With the MLS All-Star Game coming up on Thursday, we hand out some early awards to those who have impressed over the first half of the 2016 campaign.
Goalkeeper of the Year: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes)
While the Philadelphia Union’s Andre Blake remains the popular pick for this award, Bingham has quietly been just as impressive this season. The 26-year-old American has conceded just 23 goals in 20 games to give the eighth-placed Earthquakes the third best defensive record in the Western Conference, while his 75 percent save rate also ranks third among keepers who’ve faced more than 50 shots.
Without his faultless displays, San Jose’s campaign would almost certainly already be over.
Defender of the Year: Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids)
After enduring an indifferent rookie campaign, Sjoberg’s second professional season has seen him establish himself as one of the top up-and-coming centre-backs in MLS. The towering Swede has anchored a backline that has allowed a league-low 14 goals in 20 games with his aerial dominance and positional awareness, while his height on set pieces has also helped him chip in with two goals and an assist.
The likes of Walker Zimmerman, Drew Moor, Justen Glad and Jelle van Damme all deserve credit for their exploits so far this term, but it’s the 6ft 7in Sjoberg who currently stands head and shoulders above them all, both literally and figuratively.
Coach of the Year: Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids)
Expectations were low for the Rapids going into 2016 after finishing bottom of the Western Conference last season, but their turnaround over the first half of the campaign has proved nothing short of remarkable.
The club not only sit second in the Supporters’ Shield standings after 20 games, but they have also already earned more points (38) and wins (10) than they managed over the whole of last term and are currently enjoying a 15-match unbeaten run.
Given that he had been considered the overwhelming favourite to be the first head coach fired this season back in March, it’s hard to look past Mastroeni for this award.
Rookie of the Year: Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union)
A somewhat surprise selection with the third overall pick in the 2016 SuperDraft, Rosenberry has since made a seamless transition to life in MLS. The former Georgetown University right-back is the only Union player to have played every minute of their season so far, scoring once in the process, and his impressive two-way displays are a key reason why they currently sit third in the Eastern Conference.
His standout performances were recognised earlier this month when he became just the second rookie since 2005 to be named an All-Star, and there has been chatter that he could be in line for a first US national team call-up in the near future.
New York City FC winger Jack Harrison and Seattle Sounders striker Jordan Morris should certainly be in the mix for the award come the end of the campaign, but Rosenberry’s entire body of work at this stage makes him the clear favourite.
Newcomer of the Year: Jelle van Damme (LA Galaxy)
One of the Galaxy’s three big-name signings last winter along with Ashley Cole and Nigel de Jong, Van Damme has so far proven to be the most influential of the trio. A natural left-back, the ex-Belgium international has had few problems replacing the departed Omar Gonzalez at centre-half and, having formed a strong partnership with fellow newcomer Daniel Steres, has helped Bruce Arena’s men record the second-best defensive record in the league with just 19 goals conceded in 20 games.
He has even been a significant contributor to the attack with his willingness to get forward and long-range passing and could well be a contender for the Defender of the Year award if his impressive form continues into the second half of the season.
A special mention also needs to go to Columbus Crew SC striker Ola Kamara, who has stepped up in impressive fashion since the trade of namesake Kei Kamara to New England Revolution, hitting 10 goals in his last nine appearances.
MVP: David Villa (New York City FC)
After standing out as the main positive of NYCFC’s disappointing inaugural season by netting 18 times in 30 games, Villa has once again lived up his legendary reputation this term. The former Barcelona and Spain striker has scored a league-leading 13 goals in 22 appearances to lift Patrick Vieira’s side to the top of the Eastern Conference, while his exceptional work rate and quiet leadership as club captain have not gone unnoticed either.
Diego Valeri, Sebastian Giovinco, Ignacio Piatti, and Mauro Diaz are all nipping at his heels as things stand, but the 34-year-old will almost certainly have this award wrapped up if he can maintain his form down the stretch and deliver NYCFC their first-ever postseason appearance.
GK: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes)
RB: Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union)
CB: Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas)
CB: Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids)
LB: Jimmy Medranda (Sporting Kansas City)
CM: Sam Cronin (Colorado Rapids)
CM: Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
AM: Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas)
FW: Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact)
FW: Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC)
FW: David Villa (New York City FC)