Giovani dos Santos voted most overrated in poll of MLS players

LA Galaxy forward Giovani dos Santos is the most overrated player in Major League Soccer, while Montreal Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti is the most underrated, a poll of their peers found.

On condition of anonymity, ESPN asked 104 current MLS players during the preseason who they believed were the league's most overrated and underrated players, among a series of other questions on the state of the league.

Most overrated

Dos Santos, entering his fourth season in MLS, received 11 percent of the votes for the most overrated, edging out Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley, who received 10 percent.

The 28-year-old Mexico international, currently sidelined by a hamstring injury, ranked sixth in the overrated poll in 2016 but was not among the leaders last year. But after the Galaxy's poor results last season, one Western Conference player said he selected Dos Santos "because he's the leader on the team that finished last in MLS in 2017."

Dos Santos scored six goals and added three assists in 25 games last season while making $5.5 million in guaranteed compensation, the sixth-highest pay in the league. A year earlier, he had scored 14 goals with 12 assists in 28 games.

"He's a good player, but I think American media overhype him based on his past experience with Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur instead of his MLS performances," an Eastern Conference player said of Dos Santos. "I think he's a player who sells a lot of tickets for the Galaxy because of the large Mexican community in L.A., but I don't think he has the same impact on the league as players like David Villa and Sebastian Giovinco."

Bradley captained Toronto FC to the MLS Cup title last season, but players also said he bore responsibility for the U.S. national team's failure to qualify for the World Cup.

Many of the other players named in the overrated poll also featured in the Americans' defeat to Trinidad and Tobago in October that sealed their World Cup fate. Toronto striker Jozy Altidore was named by 7 percent, D.C. United's Paul Arriola received 6 percent of the vote, LAFC's Benny Feilhaber and Colorado's Tim Howard got 4 percent, and Atlanta's Darlington Nagbe got 3 percent.

Also ranking highly on the list was Gyasi Zardes with 7 percent, with one player pointing to the 38 national team appearances that Columbus' new winger has made.

"I feel like he gets multiple chances," one player said, "whereas you've got players like [my teammate], who's played well and should be given a chance over him."

Multiple players said it was more difficult to name the most overrated player than in previous years, with the league trending toward signing younger prospects rather than aging stars. Mix Diskerud was named most overrated the past two editions of the poll, but he's now off the books of New York City FC.

"It was easier with Mix and [Frank] Lampard and even [Andrea] Pirlo," one player said. "Before it was easy. Me answering like that is probably a good sign for the league.''

Other players named by multiple respondents were: Vancouver's Brek Shea (4 percent), New England's Juan Agudelo, Philadelphia's Alejandro Bedoya and Chicago's Nemanja Nikolic (3 percent) and Orlando's Dom Dwyer (2 percent). Twenty-one percent of players declined to answer.

Most underrated

Piatti was named the most underrated player in the league, surpassing Chicago's Dax McCarty, who topped the list a year ago.

Piatti, 33, was among MLS' Best XI list for 2016 but was left off last year's team despite putting up identical records of 17 goals and six assists. McCarty, 30, last made the Best XI in 2015.

One respondent said of Piatti: "I think he's a top-five player in the league."

Both players were also relative bargains at under $500,000 last year, though both have since signed new contracts, the details of which will not be made available until later this year. In comparison, Bradley, the highest-priced midfielder still in the league, made $6.5 million last year.

"If you look at it, Dax McCarty isn't far off [Bradley], and sometimes he's played better, and he makes a lot less," one player said.

Also ranking high on the most-underrated responses were Seattle's Cristian Roldan ($137,000 last year) and Columbus' Wil Trapp ($350,000).

One player said Trapp does all the little things on the field that "don't get noticed," while another added: "Wil is a machine both offensively and defensively. He holds down the entire team for 90 minutes."

Nagbe appears to be a controversial figure after making a record move from Portland to Atlanta in December. He was named most underrated by 5 percent of those polled while also appearing on the most-overrated list.

The underrated responses were a tight race, with 18 players receiving more than one vote. Other leading vote-getters included: Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sanchez, Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik, and Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak.

Piatti was also ranked third by players who were asked for their toughest individual opponent, but he still fell well short of the joint winners, Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco and NYCFC's David Villa, who each received 10 percent of the vote.