MLS Awards: The Airing of Grievances

Festivus is more than a month away, but the MLS Awards season is in full swing, and some of its injustices have kicked us into Frank Costanza mode (“I got a lot of problems with you people!”).

Herewith then, the BP critique of the 2010 MLS year-end awards:

Goalkeeper of the Year

Finalists:

Donovan Ricketts, Los Angeles

Kevin Hartman, FC Dallas

Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake

Winner: Ricketts.

Grievance(s): Ricketts was the third-best candidate! Rimando backstopped the league’s stingiest defense (20 ga), produced an MLS-best 14 shutouts, and was third in the league with a save percentage of 78.0. Hartman topped the league in goals-against average (.62) and save percentage (78.9), and was arguably the MVP for his team this season. Ricketts led MLS in wins (18) and … nothing else.

Fair Play Award

Finalists:

Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia

C.J. Brown, Chicago

Chris Wondolowski, San Jose

Winner: Le Toux.

Grievance(s): We’re not going to get worked up over MLS’s version of the Lady Byng Trophy, but this had to be cold comfort to Le Toux after not getting an MVP nomination.

Comeback Player of the Year

Finalists:

Chris Albright, New York

Bobby Convey, San Jose

Brek Shea, FC Dallas

Winner: Convey

Grievance(s): We tip our hat to Convey, who had an excellent season (10 assists and one goal) and single-handedly eliminated New York from the playoffs last week.

But here are three Costanza-esque points:

1. Brek Shea is 20 years old. What’s he coming back from? Striking out on prom night?

2. Convey himself questioned whether he was an appropriate nominee, having played a full season last year. He told the San Jose Mercury News,“I don’t know what I’m coming back from.”

3. Albright is the most bona fide comeback story in the bunch. He missed all of last season and the start of this one with a knee injury. While some were questioning whether his career would continue, the former U.S. international regained fitness and form, nailed down the starting right back spot for New York and helped lead the team to the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Defender of the Year

Finalists:

Jamison Olave, Real Salt Lake

Nat Borchers, Real Salt Lake

Omar Gonzalez, Los Angeles

Winner: Olave

Grievance(s): None! Olave was a beast for RSL this season, and more disciplined (less card-prone) than last.

Rookie of the Year

Finalists:

Andy Najar,  DC United

Danny Mwanga, Philadelphia

Tim Ream, New York

Winner: Najar

Grievance(s): Najar and Mwanga are both dynamic attacking players loaded with potential, but Ream is arguably more polished than both and indisputably had a better year than both.

He was one of only two players in the entire league to play every minute of every game, and he was the best defender on a team that went 15-9-6 to win the Eastern Conference while giving up a conference-fewest 29 goals.

Ream’s poise on the ball, positioning, and defending will earn him a U.S. national-team call-up sooner rather than later. He was the best rookie in the league this year. We guess offensive players are just more glamorous and easier to quantify for voters.

Newcomer of the Year

Finalists:

Joel Lindpere, New York

Thierry Henry, New York

Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake

Winner: Saborio

Grievance(s): Henry doesn’t belong on the list. He had his moments, for sure, but he joined the league in midseason, and injuries kept him from contributing on a regular basis. (Geovanni or Blaise Nkufo might have made better options.)

Between the remaining two, it’s a tough call, but we submit that the voters got it wrong.*

Yes, Saborio had 12 goals and seamlessly integrated himself into the RSL attack, but if you removed him from the lineup, how much would his team suffer? Apply that question to Lindpere (six assists, three goals in 2010) and the answer is, severely. Lindpere didn’t put up huge numbers, but his overall game made him the MVP of his team. Without him, New York might not have made the playoffs, much less improved by 10 wins and captured the Eastern Conference title.

Coach of the Year will be announced tomorrow. Here are your finalists:

Hans Backe, New York

Jason Kreis, Real Salt Lake

Schellas Hyndman, FC Dallas

If you take playoff performance into account (which voters don’t), you’d have to go with Hyndman. But based on the regular season, we’d give it to Kreis, who juggled a successful CONCACAF Champions League campaign with an excellent MLS season, which ended with a 33-game home unbeaten streak still intact.

The MVP Award will be announced on November 19, two days before MLS Cup. Here are the finalists:

Edson Buddle, Los Angeles

Chris Wondolowski, San Jose

David Ferreira, FC Dallas

Gotta be Wondo, responsible for more than half of his team’s goals on the year.

* We realize that three of our grievances concern snubs of Red Bulls—and that we’re based in New York. It’s pure coincidence, really! We stand by the arguments.

All right, let’s just move on to the Feats of Strength.

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