and the award goes to…

WSOTP - Blog - Award Envelope.fwMajor League Soccer announced their end of season award nominees this week.

A good chunk of them come with their own title sponsors, as is the case with the Xbox Individual Fair Play Award, the MLSWORKS Humanitarian of the Year, the AT&T Rookie of the Year, the Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year and of course the big one, the Volkswagen Most Valuable Player. But there’s also the sponsorless awards like the Newcomer of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Defender of the Year and Coach of the Year. Not that I think these awards are any less important. In fact, I’d sponsor one if MLS would accept just $100 bucks for it. But they won’t.

Anyway, since the shortlists were revealed, the debate over which of the lucky candidates will take home each of the coveted prizes has raged.

But just like with my piece on the FIFA Puskás Awards from last week, ultimately, these are all very subjective decisions. You may like one better than me, I may like one better than you, and that guy over there may like completely different options to both of ours. But winners will be picked by popular consensus — the official rules on how that consensus is reached can be found here — and then we’ll all get on with our lives.

However, since I didn’t get an invite to participate in the voting (#fistshake), I’m going to cast my votes here. A WSOTP MLS Awards, if you will.

So jump past the break, and find out who I would cast my votes — and why — if MLS had deemed my votes worthy of gathering.

AT&T ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Awarded November 24, 2014
  • Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas)
  • Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United)
  • Harry Shipp (Chicago Fire)

If the polls had closed for ROTY in June, Chicago’s Harry Shipp would probably be the one staring at an AT&T globe-shaped trophy this off season thanks to a red-hot start. Unfortunately for Harry, there was another four months of season to go after that point. Birnbaum would be a worthwhile candidate considering he started 21 matches this year as a rook in DC’s staunch defense. But he’s also 23. which is like grown-ass man age in the world of soccer. So for me, it’s Dallas’ Tesho Akindele that takes the honors after a 7 goal, 3 assist campaign — some of which came in some very pivotal moments in the season’s home stretch.

ACTUAL WINNER: ✓ – Tesho Akindele

MLS WORKS HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR
Awarded November 25, 2014
  • Diego Chara (Portland Timbers)
  • AJ DeLaGarza (LA Galaxy)
  • Zach Loyd (FC Dallas)

This is one of those awards that I’d be hard pressed to say “this dude deserves it the most”, because I’m not keeping track of every MLS players’ philanthropic activities. But I hope and have a hunch that they’ll give it to AJ DeLaGarza for his campaign to help his son Luca and others with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.

ACTUAL WINNER: ✓ – AJ DeLaGarza 

DEFENDER OF THE YEAR
Awarded November 25, 2014
  • Bobby Boswell (D.C. United)
  • Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy)
  • Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders)

This was a tough one for me, as all three of these guys had amazing seasons defensively. Boswell’s performances in the back — along with rookie nominee Birnbaum — are one of the biggest reasons for United’s resurgence this year. Omar was one of the few USMNT players who returned from the World Cup and his performances not only didn’t fall off, but actually improved. And Chad’s addition to the Seattle back line has proven crucial to the Sounders’ Supporter Shield winning campaign. I’m giving my vote to Chad Marshall due to his key defensive performance stats being superior in just about every category: 1.5 tackles per game, 4.3 interceptions per game (best by 1.7!), least amount of fouls at 0.6 per game, 7.1 clearances per game (Omar beat him with a 7.3), and blocked shots per game of 0.8.

ACTUAL WINNER: ✓ – Chad Marshall

COACH OF THE YEAR
Awarded December 2, 2014
  • Gregg Berhalter (Columbus Crew SC)
  • Ben Olsen (D.C. United)
  • Sigi Schmid (Seattle Sounders)

I wanted to struggle with this decision given the surprise turnaround that Gregg Berhalter lead my beloved Columbus Crew on this year. But there was really only going to be one winner in this one, and that’s D.C.’s Ben Olsen. Olsen’s side were literally the worst team in MLS last year, amassing just 16 points in 34 matches. This year they finished top of the table in the East with 59 points (+43) and third overall in the Supporters Shield. Though I will say I was shocked that FC Dallas’ Óscar Pareja didn’t make the short list after a similar turnaround to those displayed by Berhalter and Olsen’s sides.

ACTUAL WINNER: ✓ – Ben Olsen

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Awarded December 2, 2014
  • Charlie Davies (New England Revolution)
  • Stefan Frei (Seattle Sounders)
  • Rodney Wallace (Portland Timbers)

My hunch is that many will let sentimental votes be given to Charlie Davies — a man who suffered a horrendous accident nearly four years ago and has struggled to find form since then — for his important contributions to New England’s fine performance this season. And Rodney Wallace also recovered from an injury-hit 2013 season to recapture form and starting position in Portland. But my vote has to go to Sounders’ keeper Stefan Frei. — this despite the horrid tiny ponytail he’s been sporting of late. Frei missed almost the entirety of the 2012 season through injury, and then was buried on the Toronto FC bench for a sizable chunk of 2013. But this year, he’s been pivotal in Seattle’s run to the Supporters Shield.

ACTUAL WINNER: ✗ – Rodney Wallace 

ALLSTATE GOALKEEPER OF THE YEAR
Awarded December 3, 2014
  • Steve Clark (Columbus Crew SC)
  • Bill Hamid (D.C. United)
  • Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Great, another award that I’m really struggling to not let my emotional ties to one of the nominees take a toll on. Nick Rimando has been his typical self this year, making ridiculous saves on a regular basis. But the Crew’s Steve Clark made also made some spectacular save and had huge impact in his first year in MLS –you could even say the Crew owed their playoff appearance this season to Clark’s efforts during some dry spells this year. And then there’s Bill Hamid, who did just the same for D.C. United this season. For me at least, it’s a neck-and-neck between Clark and Hamid. But given that Steve Clark had to play behind a patchwork defense for a majority of the season, I’m giving him the edge. Call me biased… I don’t care!

ACTUAL WINNER: ✗ – Bill Hamid 

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Awarded December 3, 2014
  • Stefan Ishizaki (LA Galaxy)
  • Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution)
  • Pedro Morales (Vancouver Whitecaps)

Let’s be hones: Jermaine Jones played a grand total of ten regular season matches this season for a New England side that was already doing pretty well without him. So to me, he’s not really even in the running on this one. That means we’ve narrowed the field to LA’s Ishizaki and Vancouver’s Morales. Both were incredibly important to each side’s seasons. But even though Ishizaki is looking a string puller for a very dangerous LA during the playoffs and the Caps barely scraped into post-season this year, I don’t think Vancouver probably wouldn’t have even been near playoff contention if it wasn’t for the Chilean’s efforts. So Pedro Morales gets the nod for that reason.

ACTUAL WINNER: ✓ – Pedro Morales

VOLKSWAGEN MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Awarded December 3rd, 2014
  • Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)
  • Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders)
  • Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution)

This was a tough one, which is how it should be for the most coveted individual award in Major League Soccer. Keane, Martins and Nguyen have been huge for their respective sides this year. Each has an international pedigree — though Lee is just now getting the recognition he deserves. All of their team’s are still in the running in the MLS Playoffs. And removing any of them from the equation this season, and their teams wouldn’t be flying near as high.

But I do think there is one differentiator that sets the winner apart from his fellow nominees: investment. Seattle and LA both offer some of the highest salaries in the league, and each team has a full complement of three Designated Players to rely upon. New England have a solitary DP in their ranks — Jones — and he didn’t arrive until two-thirds of the way through the season. So for me at least, Lee Nguyen had a far larger load to carry and for a longer time when compared against his fellow candidates. And for me at least, that makes him my 2014 league MVP.

ACTUAL WINNER: ✗ – Robbie Keane 


Disagree with any of my picks? Let me hear about it in the comments below.

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2 Comments

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