MLS Awards Season

Hey there, folks. We were on the IR for about a week or so, but we’re back now, and there’s much to catch up on, so let’s get right to it.

Major League Soccer started handing out its awards for the 2011 season this week, and will continue doling out honors until Nov 18, when the MVP is announced. Here’s a breakdown:

Rookie of the Year Candidates:

Michael Farfan, Philadelphia—He had a fine first season, lining up as a defender, midfielder, and striker at various points, and scoring a golazo winner against DC in late September.

Perry Kitchen, DC United—The 19-year-old No. 3 draft pick improved steadily as the season went on, playing right back, central defender, and holding midfielder for the Black-and-Red.

CJ Sapong, Sporting Kansas City—The surprise No. 10 pick of the 2011 draft out of James Madison University, Sapong has repaid KC’s faith in him, and then some. Racked up five goals and five assists to lead all rookies.

Winner: Sapong, and rightfully so. In addition to his regular-season goals—which included the historic first tally at Livestrong Sporting Park—Sapong scored three in US Open Cup play and one in the playoffs. He’s extremely athletic, technical with the ball in tight spaces, and a complete handful for defenders. If Klinsmann doesn’t call him in to the January USMNT camp, we will be surprised. Sapong was so good this year, we’re willing to overlook this.

Defender of the Year Candidates:

Nat Borchers, Real Salt Lake—Another quality season for the former Denver Pioneer, but RSL’s heavy load, and early start, this season took a toll on him down the stretch.

Omar Gonzalez, Los Angeles Galaxy—The 2009 Rookie of the Year anchored the league’s best defense (0.82 goals-against average, MLS-record 17 shutouts), alongside a rotating cast of centerback partners, including Leonardo, Gregg Berhalter, and AJ DeLaGarza.

Jamison Olave, Real Salt Lake—The hulking Colombian won the award last year, and showed his class in the All-Star Game vs Manchester United—until he got hurt, which would be a theme for him in 2011.

Winner: Gonzalez, who at 23, becomes the youngest player ever to win the award. Now will he get a look from Klinsmann? Probably, yes.

Coach of the Year Candidates (winner to be announced on Nov 14):

Bruce Arena, Los Angeles Galaxy—The Bruce won the Supporters’ Shield and got the Galaxy back to the MLS Cup final, despite a raft of injuries, international absences, and pressure to reach a title game being played at his home stadium.

Sigi Schmid, Seattle Sounders FC—The horrific early-season injury to Steve Zakuani might have derailed a lot of teams, but Schmid kept his side on track, all the way to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and a third straight US Open Cup championship.

Peter Vermes, Sporting Kansas City—His team was handed a 10-game road trip to start the season while their  brand-new stadium was completed, and they went a disastrous 1-6-3. Yet Vermes not only got them out of that hole, he also led them to the Eastern Conference title.

Who should win? It’s a very tough call between Vermes and Arena, but we give a slight edge to The Bruce.

Comeback Player of the Year Candidates (winner to be announced on Nov 14):

David Beckham, Los Angeles Galaxy—Interesting choice here as it acknowledges a comeback was required from the league’s most famous player. Still, 15 assists and plenty of defensive effort and team leadership add up to GB’s best season with LA—and yes, a comeback of sorts.

Charlie Davies, DC United—The sentimental choice, and his opening-day performance was pure storybook stuff. But he faded down the stretch.

Dominic Oduro, Chicago Fire—The Ghanian striker has always had rocket-fuel speed, but he’s never been tidy with his final touch. He changed that this year with 12 goals.

Who should win? We say Oduro. The league will probably say Beckham.

Goalkeeper of the Year Candidates (winner to be announced on Nov 15):

Kevin Hartman, FC Dallas—In our view, Hartman was the most deserving candidate last season, when LA’s Donovan Ricketts won the award. He had another quality season this year, pulling off many acrobatic saves and producing a 1.06 goals-against average, second-highest in the league among keepers with at least 1500 minutes played.

Kasey Keller, Seattle Sounders FC—His save percentage of 76 is tied for highest in the league, and despite a gaffe here and there, he had an excellent final season.

Faryd Mondragon, Philadelphia Union—Brought in, along with centerback Carlos Valdes, to help stabilize the Philly D, Mondragon did exactly that, inspiring confidence and producing a 1.09 gaa.

Who should win? We’d vote for Chivas USA’s Dan Kennedy or LA’s Josh Saunders, but since neither are nominated, we’ll say Mondragon.

Newcomer of the Year Candidates (winner to be announced on Nov 15):

Eric Hassli, Vancouver Whitecaps FC—The big (6-4) Frenchman scored 10 goals in 21 starts, including the potential Goal of the Year.

Luke Rodgers, New York Red Bulls—The pugnacious Englishman produced nine goals and three assists in 20 starts, and proved surprisingly valuable to his team, which went 9-4-7 with him and 1-4-9 without.

Mauro Rosales, Seattle Sounders FC—An Argentine with a resume that includes stops at Ajax and Riverplate, along with 10 caps for his country, Rosales was an absolute steal for Seattle. They got him for the league minimum and he led the team in assists (13) while scoring five goals.

Who should win? Another tough call. Rosales by a nose.

Most Valuable Player (winner to be announced on Nov 18):

Brad Davis, Houston—Davis led the league in assists (16), and provided veteran leadership for the MLS Cup finalists.

Dwayne De Rosario, DC United—He was shunted from Toronto to New York to DC this year, but caught fire in his last stop, producing 13 goals and seven assists in 18 games to bring his season totals to 16 goals and 12 assists.

Brek Shea, FC Dallas—A breakout year for the lanky Hoops winger, who stepped up in David Ferreira’s absence to rack up 11 goals and four assists. He also established himself on the USMNT.

Who should win? Gotta be De Ro. The numbers are too impressive to ignore.

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