Last week, Major League Soccer released the 2015 list for end-of-season awards, some of which already have had winners announced.
Unfortunately, I was unable to submit my picks in time, so this is my would-be ballot for the each of the major awards. Many of the categories proved extremely difficult in which to choose a winner. With so much talent, young and old, leading the charge in MLS, it is to be expected that some noteworthy names would not only not win certain awards, but be left off the shortlist entirely.
Anyways, I digress. My ballot can be seen below:
Coach of the Year — Jesse Marsch, New York Red Bulls
With all due respect to Oscar Pareja, who had the guts to play (and win with) a handful of young, homegrown talent at FC Dallas, Jesse Marsch accomplished the most in an extremely toxic situation. Remember the town hall meetings surrounding the firing of Mike Petke? Recall the hostility between the Red Bulls’ front office and its season-ticket holders? Marsch was all but set up to fail when he was appointed coach, but all he did was lead the Red Bulls to 18 regular-season wins and a Supporters Shield title. Lest we forget, he did all of that without the likes of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill. Pareja may have set up FC Dallas for future success, but the award is for the here and now. For that, Marsch is my winner.
Runners-up: Oscar Pareja, FC Dallas; Gregg Berhalter, Columbus Crew SC
Rookie of the Year — Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC
This was by far the easiest winner to name. Cycle Larin impressed all season long, finishing with 17 goals to keep Orlando City SC within playoff contention up until the final week of its inaugural MLS campaign. The No. 1 pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft looked more like a veteran and less like a 20-year-old rookie, showing poise and consistency en route to a record-breaking season.
Runners-up: Matt Polster, Chicago Fire; Fatai Alashe, San Jose Earthquakes
Defender of the Year — Laurent Ciman, Montreal Impact
Laurent Ciman isn’t a household name, even by MLS standards, but he’s most deserving of this year’s title. The Impact were the laughing stock of the league* a season ago. Ciman was a major offseason transaction that paid dividends in this season’s turnaround, as Montreal forged a second-half playoff run by allowing the second-fewest goals in the Eastern Conference.
*Well, except for Chivas USA (RIP)
Kendall Watson was equally deserving of the award, too, as Vancouver Whitecaps FC conceded the fewest goals in the league. Watson, an athletic freak of nature, anchored that defense superbly all season long. Matt Besler also enjoyed arguably his best club season yet, but he seemed to be overshadowed by Sporting KC’s late-season form. Matt Hedges, too, deserves a shout out for a phenomenal season for FC Dallas.
Runners-up: Kendall Watson, Vancouver Whitecaps FC; Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City
Goalkeeper of the Year — Bill Hamid, D.C. United
D.C. United allowed 45 goals this season. Bill Hamid is the reason that figure isn’t 55 or 60. Still just 24 years old, Hamid continues to enjoy success in MLS play, registering 101 saves and eight shutouts in 2015. In my opinion, the only other goalkeeper deserving of this year’s award was Tim Melia, who went from pool keeper to contracted back-up to starter within a span of six months. Melia finished his incredible season with eight shutouts and 82 saves in league play.
Runners-up: Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City (not an official finalist); Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders FC
Goal of the Year — Krisztian Nemeth
This goal speaks for itself. It really does. But a few things should be noted:
▪ Diego Chara is a really, really, really good MLS defender. Kriztian Nemeth put him on ice skates.
▪ Nat Borchers is another really, really, really good MLS defender and…whoops, down does Borchers.
▪ Nemeth drove that ball across the face of goal into the far side netting. FAR SIDE NETTING…FROM THAT ANGLE.
Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player — Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
Sorry, Kei Kamara (22 goals, eight assists) and Benny Feilhaber (10 goals, 15 assists). You both had superb seasons. Unfortunately for you two, 28-year-old superstar Sebastian Giovinco rolled into MLS and took the league by storm. His 22 goals and 15 assists set a record for goals and assists combined in a season. He tormented opposing defenders like it was back-yard soccer and added insult to injury by routinely finding the back of the net in new and inventive ways. Without him, Toronto FC does not get close to making the playoffs. What a get for that team and MLS as a whole.
Runners-up: Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew SC; Benny Feilhaber, Sporting Kansas City