My MLS choices for MVP, Defender of Year, Best XI and more

Would the Houston Dynamo be in the playoffs without Brad Davis and his league-leading 16 assists? No way, I say.

I visit my neighborhood Whole Foods almost every day. And when I stand at the store's overly complex recycling labyrinth, straining to make the most Earth friendly decisions on its flummoxing array of choices, it really is one of the hardest things I do every day.

Then again, I don't have to vote on Major League Soccer's MVP and other awards every day. That’s the hardest thing I’ll do all week. If the voting on this thing is usually more akin to checkers, this year's process was definitely chess.

But it's over. Well, it’s over except for the rotten tomatoes sure to be hurled my way because I didn't choose this fellow or that one. So … bring it on! Don't miss the chance to tell 'ol Steve where he screwed the pooch on his media vote. (Media voting is one-third of the process. The other two-thirds? Not sure. Martians, perhaps. Or maybe the "1 percent." Damn their pervasive influence.)

Most Valuable Player: My vote leaning was all over the place the last few weeks on this one. In the end, I decided that Houston’s Brad Davis and his contributions meant more to his team than anyone else’s. He led the league with 16 assists, and I truly don’t believe Houston would have made the post-season otherwise. And, no, I really don’t care that most of his assists were off set piece service. Every goal counts the same, as they say. Davis tipped the balance, ever so slightly, with an assist in the final MLS regular season match, helping secure a win that propelled his Orange into second place in the East. Sorry Dwayne De Rosario. You were probably the best player in MLS this year, per se. But your team didn’t make the playoffs, as I’m sure you know. (We picked a first and second choice in each category.) First choice: Brad Davis. Second choice: Osvaldo Alonso.

Defender of the Year: A remarkably tough choice, in my mind, between Real Salt Lake’s Jamison Olave and Los Angeles’ Todd Dunivant. In the end, I selected RSL’s center back because I truly believe he’s the league’s best defender. Dunivant played more, starting all but two regular season matches, and that kind of durability counts, too. Which is why this was such a damn doozey of a tough choice. First choice: Jamison Olave. Second choice: Todd Dunivant.

(See my picks in five other categories, plus my Best XI on the click-through ...)

Comeback Player of the Year: This always seems so nebulously defined. “Honors and MLS player who has overcome injuries and/or adversity in order to achieve success during the 2011 MLS regular season.” Well, I’m not sure what adversity, exactly, Jack Jewsbury overcame.  I mean, I’m not sure that Timbers owner Merritt Paulson wants to think that getting traded to Portland represents “adversity,” but what do I know? Any-who, the man had a helluva season. Jewsbury that is. Well, I suppose Paulson did, too. But he wasn’t on the ballot. Jewsbury was, so he got my vote. A lot of guys on the ballot were like Jewsbury, more “breakout” player than “comeback” player. Same for Chicago’s Dominic Oduro and his terrific season, with a team-leading 12 goals. First choice: Jack Jewsbury.Second choice: Dominic Oduro.

 

Goalkeeper of the Year: I know my vote here may be a throw-away, because more heralded types from playoff clubs will take most of the ballots. But all I can do is cast my vote in good conscience. And even though he’s one of the league’s worst violators at time wasting when his team manages to pull ahead, I think Jon Busch had a fantastic year. Every week, it seemed, when I put together my SI.com Team of the Week, Busch was one of the names I considered. (By the way, Toronto’s Stefan Frei wasn’t on the ballot. I don’t think I would have selected him, but his omission sure struck me as odd.) First choice: Jon Busch. Second choice: Kasey Keller.

Newcomer of the Year: This was maybe my easiest pick. Mauro Rosales, Seattle’s fantastic right-sided playmaker might have been my MVP choice had he not been injured and missed about a month late in the season. Fair? Maybe not. But the MVP race really was balanced on a knife’s edge, and every little bit made a difference. At any rate, Rosales became a piece-of-cake pick as Newcomer. First choice: Mauro Rosales. Second choice: Luke Rodgers.

Rookie of the Year: If you could cut through all the East Coast-media driven clutter over two promising rookie defenders for D.C. United and New England, the ROY choice seemed fairly clear to me. It was Kansas City’s C.J. Sapong, who kept Teal Bunbury out of the starting lineup for much of SKC’s fine campaign. Sapong hit for five goals and five assists. My second choice is a guy that I know plenty of fans haven’t heard of. Then again, who cares? Every time I saw Rich Balchan (over 18 starts) line up at left back or in the midfield for Columbus, I was impressed. (He was particularly strong in the back, I thought, although he could certainly develop into a good holding midfielder for the Crew.) First choice: C.J. Sapong. Second choice: Rich Balchan.

Coach of the Year: This choice involves some mea culpa. I wrote on this very blog that the first time I saw Columbus practice, way back in February in Phoenix, I was struck by how many unfamiliar faces were out there. I asked Robert Warzycha if he thought making the playoffs was a realistic goal. “Of course,” he told me, surprised at the question.  Still, I wasn’t buying it.  Well, I am now. Columbus isn’t the best team in MLS.  But just getting the reconstructed side into the second season is a mighty accomplishment in my eyes, so Warzycha gets my apologies. And my vote. As for second choice, it really was a four-way toss-up in my mind between Peter Vermes, Peter Nowak, Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid. Anyone among that foursome would be a worthy first-place choice, not to mention a worthy runner-up. First choice: Robert Warzycha. Second choice: Peter Vermes.

Best XI

Goalkeeper: Jon Busch

Defenders: Jamison Olave, Omar Gonzalez, Todd Dunivant

Midfielders: Osvaldo Alonso, David Beckham, Brad Davis

Forwards: Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Wondolowski

Wild-cards (voters were asked to choose a Best XI in a “3-3-2” format, and then supplement with two choices from any position):

Brek Shea, Kyle Beckerman

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