Major League Soccer
MLS Awards: BWP for MVP & Jordan Morris Top Rookie
October 26, 2016
MVP: Bradley Wright-Phillips
The New York Red Bulls forward fully deserves the MVP trophy in 2016. For the first three quarters of the season, it really appeared as if David Villa would run off with the prize but Wright-Philips shifted into a higher gear as the season drew to a close.
The Red Bulls endured plenty of struggles this year—getting off to a 1-6 start and blowing five two-goal leads—but Wright-Philips' clinical finishing always inspired the talented Red Bulls midfield to play with confidence that chances would be converted. Wright-Philips won the league's Golden Boot award with 24 goals, 15 coming in the team's final 13 games.
Sacha Kljestan, who led the league with 19 assists, is my runner-up. It's actually a very tough call between Kljestan and Wright-Philips but in the end BWP should win it for his dominance down the stretch in a single-forward set up.
1. Bradley Wright-Phillips
2. Sacha Kljestan
3. David Villa
Coach of the Year: Oscar Pareja
The FC Dallas boss should win the award for MLS Coach of the Year in 2016.
A lot of what goes into winning the coach of the year is measured against the expectations for the team heading into the season. Sometimes this is completely unfair. For example, there is no question that leading candidate Pablo Mastroeni did a very good job with the Colorado Rapids, exceeding everyone’s expectations. But one of the reasons why expectations were so low is because Mastroeni did not have a good season in 2015. So why should Mastroeni get credit for cleaning up his own mess? Why punish a coach who has been consistent in building up his team only to have it pay off in 2016? If Mastroeni wins the award, it will only be in comparison to his poor outing in 2015—which doesn’t seem like a fair benefit to give him.
In that regard, Pareja is easily the best choice to win the Coach of the Year. Through his fearless approach of giving meaningful minutes to younger players and players that have come through the academy, Pareja’s team at Dallas is deep and can withstand injuries and absences to top players. The numbers don’t lie. Under Pareja this year FC Dallas was the youngest team in the league, as well as the best. That deserves huge accolades.
1. Oscar Pareja
2. Patrick Vieira
3. Pablo Mastroeni
Rookie of the Year: Jordan Morris
Midway through the year, this race was very close but now with the regular season now over, it is a landslide. Jordan Morris should easily claim Rookie of the Year honors despite a very deep rookie class.
Morris, 21, finished the year with 12 goals and four assists in what was a year full of challenges. Yes, there was far more hype and expectations placed upon him than any other rookie in league history. Then Seattle fell into last place, then the coach who pursued him was fired, and then Clint Dempsey was forced to miss the rest of the season, placing more responsibilities on Morris’ shoulders. Morris delivered mightily down the stretch, including a terrific back-heel assist on Decision Day to clinch a playoff spot.
Philadelphia Union right back Keegan Rosenberry is worthy of consideration. The third overall pick in the draft became the first position player since 2013 to play every minute of every game this season. But the Union struggled down the stretch and Rosenberry did not dominate like Morris did.
Alex Muyl made a great impression since June although he had to compete for time in a loaded Red Bull midfield. Jack Harrison has a very bright future although he missed too much time. Jonathan Campbell showed well although the Chicago Fire were awful and Campbell was not a factor in high-pressure games.
1. Jordan Morris
2. Keegan Rosenberry
3. Alex Muyl
Defender of the Year: Matt Hedges
Last year, Hedges narrowly missed out of this award to Laurent Ciman although Hedges had a very strong case over Ciman due to the Belgian’s high propensity to pick up yellow and red cards in 2015.
This year the American should win it.
The numbers Hedges put up this year separates him from the pack. In the 26 games he played, FC Dallas only lost three times and it outscored opponents 41-22 when Hedges was on the field (bear in mind there was a 5-0 loss to Houston which was a total outlier). He was part of 12 clean sheets and another nine times opponents only scored one goal—making just five games opponents scored multiple goals. Hedges was the captain of the youngest team in the league which just won the Supporters' Shield.
In the U.S. Open Cup, Hedges played a key role. He scored a dramatic equalizer in the 116th minute of a 2-1 semifinal win over the Los Angeles Galaxy and tallied the eventual game-winning goal in a 4-2 win over New England in the final.
Galaxy defender Jelle Van Damme is likely to get a lot of consideration for this award; playing on a high-profile team doesn't hurt his chances. Likewise, Drew Moor was a big reason why Toronto’s defense was so improved from a league-worst campaign in 2015.
In the end, Hedges shouldered the most responsibility, was a leader on the league’s youngest team, and proved to be a great anchor.
1. Matt Hedges
2. Jelle Van Damm
3. Drew Moor
Newcomer of the Year: Carlos Gruezo
Everyone in contention for this award needs to be happy that Nicolas Lodeiro joined the Seattle Sounders too late in the season to receive strong consideration. Otherwise, the Uruguayan international would run away with this award—and some voters may feel compelled to vote for Lodeiro despite the fact that he only made 13 appearances.
Looking at other candidates, Carlos Gruezo has the strongest resume and was exceptional in central midfield for FC Dallas his season. His offseason signing drew a lot of attention as he was only 20, was playing for a Bundesliga team, and had already made his debut for Ecuador’s national team.
But Gruezo was a success story this year as he amassed 2,240 minutes for the Supporters’ Shield winners and continued to feature for Ecuador’s national team at the Copa America. His ability on the ball gave Dallas a big presence in the midfield where he combined with Kellyn Acosta, Mauro Diaz, and others.
Jelle Van Damme is probably the front-runner for this award and it is true he bailed out the Galaxy many times in the backline. While there was concern over the loss of Omar Gonzalez, Van Damme has been a great replacement.
In the end, Gruezo had more of an impact on the regular season and it is hard to see Dallas coming close to winning the Shield without him.
2. Jelle Van Damme
3. Shkëlzen Gashi
Goalkeeper of the Year: Andre Blake
This was a down year for goalkeepers in MLS. Tim Howard, Clint Irwin, and Bill Hamid did not play enough to receive serious consideration. That greatly helped others sneak into the conversation.
Philadelphia’s Andre Blake deserves the award. It what was an up-and-down year for the Philadelphia Union, Blake came up big several times to help his club to its second-ever postseason berth.
San Jose Earthquake and occasional U.S. national team goalkeeper David Bingham was also a rare bright spot on a team that did not qualify for the postseason. Likewise, Stefan Frei should also garner votes for his play down the stretch as Seattle clawed its way into the playoffs.
1. Andre Blake
2. David Bingham
3. Stefan Frei
These are Brian's choices—now tell us yours. Who deserves the MVP? Coach of the Year? Share your take below.