11 more than Andreas) since his professional debut for New England in 2004: four years after Ivanschitz’ debut, in which time he had already tallied well over 50 professional matches.  For the sake of raw statistics, Andreas has played 475 matches (according to Transfermarkt), and has missed 20 games through injury in that time, while Clint Dempsey has played 427 matches and missed 31 in that time.

What does this mean for the Sounders?  Consistent play from an impact player who has managed to avoid injuries for much of his career.

Adding to Ivanschitz’ appeal is the fact that he is not currently a player considered for national team selection, with his last Austria call-up coming in June of 2014.  With a summer featuring Euro 2016 and other international competitions coming up, players who are not set to be off representing their nations are crucial for the time period in which those competitions and MLS overlap in scheduling.

It’s safe to assume that the Sounders will be missing Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans and Nelson Valdez through national team obligations for the US Men’s National Team and Paraguay respectively this summer, so having a potent player who can both create and finish chances available during that dip in overall attacking quality could be immense in making this summer a successful one for the Rave Green.

So, to reiterate, if history is to be trusted Andreas Ivanschitz is likely to miss less games for the Sounders through injury, suspension and international duty.  Given this, we could see the ‘Austrian David Beckham’ racking up goals and assists while his attacking counterparts are elsewhere, and by the end of the season this could be reflected in his individual statistics.

The implications of a non-DP player becoming the Rave Green’s most valuable player for a long stretch of time is potentially far-fetched, but based on current form and the potential that he could see significantly more time on the pitch than the likes of Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez I fully believe that Andreas Ivanschitz is likely to be the Seattle Sounders’ talisman by the end of 2016.