No Seattle Sounders are nominated for the prestigious awards of MVP, Defender of the Year or Keeper of the Year. Instead, the team itself and Chad Marshall are each short-listed for the “Fair Play Award”, with just half a season Nicolas Lodeiro still earned a nod as potential Newcomer of the Year, and Jordan Morris joins Keegan Rosenberry as the Rookie of the Year favorites.
The largest surprise in the official MLS short-list announcement comes in the MVP race where Sebastian Giovinco was not in the top three. Two New York Red Bulls will likely split the award. David Villa is then the favorite due to both Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips being on the list of three. Klejstan had the second 20-assist season in MLS history. BWP won the Golden Boot with 24 goals. Giovinco may be the best player in the league, and a classic Best v Most Valuable debate will fill column inches around MLS.
My votes went to Kljestan and Villa.
The Defender of the Year nominees include Axel Sjoberg, centerback for the best defense in the league, Jelle Van Damme of LA Galaxy and Matt Hedges of FC Dallas. That’s the best defender on the 1st, 2nd and 5th best defenses by goals against average.
My votes went to Chad Marshall and Axel Sjoberg. At midseason I would have selected Van Damme.
The Keeper of the Year award includes Colorado’s second best keeper, Tim Howard, as well as Andre Blake and Luis Robles. Robles had the most shutouts in 2016, but top save-man Jake Gleeson did not make the list.
Blake was in front of a horrid defense and earned my top keeper vote. Gleeson got my second nod, much for the same reason.
Newcomer of the Year is for any player new to MLS, but not-necessarily new to pro soccer. The short-list for this has the most variety - defender Van Damme, forward Ola Kamara and Seattle midfielder Lodeiro.
Lodeiro and Van Damme earned my selection.
In 2016 the Rookie of the Year debate is between one of the best right backs in MLS, Keegan Rosenberry, and a good forward, Jordan Morris. Both Brotherly Game and Sounder at Heart have debated this. Jack Harrison will be third.
Again, Morris for RoY and Rosenberry 2nd.
There are a lot of ways to justify the Coach of the Year candidates. Pablo Mastroeni finally turned the Rapids into something special. Oscar Pareja won a double. Patrick Vieira fixed the mess at NYCFC. It’s a quality short list.
This was the toughest vote for me. I went Vieira and Schmetzer, but if any of those four win it will be justifiable.
Comeback Player of the Year is an odd award. Did a player have a bad season and then get good again, or did they return from injury? The award is as much about defying expectations as it is “coming back.” Frank Lampard was bad (and hurt) in his first season and in 2016 was good (and mostly healthy). Kevin Molino and Chris Pontius both recovered from injury.
My voting split the concept. Altidore earned my first place vote and Lampard my second.
The rest of the awards are less glamorous and even include things that are based on pure stats, rather than nominations. The Columbus Crew will be the Fair Play Team of the Year. It is notable that Chad Marshall is the only center back on the individual Fair Play short list.
MLS’s awards season will stretch out over the next month starting on November 3rd and ending December 6th with the Landon Donovan MVP award.
My Best XI, in a traditional 4-4-2 were;
Blake; Matarrita, Sjoberg, Marshall, Rosenberry; Kljestan, Alonso, Piatti, Dos Santos; BWP and Villa.
Giovinco would have beaten Dos Santos if I went 4-3-3.