MLS has announced three finalists for each of its
end-of-season awards. Here's the view on the major honors from this perspective. MOST VALUABLE PLAYER Juan Pablo Angel
(Fire) Luciano Emilio
Blanco has had the most dramatic effect on the field -- and at the gate of anybody
besides David Beckham -- yet Angel has sparked the Red Bulls by being a constantly moving target opponents can't keep track of. Emilio hit 20 goals in his first MLS season, a figure no one had
reached since Taylor Twellman and Carlos Ruiz topped it five years ago.
We go with the flow on this one and pick Angel. NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Juan Pablo Angel
(Red Bulls) Cuauhtemoc Blanco
(Fire) Luciano Emilio
It's same trio as in the MVP
For the reasons cited above, the pick is Blanco. Emilio nipped Angel as top scorer, 20 goals to 19, and will have to settle for that, as well as perhaps an MLS title. Also
rating a mention are Maykel Galindo of Chivas USA and Juan Toja of FC Dallas.
(For all of the hullabaloo the league whips up about Goals of the Week and Goal of the Year, MLS could
do a lot more for the guy who scores the most of the them. No lobbying, no promoting, no voting, just goalscoring. Period.) ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
(Revs) Maurice Edu
(Toronto FC) Dane Richards
Edu's impressive rookie season led to a national-team call-up and he
looked the part in midfield as the Americans beat Switzerland, 1-0, Oct. 17.
Richards has scorched more experienced players often if somewhat inconsistently but there have been very few
games in which he hasn't unnerved the opposition.
Cristman carried a share of the Revs' attacking load early in the season, but hasn't been as effective in the past two
Edu is the popular choice and rightfully so but Richards has been a vital cog in a Red Bulls' revival of sorts, so he gets the vote. DEFENDER OF THE
(Revs) Eddie Robinson
(Dynamo) Claudio Suarez
Strong defending is a team function, yet all
three of these players are important members of teams that were tough to score against this year.
Parkurst is the cleanest and perhaps quickest of the bunch; Robinson fouls a lot but
he's athletic and tough and no attacker wants to be anywhere near him; Suarez defines the crafty veteran who uses positioning and experience, and the occasional jersey tug, to compensate for
his waning physical tools.
Sentimentally, perhaps, and with a nod to the other two, the pick is Suarez. GOALKEEPER OF THE YEAR
USA) Pat Onstad
(Dynamo) Matt Reis
Incredibly, Matt Reis has never won the award and probably should have won it last year, with
a 1.09 goals allowed average and 10 shutouts. He matched that shutout figure this season but his GAA of 1.43 isn't close to that of Onstad, who set a league record with a miniscule 0.82 figure,
or Guzan (0.93).
Of course, defending is a team function, etc., yet to the keepers often go the kudos. And when Houston sets a league record for fewest goals allowed with 23, six less
than the 2000 Kansas City Wizards/Tony Meola, who set the previous keeper GAA record of 0.92, some of the reason has to be the man between the sticks.
Since foreigners figure to pick up a
lot of hardware this season, we'll go with Onstad, the Canadian holder of a green card while acknowledging the outstanding season of Guzan in just his third year as a pro, and fine work by
last year's winner, D.C. United's Troy Perkins. COACH OF THE YEAR.
Whether it repeats as champion or not, Houston is a better, deeper team than it was in 2006. Kinnear strengthened the Dynamo with offseason
and mid-season additions and guided it through two international competitions (Copa Sudamericana, CONCACAF Champions Cup) as well as league play.
Preki built on a solid foundation
set by predecessor Bob Bradley yet altered the team's makeup by adding burner Maykel Galindo, moving Sacha Kljestan from central midfield to wide right, using Lawson Vaughn effectively in
several positions, and acquiring veterans Paulo Nagamura, Alex Zotinca, Shavar Thomas, and Ramon Nunez to add depth.
In his first season as a head coach, Soehn changed United's basic
formation from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 to accommodate the talents of left back Marc Burch, and melded newcomers Fred and Emilio with veterans Christian Gomez and Jaime Moreno and Ben Olsen.
The choice comes down to the two rookie head coaches and while each of them won a conference title, Preki gets the prize.