2015 MLS End-of-Season Awards

Peter Galindo@@GalindoPWFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2015

2015 MLS End-of-Season Awards

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    As the 2015 MLS campaign comes to a close, it's time to hand out the end-of-season awards.

    There are 15 different categories from Best Player to Biggest Disappointment. Some awards had several candidates, so each one is accompanied by an honorable mention.

    Here are the MLS end-of-season awards for the 2015 campaign.

Best Player: Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC

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    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    This wasn't much of a contest. Toronto FC superstar Sebastian Giovinco had a record-breaking year en route to his first Most Valuable Player award.

    Giovinco scored a joint league-high 22 goals and produced more assists (16) than anyone else. The Italian was responsible for 38 of his team's tallies, which is an MLS record.

    Columbus Crew striker Kei Kamara, who shared the league lead in goals with Giovinco, is an honorable mention after his playoff exploits.

    Kamara notched 26 goals in the regular season and playoffs. He scored the Crew's only goal in a 2-1 loss against the Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup final.

Best Acquisition: Nat Borchers, Portland Timbers

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    Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

    The Portland Timbers acquiring Nat Borchers from Real Salt Lake may be one of the coups of the season.

    In 2014, the Timbers were an offensive juggernaut. They scored 61 goals but shipped 52. Portland ended up missing the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.

    The Timbers signed Liam Ridgewell as a designated player that same summer but needed a solid center back beside him. This led to the acquisition of Borchers.

    Portland finished the 2015 campaign with just 45 goals conceded and 15 clean sheets in the regular season and playoffs.

    An honorable mention goes to Didier Drogba of the Montreal Impact. The Ivorian scored 11 goals in 11 regular-season appearances to help guide the Impact to the playoffs.

    However, since Borchers was a key piece in the Timbers' championship run, he gets the award.

Best Value Acquisition: Mike Grella, New York Red Bulls

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    The New York Red Bulls made a number of low-cost but high-quality signings in 2015.

    Midfielder Sacha Kljestan had an excellent season and didn't cost the Red Bulls a designated player slot. Kemar Lawrence, who is still just 23 years old, was one of MLS' best left-backs this season.

    However, the best value signing was Mike Grella. He was acquired on a free transfer and the Red Bulls paid him just $60,000 in guaranteed compensation, per the MLS Players Union

    Grella recorded nine goals and seven assists in 33 regular-season appearances. The 28-year-old also started in all four playoff games.

    Lawrence was very close to winning this award, but since the Jamaican full-back was acquired for a transfer fee, he loses out to his New York teammate.

Best Young Player: Matt Miazga, New York Red Bulls

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Matt Miazga has been touted as the best defensive product the United States has ever produced, per ESPN FC's Doug McIntyre.

    Miazga is just 20 years old.

    The New York Red Bulls center back made 26 appearances en route to a Supporters' Shield triumph. New York won just three of seven games when Miazga did not start. He was that vital to the back line.

    Miazga's top performances came against some of the league's best strikers. He held David Villa goalless in all three games and shut down MVP Sebastian Giovinco.

    A few youngsters aged 21 and under, like FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta and Orlando City midfielder Cristian Higuita, all shone in the center of midfield. However, neither played as many games as Miazga.

    If the homegrown star builds on a strong 2015 campaign, Miazga be a stalwart center back for the U.S. men's national team very soon.

Best American Player: Benny Feilhaber, Sporting Kansas City

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    Gary Rohman/MLS/USA TODAY Sports

    Sporting Kansas City were two posts away from reaching the Western Conference semifinals. Instead, the Portland Timbers won the 11-round shootout and won the MLS Cup.

    However, a major reason why Sporting qualified for the playoffs in a tough conference was the fantastic play from midfielder Benny Feilhaber.

    Feilhaber was an MVP finalist, but Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco won the award in the end.

    Nonetheless, the SKC maestro was excellent and fully deserved the nomination. Feilhaber had 10 goals and 15 assists, which are tremendous numbers from a midfielder.

    Feilhaber is also a decent defender. He averaged 2.5 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per game, per WhoScored.com.

    Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty of the New York Red Bulls were also considered for this award. However, it's tough to argue against a player who was nominated for MVP.

Goalkeeper of the Season: David Ousted, Vancouver Whitecaps

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    Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

    Luis Robles of the New York Red Bulls was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year with 86 saves and nine shutouts. However, Vancouver Whitecaps shot-stopper David Ousted had the superior stats and was a leader on the squad.  

    Apart from the odd gaffe, Ousted was a force. The Danish goalkeeper faced 135 shots and made 99 saves. Both totals are higher than Robles.

    The 30-year-old's highlight reel was quite impressive as well. Ousted won the MLS Save of the Week for three straight weeks in the summer.

    Whether it was stopping a penalty or displaying his quick reflexes, Ousted constantly gave his team a chance to win. His strong defense was a boost, but the Dane earned each of his 13 clean sheets.

Breakthrough Star: Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew

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    Kei Kamara was a revelation for the Columbus Crew in 2015. No one could have foreseen this monumental season from the Sierra Leonean.

    Kamara returned to Columbus after the 2014 campaign following two frustrating years in England. Just over 12 months later, he finished 2015 with a career-high 22 goals and led the Crew to the MLS Cup final.

    The 31-year-old was also the runner-up in MVP voting and bagged four goals in the playoffs. He also notched the only tally for the Crew in the final. 

    Kamara literally broke through, became a superstar and deservedly won this award.

Most Improved Player: Jorge Villafana

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    Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

    Jorge Villafana could have begun the 2015 season with New York City FC or Orlando City SC.

    The Portland Timbers left their full-back unprotected in last year's expansion draft. In the end, goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was selected by Orlando so Portland protected Villafana.

    It was a smart move because Villafana became one of MLS' best left-backs in 2015. According to the likes of Goal.com's Ives Galarcep, the 26-year-old was the man of the match in the MLS Cup final.

    Now it appears as if Villafana is close to a move to Liga MX club Santos Laguna for $1 million, according to Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated. He may also be rewarded with a U.S. men's national team call-up very soon.

Best Goal: Krisztian Nemeth, Sporting Kansas City

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    There were several quality goals in MLS this season. None were as stupefying as Krisztian Nemeth's against the Portland Timbers.

    Nemeth started dribbling from his own half of the pitch, glided past one of MLS' top defensive midfielders Diego Chara (twice), beat Nat Borchers and finished calmly in the far corner.

    The Sporting Kansas City forward faced some tough competition from Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco, who scored this wonderful goal just hours after a transatlantic flight.

    Plenty of Giovinco's goals were jaw-dropping. His was nice, but it wasn't too different to his strikes in Serie A or with TFC this past season.

Best Team Performance: Orlando City SC 4-0 LA Galaxy

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Orlando City SC was playing its 11th MLS game against the defending champions LA Galaxy at home on May 17. The expansion side entered the match with just two wins.

    Orlando was also winless at home. The hosts not only recorded their first victory at the Citrus Bowl, they demolished the Galaxy 4-0.

    The Lions conceded just one shot on target to the Galaxy. Four different players got on the scoresheet for Orlando City, including Kaka and Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin.

    The Floridians may have missed the playoffs in their inaugural season, but they certainly produced some memorable moments.

Best Individual Performance: Cyle Larin vs. New York Red Bulls

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    Three shots, three goals.

    That is what Orlando City's Cyle Larin produced against the Supporters' Shield-winning New York Red Bulls on September 25. It was the most dominant display of the season.

    To top it off, the Canadian international clinched the rookie scoring record in that game versus the Red Bulls.

    Sebastian Giovinco's three-goal haul in nine minutes against New York City FC was equally spectacular. However, NYCFC's back line was a mess all year long. He also scored from the penalty spot.

    To replicate what Larin did against the top team in the regular season is incredibly difficult. The MVP wasn't even close.

Worst Signing: Shaun Maloney, Chicago Fire

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    Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    The Chicago Fire finished in last place after adding 14 new players, excluding homegrown signings and SuperDraft selections.

    The most curious move of them all was the addition of Shaun Maloney as a designated player.

    The Scotland international was constantly rotating positions. He would be deployed in a deeper role, out wide or as a No. 10. He was best suited for the latter but seldom played in behind the strikers.

    Maloney recorded just three goals and two assists in 14 appearances. It was a needless signing from a team that was in disarray all season.

Biggest Disappointment (Player): Omar Gonzalez, LA Galaxy

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    Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

    There were many reasons why the LA Galaxy were knocked out of the playoffs early. One of them was Omar Gonzalez's poor play through most of the 2015 campaign.

    Gonzalez was either getting caught too high up the pitch, getting beaten in the air for a header or he wasn't tracking the run of a striker properly.

    The defender simply wasn't as commanding as he has been for the Galaxy in their previous championship runs.

    If LA keeps the 27-year-old, then the team has to hope that he earns his hefty salary next season. A consistent Gonzalez usually leads to a deep playoff run by the Galaxy.

Biggest Disappointment (Coach): Jeff Cassar, Real Salt Lake

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    Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

    It was a tough season for Real Salt Lake.

    The 2009 MLS Cup champions waved goodbye to general manager Garth Lagerwey and president Bill Manning. Lagerwey left to join the Seattle Sounders and Manning was eventually hired by Toronto FC.

    Jeff Cassar was entering his second season as head coach with a new front office and a fairly different squad. 

    The latter isn't new to Cassar or RSL, who have made several personnel changes in the past before a season began. However, it usually ends with a playoff spot. That didn't happen in 2015.

    Injuries, suspensions and international call-ups affected the chemistry. Still, Cassar's team lacked a goalscorer and conceded 34 goals away from home, more than any club in the Western Conference.

    Cassar's third campaign will be the litmus test. He succeeded in 2014 right after Jason Kreis left. Now it's time for the former goalkeeper to see if he can mould this squad to his vision.

Coach of the Year: Jesse Marsch, New York Red Bulls

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    No coach faced more scrutiny heading into the 2015 season than Jesse Marsch.

    Marsch replaced Mike Petke, a club legend, as New York Red Bulls head coach. It was a shocking decision from sporting director Ali Curtis. Fans were absolutely livid at the January town hall.

    Just a few months later, those fans ate their words. Marsch guided the Red Bulls to the Supporters' Shield and a second consecutive Eastern Conference Final. 

    Oscar Pareja of FC Dallas is a worthy candidate for this award. However, Marsch overcame major criticism and doubt his first year in the largest market in MLS.

    Talk about delivering under pressure.