Every year, SBNation Soccer does their annual awards at the end of each MLS season, and they ask every team website to participate and cast votes. I was lucky enough to be the one casting our ballot this year.
We’ll have a link to the final results once they’re published. For now, here is how Hot Time In Old Town voted.
This was quite possibly the easiest award— besides coach of the year— to cast my votes for.
For my first choice, I chose Carlos Vela. He had an absolutely historic 2019 campaign, breaking the single season goalscoring record, and was the driving force behind LAFC’s supporters shield win. For my money, the is the best player in the league, and it’s not particularly close.
My second choice was Maxi Moralez because, and no disrespect to Zlatan, Moralez had more impact for NYCFC than Ibra did for the LA Galaxy. City’s movement from 3rd to 1st in the Eastern Conference is in large thanks to his play, and he is well deserving of the MVP nomination.
Defender of the Year
This award is always one of the toughest to vote on, because good defensive play can go unnoticed unless you’re specifically looking for it.
That being said, I’m voting for Ike Opara as my first choice. He seems to be the popular pick, as he’s being credited for the defensive turnaround Minnesota United needed to make the playoffs this year.
My second choice is Bastian Schweinsteiger. According to Opta, the Fire’s GA per 90 was 2.4 goals without Basti on the pitch. With him, it was 1.1. That’s almost a goal and a half difference, and that has to count for something.
Newcomer of the Year
My second choice for MVP is my first choice here. Maxi Moralez is exactly what you want for an international signing. He came into the league and had an immediate impact on New York, driving them to 1st in the East.
As for number two in this category, I went with Jonathan Bornstein. It’s hard for me to understate how important Bornstein’s signing was to the Fire not being at the bottom of the league. Since he showed up, the Fire stopped leaking goals, and the defense started to look like a legitimate MLS-level back four. That alone makes him worthy of being in this conversation.
Comeback Player of the Year
This is an award that has a surprising amount of tension with it. Does it mean coming back from an otherwise poor year, or from some sort of injury? I answered with one of both. My nominations here were Jordan Morris as first choice, and CJ Sapong as second choice.
Morris missed all of last season and bounced back with really good numbers. In 25 appearances this season, he scored 10 with 7 assists, helping Seattle finish 2nd in the West. Sapong, meanwhile, went from Philidelphia where he was coming off the bench, to Chicago, where he became a lynchpin in the starting XI. He ended the year as the club’s leading goalscorer, bagging 13 goals.
Goalkeeper of the Year
Keeper of the year is hard for the similar reasons to defender of the year. Aside from spectacular save highlights, its really hard to judge a goalkeeper unless you’re specifically watching them.
I chose Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid as my two nominees. Johnson had one of the best seasons, with his lowest Goals Against since 2015, and a respectable 7 shutouts. Hamid, meanwhile, had 14 clean sheets; tied for the most in the league in 2019 and tied for third most all time in a season.
Best Player Under 20
I chose Efrain Alvarez of the LA Galaxy as my first choice, largely because of what he did to Jorge Corrales in the Fire’s opener. Beyond that, he had a really good season, and proved that he belonged in the league, even at 16 years old.
My second choice was Paxton Pomykal. I chose him because of the huge hype surrounding him, and because of his brace against RSL on March 30th.
The top domestic player for now and for the foreseeable future, for me at least, is Jozy Altidore. There isn’t an American in this league with the combination of speed and power like Jozy. Plus, he’s an intelligent player who knows how to sneak by defenders and create chances. He’s always good for a goal when you need him to be, and it’s almost impossible to defend him cleanly.
I went with Sean Johnson as my second nominee, because I feel like he’s one of the best American goalkeepers in the league, and already received a vote for Keeper of the Year from me.
There’s no real criteria for this one, so I decided to vote the player I’d never heard of before that had the biggest impact this season. I chose Héber from NYCFC for this award because he fits that description best. Every time I watched NYCFC, he was always impressing me with his play. There was always a run, or a pass or a goal he’s score that i’d have to rewind and watch again.
The same can be said for Jeremy Ebobisse of the Portland Timbers. While he’s been in the league for three years, it was this year where he made his mark. He scored a career high 11 goals while playing in 34 games, and made a real impression on me.
Coach of the Year
If there’s an argument for anyone other than it being Bob Bradley with LAFC, I’d love to hear it.
The Black and Gold lapped the field this season, winning the Supporters’ Shield by 8 points and the Western Conference by a whopping 17 points over the second place Sounders. There aren’t enough superlatives to to describe Bradley’s second season in charge, so I’ll settle for giving him this award.
Second place goes to Bruce Arena and his rescue of the New England Revolution. He came on in May after the Fire’s destruction of the Revs forced the ouster of Brad Friedel, and completely turned their season around to capture the last playoff spot a in the penultimate week of the season.
DaMarcus Beasley’s retirement, and the way he handled it, was the best story of the year. I said a lot about it in my preview for the Houston match in week 22, but the short version is DMB is the reason I’m writing this right now, and I’m going to miss him.
I am aware that I picked 3 center backs (technically four with Basti), but I didn’t really do this on a position basis. I picked Chris Wondolowski over Zlatan Ibrahimovic because I felt like becoming MLS’s all time leading goalscorer deserved some recognition in the year end awards, and this was the best place to do it, and for similar reasons, I chose DaMarcus at left back.