With all apologies to Jack Jewsbury (who was fantastic), Matt Besler (who was a rock) and Stéphane Auvray (who was everywhere) The Full 90 will be doing something we've never done before in the entire three weeks that we've been handing out this award -- giving it to the same player twice.
But in this case, it's hard tonot
give Jimmy Nielsen this honor for the second time.
He commands his area like very few 'keepers in this league. His distribution from the back is second only to Donovan Ricketts (and might be better as the season progresses). And his athleticism is at times jaw dropping. Not to mention, he licks his lips like it's no body's business. (He's got a cool distinctive thumbs up to the fans that I also dig, being a proponent of that same gesture myself.)
All of this was on display last Saturday.
Let's talk a little deeper than this last game though. The Wizards front office did something that's really difficult this offseason: They improved upon a strength.
Kevin Hartman was a very solid goalkeeper for the team, and was arguably the team's MVP in '09 (with Lance Watson his only real competition). He's the leading shot-stopper in MLS history for a reason. But this team needed a much calmer player on the line and a better distributor coming off it. Enter the White Puma.
In addition to being the last line of defense the best goalkeepers are also leaders, therapists, organizers and creators. Hartman embodied only half of those traits. Nielsen has all of them. Well, at least he does up to this point.
You could also base this praise solely on his on-the-field exploits and ignore my pseudo-scouting/psycho-analysis.
If you were to put a list of the Top 10 attacking players in MLS, he's faced FIVE of them (Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, Fredy Montero, Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle)* and kept each one off the sheet.*The other five would be Brian Ching, Brian McBride, Guillermo Schelotto Barros, Javier Morales and Dwayne De Rosario.
I fully expect Jimmy Nielsen's name to crop up in this award space for many (many) weeks to come.
By the way, Jimmy was also Down the Byline'splayer of the month for March/April