MLS Midseason Awards: Villa and the other Kamara are among the leaders

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 (Toronto FC). 3. Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas).
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 (L.A. 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 (Chicago).
Unless Morris or Jack Harrison (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 (Colorado). 2. Drew Moor (Toronto FC). 3. Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas).
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 (Montreal) and Jelle van Damme (L.A. Galaxy) could get into the picture as the season winds down.
GOALKEEPER OF THE YEAR. 1. David Bingham (San Jose). 2. Brian Rowe (L.A. Galaxy). 3. Stefan Frei (Seattle).
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.

Zac MacMath 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 (Philadelphia).
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.
3 comments about "MLS Midseason Awards: Villa and the other Kamara are among the leaders".
  1. Gene Borowski, July 13, 2016 at 11:08 a.m.

    NYCFC had stumbled in many facets of its operation? How so?

    Other than the Lampard fiasco (which the organization deserved every iota of criticism hurled their way), I'll wager MLS wishes it had a dozen or so other clubs stumbling like NYCFC.

  2. Ridge Mahoney, July 13, 2016 at 5:25 p.m.

    No viable stadium plan.
    Fired hand-picked head coach.
    Saddled said coach with man city academy
    defenders not ready for first team.
    Lost all three games to red bulls.

    Those are stumbles. Period.

  3. Gene Borowski, July 14, 2016 at 10:10 a.m.

    Did you hurt your back stretching for answers like that Ridge?

    No viable stadium plan? Unless you sit in on the meetings between the organization and the City of New York, you don't know that.

    They fired the coach? To my knowledge, NYCFC wasn't the first expansion team in the history of sports to fire a hand picked head coach.

    Angelino and Facey were still better than the rejects on the back line the team picked up in the expansion draft like Brovsky, Watson-Siriboe, etc.

    Try some Aleve, it'll help with the back pain.

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