MLS 2015 Regular Season Wrap-up
The Major League Soccer regular season came to an exciting end last weekend on the league’s first ever Decision Sunday. It was an exciting year full of twists and turns both surprising and predictable. There will be many end of seasons awards given out—this is no different! Here’s my look back on the amazing 2015 season.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto F.C.
The MVP race this year was the most lopsided and easily decided in league history. Sebastian Giovinco statistically had the best regular season of a single player since the league started in 1996. He didn’t set any records in one category but he’s the first player to ever lead the league in both goals and assists at season’s end. He also led the league in shots taken and shots on goal which means his offensive output would’ve had more impact if not for other players miraculously finding a way to stop him. He was already the most valuable to his team even without the goals thanks to his gorgeous play and unstoppable runs that created so much from so little. Anyone who had the pleasure of watching him this year knows that the MVP was never in doubt. The league also gives an award for Newcomer of the Year and it’s safe to say he ran away with that one, too. None of the big name signings came close to the year he had.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Oscar Pareja, F.C. Dallas
F.C. Dallas came up just short of the Supporters’ Shield on the last night thanks to goal differential but this takes nothing away from the year Oscar “Papi” Pareja had leading his club to their best regular season points tally ever. I know Jesse Marsch had a better season by six goals but he got 60 points in the weaker Eastern Conference with a squad full of quality veterans, a couple young standouts, and some of the best offensive stars in the league. Pareja had the same record in a tougher conference with a bunch of kids/homegrown players and the lowest payroll in the league. He had three starting goalkeepers this year, all of them amazing, but finished with a 20-year-old kid who won a starting job over the number one pick in the Chivas USA dispersal draft, Dan Kennedy, and a goalkeeper who would start on any other team, Chris Seitz. His roster was forever in flux thanks to injuries and international competitions and he still found a way to win 18 games. It’s been proven that a big payroll can win a team the MLS Cup but it takes an amazing coach to win the western conference with a bunch of players who were babies when this league started.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Cyle Larin, Orlando City S.C.
I’m upset that Cyle Larin and Orlando City S.C. didn’t make the playoffs because he’s been a pleasure to watch all year. This is another award that I think was run away with. I doubt he would have had the kind of year he did without Kaka in the midfield to create opportunities for him but that shouldn’t take away from what he did in front of goal. Cyle Larin scored the most goals of any rookie, 17, in league history and that’s enough reason to give him Rookie of the Year. He might have had more if he hadn’t left for international duty.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Matt Hedges, F.C. Dallas
What separates Matt Hedges from players like Matt Besler or Omar Gonzales wasn’t his numbers but his ability to lead. The Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles Galaxy defenses are full of veteran defenders who have played in Major League Soccer for multiple seasons. Matt Hedges is the F.C. Dallas team captain because he led a back line that was occupied for most of the season by two or three midfielders at any given time. The only real defender he had back there with him most of the year was Zach Loyd, who I’m taking nothing away from because he’s stellar, but even he missed a handful of matches. Hedges held this line together while still making amazing stops and clearances to help his team to their best points total ever and many clean sheets on the way there.
GOALKEEPER OF THE YEAR
David Ousted, Vancouver Whitecaps
There were a few impressive yearlong performances this year but no one kept their team alive the way David Ousted. Vancouver did not have the best record in the league but they would have finished with a lower points tally if it hadn’t been for David Ousted. The Vancouver defense is good but they don’t have the defensive stature of New York Red Bulls or the experience of Los Angeles Galaxy so it was going to take stellar goalkeeping to help out the Whitecaps defense while they went forward to attack. If there were any other criteria for why he was top goalkeeper this year then just look at his fantasy numbers because he had the highest points tally of any goalkeeper in the league.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City
Tim Melia started the season on the bench as a back-up but once injury decimated the team, he stepped in as the starter and never looked back. He had spent years moving around the league and lower divisions as a back-up before finally getting his chance to shine. Was he always this good? Probably, and so it may not be fair to say he was the most improved but he definitely wasn’t in the same spot he was last year. It’s not easy to go from the bench of one of the best teams of the past five years to being their starter and if that isn’t improvement then I don’t know what it is.
F.C. Dallas finishes with 60 point
I would’ve laughed in your face if you had told me in June that F.C. Dallas would finish the year with 60 points for their highest total in club history. On paper, their record just doesn’t make sense. They have the lowest payroll in the league and the third youngest roster. During the Summer international fixture dates they were missing up to 4 or 5 starters at a time. They had two quality starting goalkeepers taken down by injury with their third option, a 20-year-old homegrown player, becoming their starter in the last couple months of the season. The back line was half filled by players who were midfielders before this season. The starting Panamanian star striker spent most of the season on the bench because he just couldn’t score. Their starting midfield play maker spent the rough parts of the year on the bench with “injuries” that no one really was sure about and their big midseason signings and acquisitions didn’t factor in until the last month. Nothing about them somehow finding a way to 60 points adds up on paper but it’s the end of the season and they locked up the top seed with a week to go. It’s crazy and was fun to watch.
New York City F.C.’s season
New York City F.C. owners City Football Group assured fans and supporters the club would not be the second coming of Chivas U.S.A. when they first joined the league. The owners claimed that the club wouldn’t be treated as a feeder club or B-team for Manchester City, they claimed that winning and the supporters would come first. They made big offseason acquisitions in David Villa and Frank Lampard but when the season started, Lampard was nowhere to be seen in a public relations debacle that threw up giant red flags. Reports started to surface that Jason Kreis wasn’t the one making the final decision on roster signings and their record at the end of the season showed it. They had one of most explosive and enjoyable attacks in the league but an abysmal defense that erased any work the offense did. Kreis is unjustly being rumored to get fired soon and the ownership group seems like they’re using Chivas U.S.A. as their business model. I hope they change that soon because there’s a good reason Chivas U.S.A. is no more.