With the season almost at its end, Major League Soccer on Wednesday announced the finalists for its major year-end awards. Sporting Kansas City had two players nominated for awards: Matt Besler for Defender of the Year and Jimmy Nielsen for Goalkeeper of the Year.
The Kansas City Star
To see the full list, check out MLSsoccer.com. The finalists were determined by polling players, clubs and the media. The winners will be announced between Nov. 25 and Dec. 5.
Here's how The Full 90 voted with a little explanation. Media voting closes on Nov. 1 before the playoffs truly began.
MVP: Mike Magee (Chicago)
I tend to believe a player must lead his team to the playoffs to be considered the league's MVP. I was all ready to stand by that stance and give the award to someone else (Robbie Keane and Marco Di Vaio were my main candidates). But if the award is to be given literally to the most valuable player for his team, it has to be Magee, doesn't it?
Before Magee arrived in Chicago, the Fire were spiraling downward with a 2-7-2 record. Then he arrived in May (traded to Chicago for the rights to Robbie Rogers) and immediately started scoring goals. He scored 15 times for Chicago; six for Los Angeles. On the entire season, Chicago had 47 goals. Magee (via goals and assists) contributed 19 of them (40 percent) in just 22 games.
While you could make a convincing argument for Keane (he was responsible for 50 percent of LA's goals with 16 goals and 11 assists in 23 games) and Di Vaio (20 goals), both of those players had help. Keane had Landon Donovan (10 goals, 9 assists) and Di Vaio had Felipe Martins and Patrice Bernier (combined 9 goals, 16 assists).
Magee had Patrick Nyarko (4 goals, 4 assists), Dilly Duka (4, 3) and Chris Rolfe (4, 1). With Magee fully integrated with that group of average (or slightly above) attackers, the Fire finished the season 12-6-5.
Defender of the Year: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
The WhoScored.com ratings love his teammate Aurelien Collin. Many MLS pundits adore New England's Jose Goncalves or New York's Jamison Olave. But Besler got my vote because A) I think he's the best positional defender in Major League Soccer AND the U.S. national team pool, B) Sporting Kansas City once again had the league's stingiest defense and C) he's easily the most consistent player game-in game-out.
Also, D) I had to make at least once complete homer pick. This was the most logical.
Rookie of the Year: Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids)
This was a toss-up, really, between Powers and his teammate DeShorn Brown. In the end, I went with the more consistent player. Powers logged more minutes than Brown and contributed 5 goals and 6 assists as a central midfielder. Brown's numbers weren't too shabby: 10 goals and 4 assists in 24 games.
Runner-up: Brown, of course.
Coach of the Year: Caleb Porter (Portland Timbers)
There are, in my opinion, three candidates that could snag this award: Porter, Jason Kreis (Real Salt Lake) and Mike Petke (New York Red Bulls). In the end, my vote went to Porter for two major reasons: Style and substance.
Porter took over a Timbers squad that lost 16 games in 2012. This year, with a new fast-paced attacking system in place (style), the Timbers finished two points off the Supporters' Race and lost just five times (substance). He got the most out of Ryan Johnson and Rodney Wallace and put together a make-shift defense (featuring former Wizards Jack Jewsbury and Michael Harrington) that finished with the second-fewest goals allowed in the league.
*Here's how close this voting went for me, I mixed it up on this week's Kick The Ball. I said on there that I voted for Petke, but that wasn't true. I actually voted for Porter. It was really close.
Runner-up: Petke for finally brining the Red Bulls franchise a trophy. Of course, he was out-coached by Dominic Kinnear in the playoffs but that happens, ask Peter Vermes.
Goalkeeper of the Year: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
You might think this is a reputation call, as Rimando spent a lot of time away from Salt Lake this year with the U.S. national team. While that's not not true, his numbers were very strong: 1.04 goal-allowed average, 14 wins and 9 shutouts. What's more, he's the most steady goalkeeper in the league and, had he played the other seven games, his numbers probably would've been even more impressive.
Runner-up: Clint Irwin (Colorado Rapids). Last year, Irwin was playing for the Charlotte Eagles in USL-Pro. This year, because of an injury to regular 'keeper Matt Pickens, Irwin had to be the guy for a playoff team. He performed admirably with 10 shutouts, 14 wins and a 1.10 goal-allowed average.
Comeback Player of the Year: Kevin Alston (New England Revolution)
Alston missed almost three months fighting a rare form of leukemia, but managed to return and play nine times for the Revs this year. That's impressive.
Runner-up: Connor Casey (Philadelphia Union)
Newcomer of the Year: Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
The Argentine midfielder made the Timbers tick with 10 goals and 13 assists in 31 games this year while on loan from Club Atletico Lanus in Argentina. While the Timbers have made waves with their speed up front, Valeri is Porter's not-so-secret weapon.
Runner-up: Goncalves (New England)
Humanitarian of the Year: Matt Reis (New England)
There are no losers in this category. I voted for Reis for his work to raise money for the victims of the Boston Marathon massacre. Reis was at the finish line cheering on his father-in-law, John Odom, who was critically injured in the bombing.
Runner-up: Jeb Brovsky (Montreal Impact)
Referee of the Year: Ismail Eifath
I made this pick before his awkward showing in the first leg of the Kansas City-New England playoff match. I made it because, on the season, I couldn't remember having many negative thoughts on his performance, unlike Hilarjio Grejada and Baldomero Toldeo the other two candidates.
Runner-up: I left this blank.
Defenders: Besler, Goncalves, Chris Klute (Colorado)
Midfielders: Will Johnson (Portland), Valeri, Dax McCarty (New York), Graham Zusi (Kansas City)
Forwards: Magee, Camilo Sanvezzo (Vancouver), Keane
I hate that I went with a gimmick formation (3-4-3), but I couldn't leave out Camilo (the Golden Boot winner) and I needed to find room for two typically unheralded midfielders (McCarty and Johnson). So, yeah, it's a gimmick. I wish there was a separate category (Best Out-of-Nowhere Player?) to give to Klute. He didn't qualify for rookie (he would've beaten teammates Powers and Brown on my ballot) and he wasn't quite up to Valeri/Goncalves quality. But Klute had an amazing year at a very shallow position in MLS.
While Zusi's numbers were down from his MVP-caliber season in 2012, he was third in the league in key passes (shots or passes that lead to scoring chances) with 3.1 per game and first in accurate crosses (2.9). All that while adapting to two very different positions for KC depending on Peter Vermes' need.
The three toughest omissions? Houston's Oscar Boniek Garcia, Aurelien Collin and New York's Tim Cahill.