Sounders Individual MLS Awards Chances Slim

Thearon W. Henderson

Despite strong seasons by several players, the chances at individual awards are not bright. Due to injury, the team failing to meet expectations and the fact that non-league competition is supposed to be ignored Seattle's finest will be finalists, but not winners.

Over the next couple weeks Major League Soccer will announce the individual awards winners. The Golden Boot is Chris Wondolowski's to hold forever as he tied Roy Lassiter. It is also quite likely that he wins the MVP. Other awards open to voting through a mix of media (including Sounder at Heart), players and team staff are Defender of the Year, Keeper of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Coach of the Year and the Best XI.

If you look at the voting of myself and Jeremiah you will see that even those with proximity bias don't have the Sounders looking strong for many of those awards. We both watch 100% of Sounders games, often twice, plus many other, but we clearly watch Seattle Sounders FC the most.

MVP: Wondo - This is not a contest. The drama will come from who gets second. Both of us put Chris Wondolowski first. Both of us go for midfielders next. My vote was influenced by the idea of "value." Seattle would be a mediocre side without Osvaldo Alonso. Graham Zusi emerged this year as a top assist man in MLS and earned national team calls because of his success. Alonso, Johnson and Montero were Sounders put forward as possibilities.
Dave: Wondo, Alonso
Jeremiah: Wondo, Zusi
sidereal: Wondo, Alonso
Aaron: Wondo, Alonso

Defender: Probably the most wide open of the races. There are dozens of names that could finish first. In past years there were dominant performances that could not be overlooked. In 2012 there were many good defenders, but none that were great. Only Parke is an option from Seattle on the ballot.
Dave: Valdes, Bernardez
Jeremiah: Besler, Bernardez
sidereal: Bernardez, Collin
Aaron: Bernardez, Besler

Keeper: This is a two horse race. Seattle's Michael Gspurning holds all of the rate stats, in fact finished with the third best Goals Against Average in MLS history. He also missed a swath of matches. Jimmy Nielsen played basically every day and put up nearly as good numbers leading Sporting KC to the best defense in the league.
Dave: Gspurning, Nielsen
Jeremiah: Nielsen, Gspurning
sidereal: Gspurning, Nielsen
Aaron: Nielsen, Gspurning

Newcomer: We'll address this next, because there will be voters that don't vote Gspurning for Keeper because they will be voting for him here. He and Johansson are the two Sounders up for the award. Newcomer is for first time MLS players who were already professionals. The list of additions is fairly long. Both of us like an Impact player for #2.
Dave: Gspurning, Bernier
Jeremiah: Gpsurning, Felipe
sidereal: Gspurning, Bernardez
Aaron: Bernardez, Gspurning

Rookie: The awards is given to the best player who is in their first year as a pro. Andy Rose is the Sounder up for the award, but he won't come close to winning as there were several rookies that played many more matches in the season. For all the magnificence of Mattocks up in Vancouver we saw two workhorses that deserve respect.
Dave: Berry, Hedges
Jeremiah: Berry, Hedges
sidereal: DeLeon, Berry
Aaron: Berry, Mattocks

Comeback: Very little instruction is given about what makes a comeback. Players nominated are a mix of those coming back from injury (like Zakuani who is on the list), those who were never good but had great 2012s (Alan Gordon) and those who disappeared from American soccer's radar and had amazing years (Eddie Johnson).
Dave: Johnson, Omar Gonzalez
Jeremiah: Johnson, Ferreira
sidereal: Johnson, Ferreira
Aaron: Pontius, Johnson

Coach: Most voters tend to give this award to the coach who exceeds preseason expectations the most, which is why you'll see Frank Yallop win. A case could be made for Sigi due to his having to balance significant injuries and multiple tournaments, but neither myself nor Jeremiah went that way.
Dave: Yallop, Olsen
Jeremiah: Yallop, Olsen
sidereal: Yallop, Olsen
Aaron: Yallop, Vermes

Best XI: We are required to pick at least 3 defenders, 3 midfielders, 2 forwards and only 1 keeper. The two flex roles max out at only one forward allowed. Jeremiah chose a 3-4-3 and I went 4-4-2. My midfielder votes specifically went for the less flashy guys who are typically ignored in this award.

Saborio Wondo
Henry Saborio Wondo Bernier Beckerman Zusi
Davis Beckerman Alonso Zusi Alonso
Besler Bernardez Parke Morrow Gonzalez Bernardez Valdez
Gspurning Gspurning

sidereal: I like to pick a Best XI team that could actually see the field (using actual fullbacks, etc). Here I went with a 4-4-2 because I like to see midfielders rewarded. If I'd gone 4-3-3, I would have put Thierry Henry in for his teammate Dax McCarty.
Gspurning
Beitashour, Bernardez, Collin, Besler
Donovan, Alonso, McCarty, Davis
Wondolowski, Johnson

Aaron:

Nielsen; Bernardez, Besler, Parke; Donovan, Alonso, Beckerman, Henry, Zusi; Wondolowski, Keane.

I picked Nielsen over Gspurning not because I think he's better, but because I think durability is important and Nielsen was 95% of Gspurning's quality while playing 13 more games. I think Fredy Montero is one of the two or three best players in the league and it was painful for me to leave him out of the Best XI, but ultimately Robbie Keane was just a more valuable player this season and deserved inclusion. There's a perception that Donovan may not have been as good this year as would have been expected and that may very well be true, but he was still excellent. Beckerman was my last pick and I'm still not entirely happy with him being in there, but the only guys I think deserve it more are strikers and wingers, and as good as Alonso is he probably needs someone else with him in central midfield.

It becomes rather clear that Gspurning and Johnson are the best chances for Seattle to get awards. It is also possible that they only get the "lesser" awards of Newcomer and Comeback Player and no Sounders appear in the Best XI.

We'll have the Sounder at Heart awards after the MLS Cup Playoffs, because we do count all competitions.

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