Monday, November 14, 2011

An MLS award double dip

We've got two awards on the docket today: comeback player of the year and coach of the year. And finally we have our first controversy.

We'll start with the easier COY, beginning with my selection three months ago.

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.

I went a different direction with my COY selection. It's easy enough to hand it over to the coach leading up the best team (which is kind of the easy way out if you look at it that way), but it's another matter to choose a coach who clearly overachieved with a group in need of a turnaround. In my estimation, Nowak and Peter Vermes were as worthy of the award as anybody (Sigi was second and Vermes finished third). As an expansion team, Philly was 8-15-7 and finished nowhere near the playoffs. This year, the Union were 11-8-15 and had a crack at the Eastern Conference title up until the last week of the season. Vermes' job was perhaps even more impressive. He survived a full third of the season without a home stadium, successfully integrated a young attack crew into the 4-3-3 and won the Eastern Conference without half the talent at Arena's disposal. And he won a playoff series and was a hair's breath from reaching the final.

It all depends on what you're looking for from your coach of the year. Personally I prefer the turnaround jobs. The league disagrees. No big deal.

Now to the real meat of the day. David Beckham??? Certainly not my choice.

Let me first clear up some confusion. The fact that Davies was not an MLS player last year has no bearing on his ability to win the award this year. It's not that nuanced. The official description on the web ballot reads as follows: "Honors an MLS player who has overcome injuries and/or adversity in order to achieve success in the 2011 regular season." That's all.

The first bit that jumps out is the regular season part, meaning Davies cannot be punished for DC's inability to make the postseason. It's not that kind of award anyway. Davies literally sat on an operating table with his face peeled back over his skull along with myriad bruises, cuts and breaks. Less than two years later, he ties for fifth in the league with 11 goals despite playing fewer minutes than anybody in the league with nine goals or more. His year encapsulates the very spirit of this award.

As for Beckham? He tore his achilles on a loan spell and finally provided an assist tally close to the expectation (yet it still wasn't the league's best). It was certainly a nice comeback, but c'mon. Use the common sense litmus here. If Davies didn't deserve it, this award should be shelved indefinitely. I can speculate that, since Davies won the media vote but was fourth in the vote amongst clubs, which is 33 percent, his tendency to dive eroded his candidacy. But how can one so easily overlook that when occasions like these are staring you in the face? 

Hurumph. If Eric Hassli doesn't win goal of the year there's something seriously rotten in Denmark.

- Will Parchman

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