Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Grinder's MLS Awards Show: August Edition

The Grinder is off its lazy duff for a rare mid-week edition, where we present some early frontrunners for MLS' venerable postseason awards. It's prediction time, ladies and gents. Have at it.

Rookie of the Year
Will Bruin, Houston
In the running: Rich Balchan, A.J. Soares, Perry Kitchen
Notes: Bruin's rookie of the year candidacy has cooled off late this summer, but it may have been completely doused this week with the announcement that he underwent knee surgery that will keep him out 4-6 weeks. As is he's still atop the list, but barring a change or a real late season surge (like, real late), this will probably flip flop somehow. He's still already the club's rookie leader in starts with 20 and has a hat trick to his name (and it's a pretty sweet name), but we'll see how it shakes out.

Newcomer of the Year
Eric Hassli, Vancouver
In the running: Luke Rodgers, Carlos Valdes, Faryd Mondragon
Notes: I'm a Hassli convert. Vancouver is so aimless that he gets snowed under at times in the national media, but THE GOAL woke us all up to the Frenchman's immense ability to wow. That anybody can escape Vancouver's imbecilic run of late with a positive image is impressive, so the necessary accolades go to Hassli, who has half his eight goals on the road.

What's that? You want further visual clarification of THE GOAL of which I speak so highly on an hourly basis? My pleasure.

Golden Boot
In progress
In the running: Thierry Henry, Landon Donovan, Brek Shea, Charlie Davies, Chris Wondolowski, Eric Hassli
Notes: Total guess, but my dumb money is on Donovan. Been a banshee in front of goal lately, and LA is playing better around him than NY is around Henry.

Goalkeeper of the Year
Kevin Hartman, FC Dallas
In the running: Faryd Mondragon, Nick Rimando, Donovan Ricketts (barring return from injury)
Notes: Hartman has been the league's most consistent keeper over the last six weeks. While his defense has been anything but porous, Hartman still faces at least a few pesky challenges a game, and he's repelled every one of them over the last 12 contests. At this pace, nobody's catching him, not even Mondragon.

Defender of the Year
George John, FC Dallas
In the running: Nat Borchers, Jeff Parke, Jamison Olave, Chad Marshall
Notes: FCD knocking down both defensive plaudits is a credit to their recent run (eight shutouts in nine), but of course a late lapse could throw this into the blender. John is second on the MLS Castrol Index behind only Henry, and his size and considerable positioning ability will have the Greeks pushing hard for his services. With Klinsmann now at the helm and the CB position anything but solidified for the USMNT, I'd expect John to get some more in-person looks than he did under Bradley.

Comeback Player of the Year
Charlie Davies, DC United
Notes: Who else?

Coach of the Year
Piotr Nowak, Philadelphia
In the running: Robert Warzycha, Schellas Hyndman
Notes: Philly's eye-popping turnaround is the story of the league through July. The Union have some pieces, and they benefit from playing in the weaker East, but Nowak has squeezed every drop of talent and every possible result out of this overachieving group. The playoffs may define his year differently, but to this point nobody can match Philly's meteoric worst-to-first (sorta) rise. Both Nowak and Warzycha should be in the running at season's end, too. Poland in the house.

Best XI
Thierry Henry, Landon Donovan, Brek Shea, Dwayne De Rosario, David Beckham, Osvaldo Alonso, Todd Dunivant, George John, Omar Gonzalez, Jan Gunnar Solli, Kevin Hartman

As for my formation...

Notes: It's unfortunate for Brad Davis that Brek Shea plays his position, because his assist record is better than Beckham's. Tried shoehorning him in there, but Becks gets the 11th hour selection over the field so far due to his still-world class ability from free kicks and crosses. Through the trumpeting efforts of many (including my own) Osvaldo Alonso is no longer the best kept secret in the league. He can easily join the attack as well. Donovan plays in the hole on Shea's side in my XI because that's a terrifying vision for any RB/CB tandem. He's been better on the right than the left this year, but Arena apparently doesn't care. Todd Dunivant makes it on thanks to an extremely weak LB crop. USMNT fans are neither surprised nor amused.

Thierry Henry, New York
In the running: Brek Shea, Landon Donovan, Osvaldo Alonso
Notes: This revives the age old "team vs. player" debate. Alonso and Shea have both done it with less talented teams (arguably), but only a fool can ignore Henry's far-reaching impact. I can make a pretty convincing case that Henry is the best player in the history of the league, let alone the player of the year, but MVP thus far will do. Nobody commands more attention from defenses, and yet nobody shreds them with such ferocity. The only knock is New York's league position, which does need some work. But Henry can only do so much, and few can argue that he's done more than anybody else in the league to earn it through July. We'll see where we are two months from now.

- Will Parchman


bhamhawker said...

Donovan as a striker. You should forward that on to Klinsi and see if he'll give you a spot as a "guest coach" for the Belgium game.

Seriously though, Donovan should've been a striker with the US for years now.

He's too good at that position and is just such a great goalscorer.

Will Parchman said...

I love the idea of Donovan as a withdrawn striker. It alleviates the US's lack of a real target forward by adding a dash of Donovan's creativity to the top, yet allows him act as a link with the midfield where he's spent most of his time. If you go with the idea of playing to your strengths, which is the midfield for the US, you're getting more talent on the field without having to sacrifice the formation. I'm not married to it, but I like it all the same.

Needless to say, I'm very, very interested to see what kind of formation Jurgen (Juergen? Jürgen?) springs on the youngsters against Mexico.

bhamhawker said...

I've never understood why people think Donovan has creativity? I've never seen it.

He's fast and he's a lethal finisher - easily his two best assets in his career.

Why the need to make him into more than he is (other than the obvious of him being the MLS\ESPN\USSF media darling).

The USMNT has craved a goalscorer since McBride retired, and Donovan is perfect with his speed and skill, especially if you pair him with an aerial threat like Dempsey or Altidore.

Plus, it has the added bonus of allowing more of our talented (true) midfielders - Holden, Edu, Torres, etc - to see the field alongside Jones\Bradley.

We've slung crap up top for so long - Robbie Findley, Eddie Johnson, Brian Ching, Chris Wondolowski, etc. - all because our staff tried to make (or Donovan forced him, still unclear on which it would be) Donovan into this dynamic, game-changing wing\midfielder like a Messi or Iniesta.