With the disappointment of the postseason still lingering, it is easy to forget just how much of an improvement this season was for the Philadelphia Union. The team made a 16-point increase and moved up in the East standings from 7th to 3rd in the matter of just one season.
The offense and defense both improved, increasing the team's goal differential from minus-14 to plus-8. Also, the Union were able to make PPL Park a fortress, conceding just one loss at home. Only the L.A. Galaxy, who were not defeated at the Home Depot Center, had fewer home losses.
The players really stepped it up this year, and these particular players were the best of the best.
Captain Califf takes home this award, as he was the rock in the center of the defense. The former U.S. international logged the most minutes and played the most games out of all of the Union defenders, and he even popped up with a goal.
Califf just edged out Carlos Valdes for this award, and part of that was due to his discipline, as Califf committed fewer fouls and received half as many bookings as Valdes. Outside of the stats, Califf was the heart and soul of the defense, and his steady play allowed the unit to decrease its goals allowed from 49 to 36, which was good for first in the East.
Not the sexiest of picks, but Carroll knew his role on the team and did it well without complaint. Statically, nothing sticks out about about this year for Carroll, but stats aren't the reason Carroll is taking home this prestigious honor. A linchpin in the middle of the park, Carroll does a lot of the dirty work that is not seen on the highlight real or in match reports.
As if there was any doubt. Le Toux led the team in goals and assists. I could wax on and on about his ability, vision and nose for the goal, but the only thing that really needs to be said is that he led the team in goals and assists.
I know, how can someone be a team MVP without even being the best player at their position? Well, I am glad you asked.
Defense was a major problem for the Union in their first year, and it was something that Nowak needed to address. While many people looked at new keeper Faryd Mondragon as the big upgrade, Valdes was the player that really helped to steady the back line. With Valdes paring with Califf, the center of the Union defense will not have to be worried about.
If you see a theme of this slideshow, it that the defense was good—really good—in large part thanks to Williams. Only 21 years old, Williams has a bright future, not only with the Union but with the U.S. National Team. Recently called into the national team's camp in Germany, Williams looks to be a fixture on the right side of the defense for a long time to come.
Now if they could only find a left back ...