Thursday, March 20, 2008

MLS Old Player of Year Award 1996-2007

No, there is no such award. But I've always felt that MLS should have a young player award like many countries and the World Cup do, and this would be a natural counterpart to it. When I conducted a poll of US soccer bloggers for year end awards in 2005 and 2006, I made sure to include such an award on the ballots. What if such an award existed in Major League Soccer, and had been given out after each season? Who deserved to win in each year? I'll attempt to answer that question in this post.

First of all, my standard for what constitutes an old player is based the standard for the "young player" awards. Those are usually U23, so I figured that exactly a ten year difference would be perfect. So a player is eligible if they are 33 years or older on July 1st during that season. Why that date? That's the date used in baseball to determine what age a player is for that season among statisticians, since it's about the halfway point of MLB. That's pretty much the case in MLS as well, so I use it for this as well.

I would post the hypethical young player awards first, but I'm still debating a few of them. I'll post that in a few days.

1996 - Carlos Valderrama, TB (34 years old)

An easy choice as he won the league's Most Valuable Player award.

1997 - Preki, KC (34)

Preki also won the MVP for the first place Wizards.

1998 - Peter Nowak, CHI (33)

A Best XI selection and an MVP finalist.

1999 - Lubos Kubik, CHI (35)

This was the first hard year for me to select, especially since I didn't really start watching MLS until 2000. The first three years are obvious, but not here. Kubik was the defender of the year in 1998, and followed that up with a Best XI selection again in 1999. He was the only person eligible for this award to make the Best XI, and he won the team MVP award as well for the Fire. The only other eligible person to win a team MVP award was Mo Johnston for the horrible Wizards.

Other names that could possibly have deserved this: L.Alvarez, Caligiuri, Dooley, Doyle, Gorter, Hermosillo, Kosecki, Limpar, Nowak, Preki, Valderrama, Warzycha.

2000 - Peter Nowak, CHI (35)

Another tough choice, as five eligible players made the Best XI. First off, of the two defenders, I could eliminate LA's Robin Fraser as KC's Peter Vermes won the defender of the year award. Plus the Wizards were better defensively. Hristo Stoitchkov was only second on his team to Nowak, despite a great year. Plus he only played slightly more than half the year due to injuries. So my choice was down to Nowak, Vermes and Carlos Valderrama. The Wizards' top defensive player was goalkeeper and league MVP Tony Meola. Plus they had one of the top rookies in Nick Garcia. On that reasoning, I eliminated Vermes and decided to go with Nowak again. Yes, I'm a Fire fan, but Chicago was just a much better team than Tampa Bay that year.

2001 - Jeff Agoos, SJ (33)

Nowak and Preki made it to the Best XI, but Jeff was the only defender in league history to be an MVP finalist and was rejuvenated after being traded to the Earthquakes. They had the best defense in the league that year. Although starting him at the 2002 World Cup looks stupid now, he as coming off what was likely the best season of his career at the time.

2002 - Oscar Pareja, DAL (33)

He was the only eligible player in the Best XI. What a weird year 2002 was, as the schedule was only 28 games and the World Cup messed up the seasons of the top players. Plus contraction bunched things up; I believe this was the year where no team won three games in a row until the last month of the season. Dallas was very good for most of the year until fading late (go figure), and he was their top player.

2003 - Preki, KC (40)

MVP winner and no brainer. What a season at the age of forty.

2004 - Robin Fraser, CLB (37)

Defender of the year for the surprising Crew. None of the top scorers that year were 33 or older.

2005 - Youri Djorkaeff, NY (37)

Has to be him IMO. He was so solid his first year for the Metros. Pat Onstad was probably the next best contender, winning goalkeeper of the year and being named to the Best XI.

2006 - Chris Armas, CHI (33)

Very tough year with no Best XI members to choose from. It came down to Armas and Onstad, with Claudio Suarez third. Tony Sanneh and Jason Kreis were decent as well. While Onstad was good, he didn't equal his 2005 season and also didn't make the three finalists for GK of the year award. I thought Armas was having his best season in several years (and his last good one).

2007 - Steve Ralston, NE (33)

I settled on a list of five guys to consider: Blanco, Onstad, Ralston, Schelotto, and Suarez. The only one to be on the Best XI was Schelotto, but I felt that was kind of a surprising Best XI choice. Blanco was listed as a forward on the ballot or otherwise he would've made it as well. But Blanco, while having a better year than GBS, only played half the year and I really don't think he deserves it because of that. I don't think any player deserves to be an MVP finalist based on half a season, unless it's absolutely unreal (which his wasn't).

It came down to the other three. Both defensive guys were very good but Ralston was great as well, and without much to separate them in my mind I just decided to go with him here.

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