By Ridge Mahoney
The six major categories of awards presented each season by MLS run
the gamut of experience, youthful promise, and performance.
Steady expansion over the past decade has strengthened as well as expanded the pool of candidates, and perhaps surprisingly,
not many U.S. internationals are in the running for the major awards midway through the 2016 campaign.
Here’s how the races shape up with 3 ½ months to go:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER. 1. David Villa
(New York City FC). 2. Sebastian Giovinco
FC). 3. Mauro Diaz
Villa is leading the league in goals (12), which is what a DP forward at a high salary is supposed to do, yet he’s also brought a high level of professionalism to an
organization that has stumbled in many facets of its operations. Now that other pieces are falling into place, NYCFC has a support staff that can maximize Villa’s abilities.
Giovinco doesn’t always use his teammates as often as he should but he’s an electrifying presence and nearly unstoppable on many days. Diaz racked up eight goals and 10 assists in 24 games
last year; he already has nine assists in 15 games this season, so if he and FCD stay on course, this prize could be his.
You can never count out Robbie Keane
Galaxy), who week after week looks more and more like the best DP signing in league history, or Diego Valeri
(Portland). NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR. 1. Ola Kamara
(Columbus). 2. Shkelzen Gashi
(Colorado). 3. Ronald Matarrita
(New York City FC).
Crew SC has gone
into the tank since trading Kei Kamara
to the Revs and so the replacement Kamara’s remarkable numbers -- eight goals in 11 games -- aren’t generating anything close to the notice
they warrant. Gashi has adjusted remarkably well to a radically new environment with a European Championship stint thrown into the pot: he should be able to build on his two goals and four assists in
12 games. Matarrita’s defensive howlers are painful to watch but if he stays at left mid rather than left back NYCFC’s attack is sure to benefit.
Adding Carlos Gruezo
to an already strong central midfield seemed to be a superfluous move yet might enable FCD to better withstand the stretch run and postseason. ROOKIE OF THE YEAR. 1. Keegan Rosenberry
(Philadelphia). 2. Jordan Morris
(Seattle). 3. Jonathan Campbell
Unless Morris or
(NYCFC) goes on a scoring binge, this category will probably revert to its default priority of a defender after Cyle Larin
set a rookie record of 16 goals last year.
Rosenberry has played every minute and committed just seven fouls while drawing 13. His first pro goal earned the Union a 2-2 tie with the Galaxy. Morris is unfairly shouldering much of the
scoring burden for the floundering Sounders and has netted nearly one-half (six of 14) of their goals. Campbell is getting a lot of time for the Fire, which has a reliable defense (21 goals allowed)
but an attack nearly inept as that of Seattle (16 goals in 15 games). DEFENDER OF THE YEAR.
1. Axel Sjoberg
2. Drew Moor
(Toronto FC). 3. Walker Zimmerman
Sjoberg is just one reason the Rapids’ D is so stingy yet in his 16 starts the Rapids have
posted seven shutouts and conceded only 10 goals. Former Rapid Moor is still adjusting to his new teammates and surroundings; TFC needs strong play from him in the second half of the season. Like
Sjoberg, Zimmerman is one important piece in a complex puzzle but his improvement in the last 18 months is remarkable.
Last year’s winner Laurent Ciman
Jelle van Damme
(L.A. Galaxy) could get into the picture as the season winds down. GOALKEEPER OF THE YEAR. 1. David
(San Jose). 2. Brian Rowe
(L.A. Galaxy). 3. Stefan Frei
By season’s end,
the race might be down to Andre Blake
(Philadelphia), Bill Hamid
(D.C. United), and Tim Howard
(Colorado), but halfway through the season
this is how the top candidates stack up.
Bingham is among the
league leaders in saves (56) and save percentage (73.7) and without his heroics the Quakes would be further away from the playoffs. All Rowe has done is rank second in saves (64) and post a 0.94
goals-allowed average. And if you want pressure, tend goal for the Sounders, who are scoring at a league-low rate of 0.82 goals per game. Only three teams have conceded fewer goals.
put up good numbers before giving way to Howard: 0.69 goals-allowed average, 70.4 save percentage. If the U.S. keeper gets injured the Rapids’ goalkeeping is still solid. COACH OF THE YEAR. 1. Pablo Mastroeni
(Colorado). 2. Oscar Pareja
(FC Dallas). 3. Jim Curtin
The Rapids’ success is borne of intensity and focus as much as talent, as evidenced by Sjoberg’s last-second equalizer last week in Vancouver. Mastroeni
has revamped the team since Pareja departed and now it bears his imprint.
Pareja deserves consideration for his body of work since leaving Colorado three seasons ago. The defending
Western Conference champion is leading the Supporters’ Shield race thanks in part to a few key additions in Max Urruti
and Gruezo. He has patiently developed several Homegrown products
into starters and handed the keys to Diaz.
Curtin is batting NYCFC and head coach Patrick Vieira
for the Eastern Conference lead and is staying even with fewer stars and a lot less
money. Coaching must have something to do with it.