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TWO WEEKS FROM THE END OF THE SEASON, WHO ARE THE AWARD FAVORITES?
End of season awards are coming soon because the end of the season is coming soon. At this point we have a solid idea of who will win some of these while some of them still feel like they could be decided as late as Decision Day. So let's look at the favorites for each award and let's look at who might still be challenging them up until the final whistle. And definitely don't try and think too much about how this newsletter itself might end up influencing who the favorites actually are, it will just make your brain hurt and cause you to lose faith in a perfect system you shouldn't question. We're not necessarily looking at who should win here, we're looking at the favorite for each award. Meaning that the nerds at The Mothership like me and the general voting public don't always see eye to eye. Like how Robin Fraser somehow didn't win Coach of the Year last year despite me repeatedly pointing out that he finished first in the West with like negative one DPs. Sometimes though, the nerd pick, the correct pick and the general voting pool all line up in harmony. Such as with…LANDON DONOVAN MLS MOST VALUABLE PLAYERFavorite: Hany Mukhtar, Nashville SC Challenger: Sebastian Driussi, Austin FC We did this on The Mothership a couple of weeks ago with our MVP Power Rankings and nothing has changed in the last couple of weeks that will convince too many folks to put Driussi over Mukhtar. Mukhtar leads the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi race by two goals, Mukhtar has four more assists than Driussi and Mukhtar simply means more to his team's success. As good as candidates like Driussi, Philly's Daniel Gazdag, Cincy's Lucho Acosta and others have been, they've had firepower to compliment them all season. The next closest Nashville player to Mukhtar's 23 goals and 11 assists is C.J. Sapong, with five goals and five assists. Mukhtar's your MVP. Unless Driussi scores like eight goals over the final two games. Then we'll talk.ALLSTATE MLS GOALKEEPER OF THE YEARFavorite: Andre Blake, Philadelphia Union Challenger: Djordje Petrovic, New England Revolution Not only does Andre Blake have the name recognition, he's got the numbers to cruise to a third Goalkeeper of the Year award. He'll hold the MLS record when it happens. And it will happen. Blake has gotten legitimate MVP buzz over the last half of the season here and, as good as he's been, it's understandable. He's on the best team in the league right now and he's been miles better than everyone else. Well, except for Djordje Petrovic. Petrovic's numbers actually outshine Blake's this year. The stats have Petrovic and Blake alone on another planet than everyone else with Petrovic checking in as the better shot stopper. But Petrovic has played 1300 fewer minutes and isn't on the best team in the league right now and isn't even on a playoff team and he just got here this summer. He's not beating Blake. Next year though? Next year we may be in for a special battle to be the league's top keeper. The kind that we haven't seen since… well, last year, when Andre Blake went head-to-head with a New England keeper.MLS DEFENDER OF THE YEARFavorite: I dunno, like Jack Elliott probably, right? Challenger: I dunno, probably Walker Zimmerman or some other famous center back. First and foremost, as always with this award, I have to say: Justice for fullbacks. To be blunt, it's dumb that this is a center backs-only award based on how good you are at heading the ball away. Fullbacks are defenders too. We shouldn't completely leave them out of the running for this just because they contribute in attack. I want to live in a world where Kai Wagner and Brandon Bye have as much chance at this as Tall Center Back To Be Named Later. Anyway, let's name that Tall Center Back now. His name is Jack Elliott. I think. This is one where I'm genuinely unsure. Because in my head, I can see voters picking the best defensive defender on the best defensive team. To me that's Elliott. But in my head, I can also see a lot of people looking at Nashville's solid defensive record, remembering that Walker Zimmerman is really good at soccer, and just going with Zimmerman. They wouldn't necessarily be wrong to do that. Zimmerman is fantastic. But I'm not sure the nerd contingent and the general voting bloc will see eye to eye on who the single best defender has been this season. I'm not sure the folks within both groups will even see eye to eye on this one. At the very least though, it's not quite as crowded a field as…MLS NEWCOMER OF THE YEARFor this award, "Newcomer" is defined as a player who made his MLS debut in 2022.Favorite: Uhh Challenger: Uhhhhhhhhh???Cucho Hernandez, Federico Bernardeschi, Mikael Uhre, Leo Campana, Djordje Petrovic, Facundo Torres, Sebastian Ferreira and Thiago Almada could all have some claim to this award. When I say it's a crowded field, it's more due to quantity than quality. None of these players has truly separated themselves from the pack although all them have put together outstanding performances in some way. My gut here is that Cucho will get the nod thanks to name recognition and having to try and score goals while playing for Columbus. But maybe if they miss the playoffs and Inter Miami don't, the nod will go to Campana. There's a whole lot to consider here and no real way to determine a clear favorite. Even though, ya know, it should totally be Petrovic.MLS YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEARFor this award, "Young Player" is defined as a player born on or after Jan. 1, 2000.Favorite: Jesus Fereira, FC Dallas Challenger: Thiago Almada, Atlanta UnitedWe basically just did this like… two days ago. Go check out the 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR for more. Jesus Ferreira has 18 goals and five assists on the season, he's going to win this one too.MLS COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEARFavorite: Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls Challenger: Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders This one feels clear to me. Long led the way when we did our midseason awards a few months ago and nothing has really changed since. He's still been phenomenal and the Red Bulls are still playing excellent Red Bulls soccer and he's still outperforming expectations after an Achilles tear. Morris has been good, especially for a player coming off another ACL tear. But with Seattle set to miss the playoffs, I'm betting Long gets the nod.MLS SIGI SCHMID COACH OF THE YEARFavorite: Wilfried Nancy, CF Montréal Challenger: Jim Curtin, Philadelphia Union People are going to gravitate to the Supporters' Shield/conference winner. I get it. And, in this case, Philadelphia do technically have a lower payroll than Montréal. This isn't quite the same as last year with Robin Fraser leading the lowest payroll in the league to first place. Jim Curtin would be a worthy pick if he wins this award. But beyond payroll, Curtin has far more talent at his disposal and has had far more time to develop his system and his team. Nancy got thrown into the job out of nowhere last year, spent half the season in Florida of all places and still nearly made the playoffs. This year, he's taken pretty much the same exact team and driven them to second place in the East thanks in part to his often praised tactical decisions. That's often praised by other coaches, not just media and players. I think both have a claim here. But Montréal feel like the team that's punching above their weight a little more. For me, that gives Nancy the slight edge. But then again, if Philadelphia win the Supporters' Shield, the choice might be a little too obvious for Nancy to win.
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