With MLS Cup playoffs in full swing, it also means that we're in the midst of award season as the build-up to who will win the Landon Donovan MVP award begins. MLS awards are voted on by a combination of media members, players and club executives with the three votes coming together to determine a winner. First up in announcements has been the Newcomer of the Year which sees Atlanta United forward Giorgos Giakoumakis win after joining the Five Stripes from Celtic during the summer. Giakoumakis becomes the second consecutive winner from Atlanta following in the footsteps of Thiago Almada, who won the award last year. Almada has also won an award for the second consecutive season capturing the Young Player of the Year award. In only their first season in the league, St. Louis City SC keeper Roman Burki has now captured the Goalkeeper of the Year award. Matt Miazga has been named Defender of the Year as the first honor for the Supporters' Shield winners FC Cincinnati but there could be more coming their way as the awards continue and with them still being in the running for MLS Cup.
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Here's what to know:
Defender of the Year
Matt Miazga, FC Cincinnati: Following a season where he led Cincinnati to a Supporter's Shield title, Miazga's comeback is now complete. After leaving New York Red Bulls, Miazga spent various seasons on loan from Chelsea before coming back to MLS and finding a home with Cincinnati. The team allowed only 1.03 goals per game when Miazga played which is an extremely impressive rate in what was a competitive Eastern Conference. While he'll be suspended for their next game against the Philadelphia Union, this is an award that only takes into account regular season accomplishments, and during the season, Miazga shined.
Goalkeeper of the Year
Roman Burki (St. Louis City SC): Becoming the first keeper to win the award in their inaugural season since Zach Thorton of the Chicago Fire did it in 1998, but it makes sense why as Burki became a revolutionary signing for the side. When St. Louis City SC were created, one of their first signings was Burki. The Swiss keeper joined the team before they even played a minute of MLS action, getting minutes in MLS Next Pro and helping build a foundation of a team that would eventually win the Western Conference in only their first season in the league. Burki clearly showed how a top keeper can impact a game with highlight reel saves and then excellent distribution to turn defense into attack. Burki was also one of three keepers to record over 100 saves this season and also had a 74.55% save percentage while doing it.
Newcomer of the Year
Giorgos Giakoumakis (Atlanta United): Pipping Lionel Messi for the award, Giakoumakis' on field production of scoring 17 goals was enough to outpace Messi's impact. The Argentine only appeared in six league matches due to injuries but was the more popular pick by the player vote at 35% to 34%. The other person in the running was Eduard Lowen who helped power St. Louis City SC to the top of the Western Conference. Giakoumakis became the second fastest player in league history to reach 10 goals accomplishing the feat in only 766 minutes behind only Mamadou Diallo who needed 750 to score 10 goals.
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Young Player of the Year
Thiago Almada (Atlanta United): One of the least surprising awards handed out may be this one considering that Almada was also nominated for MVP but he's keeping things in the Atlanta United family with 12 goals and 16 assists to push the Five Stripes into a playoff spot. Earning call-ups for Argentina, it's easy to forget that the attacking midfielder is only 22 as his star is rising by the day. From game winning free kicks to assists to feed newcomer of the year Giakoumakis it has been such an impressive season. The first ever MLS player to win the World Cup, it'll be interesting to see how Almada is able to top this one.
Here are the other award finalists to be announced:
Landon Donovan MVP
- Luciano Acosta (FC Cincinatti)
- Thiago Almada (Atlanta United)
- Denis Bouanga (Los Angeles FC)
Comeback Player of the Year
- Miles Robinson (Atlanta United)
- Joao Paulo (Seattle Sounders)
- Alan Pulido (Sporting Kansas City)
Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year
- Pat Noonan (FC Cincinnati)
- Wilfried Nancy (Columbus Crew)
- Bradley Carnell (St. Louis City SC)