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MLS Awards season is just over a month away

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The major awards have some clear leaders.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not that I’ve locked in my votes yet. We are still over a month away from the voting period, but there are certain MLS awards where there are clear leaders. There is also a single team that is so good that it will flood the Best XI without winning an individual award.

These are the players I’m paying the most attention to as the season winds down.

MVP

Diego Valeri

Why he’ll win: 18 goals, 9 assists and he plays strong defense on a Portland Timbers team that is capable of winning the West.

Why he won’t win: Some voters will just default to the guy who scores the most goals.

David Villa

Why he’ll win: He will probably be the leading scorer in the league on a team that will finish 2nd in the Shield standings. New York City FC rides Villa as much as any team counts on a single scorer.

Why he won’t win: Villa is a scorer, and he will likely have double-digit assists, but he does not contribute on the defensive side as much as Valeri.

Josef Martinez

Why he’ll win: 16 goals in 14 appearances! That’s stunning, and his late surge will help Atlanta United FC in their push into the playoffs.

Why he won’t win: Injuries cost him many starts.

Other possibilities: Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Victor Vazquez, Justin Meram

That’s a lot of Toronto FC players, which is why they will struggle to be in the top 3 in MVP voting. Columbus Crew SC are Meram’s team now.

Defensive Player of the Year

Chad Marshall

Why he’ll win: Seattle Sounders have a strong defense and their anchor is the man who will have this award named after him, someday.

Why he won’t win: Voters may be bored with Marshall and this award.

Drew Moor

Why he’ll win: Toronto’s defense is extraordinary. Their switch to the three-man backline is anchored by Moor, a former cast-off who found his role.

Why he won’t win: TFC has other solid options.

Leandro González Pirez

Why he’ll win: Passing CBs are rare, and Pirez is the best of the bunch.

Why he won’t win: Atlanta United’s high pace attack overshadows a decent defense.

Other Possibilities: Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Eriq Zavaleta, Justin Morrow

Sporting Kansas City and TFC both have great defenses, but share their burden along the backline and with keepers who are both having great years. This may also harm Marshall.

Keeper of the Year

Tim Melia

Why he’ll win: Despite not making the All Star Game, Melia is the best keeper this season.

Why he won’t win: Some people might be impressed by young keepers on bad teams (Hamid, Blake) or old dudes who are bad (Howard, Guzan).

Other Possibilities: Stefan Frei, Alex Bono, Bill Hamid

No one is nearly as good as Melia this year.

Best XI

Not yet mentioned, but deserving of praise are:

Joevin Jones is the best left back in the league this year, though someone might be silly enough to vote for Greg Garza.

Cristian Roldan and Michael Bradley should be your defensive midfield votes. Some may like Acosta, but don’t be that guy.

Voters should vote in something like a 4-2-3-1. It’s the most common formation in MLS this year. The main problem with this is that there isn’t a clear best right back in 2017. Matt Polster has only 15 starts there. Tony Beltran is decent, but not game-changing. Kelvin Leerdam was a late addition. Zusi is... Zusi.

I’m currently leaning:

Melia; Jones, Marshall, Moor, Zusi; Roldan, Bradley; Vaszquez, Valeri, Jo. Martinez; Villa