For the first time I had the opportunity to vote of the MLS Year End Awards. I struggled with a few of the awards; some because it was a genuinely tough choice and some like "Referee of the Year", because picking from a pool of Baldemero Toledo, Kevin Stott, and Mark Geiger is like picking between Mo, Larry and Curly to be the next president.
Despite these obsticles, I did the best I could and I'm curious to see what you think.
MVP: Chris Wondolowski (SJ), Sebestian Le Toux (PHI), David Ferreira (FCD)
I've been a solid supporter of Le Toux most of the season for MVP, but when it came down to a final choice, it had to be Chris Wondolowski. It's safe to say that San Jose would not be in the playoffs with Wondo, but making the playoffs is not a determining factor in who should win the MVP award for me. Le Toux was brilliant all season and helped the Union to a solid first season, but when I really thought it over, Wondo was the obvious choice. He carried San Jose on his back and won the Golden Boot. In my opinion, that deserves some recognition.
Coach of the Year: Jason Kreis (RSL), Hans Backe (NYRB), Schellas Hyndman (FCD)
Hands down, Jason Kreis should win this award. The only thing harder than winning a championship is putting your team in position to do it again, despite having to deal with increased pressure and more games (CCL qualification). Not only that, RSL didn't squeak in to the playoffs on the last day of the season, they were denied the Supporter's Shield on the last day of the season.
Defender of the Year: Omar Gonzalez (LA), Jamison Olave (RSL), Chad Marshall (CREW)
Omar Gonzalez was a freaking beast for the LA Galaxy this season. He led the Galaxy in games played (28), minutes played (2,520) and had two goals just for the fun of it...and he's 22 years old in his second season!
Goalkeeper of the Year: Nick Rimando (RSL), Kevin Hartman (FCD), Donovan Ricketts (LA)
No question Rimando, Hartman and Ricketts all had stand out seasons in goal for their respective teams. What makes Nick Rimando the best of the bunch? For me it's his 14 shutouts and two seperate shoutout streaks of over 500 minutes (567 minutes - 5/29/10 to 7/17/10 and 511 minutes - 8/07/10 to 10/02/10). No one else broke 500 and only one other keeper even had a streak over 400 minutes (Kevin Hartman). If you look up wall in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of Nick Rimando.
Rookie of the Year: Andy Najar (DCU), Tim Ream (NYRB), Danny Mwanga (PHI)
When I was 17 years old, I was in high school doing nothing of particular importance and just waiting to get the hell out of there. Andy Najar on the other hand is 17 years old and in his first MLS season at DC United, played in 26 games (1,983 minutes), scored 5 goals (tied for team lead) and had one assist. Not to shabby, but it's not just the statistics that makes Najar the ROY for me, it's the fact that he was arguably the only reason to even watch a DC match this season. On a team that was just plain bad, Najar was the lone bright spot and played with a maturity beyond his years.
Comeback Player of the Year: Bobby Convey (SJ)
If someone tells you they hadn't written on Bobby Convey after last season, they are lying. No other player made a bigger turnaround this season and it would be an absolute shame if he doesn't win this award.
Newcomer of the Year: Álvaro Saborío (RSL), Joel Lindpere (NYRB), Ryan Smith (KCW)
Real Salt Lake was good last year, but they were great this season and the addition of Álvaro Saborío was a big part of that. 12 goals, 4 assist in MLS play plus another 6 goals in helping Real Salt Lake become the first MLS team to win their CONCACAF Champions League group. In fact, as I type this, I honestly feel extremely stupid not including him in my top three for MLS MVP. So often even the most talented players struggle in their first year in MLS adapting to the travel and physicality, no such struggles for Saborio.