Three Union representatives were named Monday as finalists for Major League Soccer’s end-of-season awards, which are voted on by players, coaches, front offices and media.
Midfielder Brenden Aaronson is a finalist for rookie of the year, and the 18-year-old Medford native stands a good chance of winning. His strong play as a creative attacking midfielder has won raves across the league all year. Although he ended up with only three goals and two assists, he passed the eye test with flying colors in 1,723 minutes played over 28 appearances.
Aaronson also raised his profile by becoming a regular with the U.S. under-23 men’s team, and this month earned his first senior squad call-up. National team work isn’t supposed to count for MLS’s awards, but it often doesn’t hurt.
The other finalists are Minnesota United midfielder Hassani Dotson (five goals in 30 games across all competitions) and Colorado Rapids forward Andre Shinyashiki (seven goals and three assists in 33 games). Of the two, Shinyashiki has the better numbers, but Dotson had the higher-profile season because Minnesota made the playoffs and Colorado did not.
The winner will be announced Tuesday.
Manager Jim Curtin is a finalist for coach of the year, a confirmation of the high esteem in which he’s held leaguewide -- especially among players and his fellow coaches. The Union compiled their best-ever record (16-11-7) and points total (55) in finishing third in the Eastern Conference this year, while fans at Talen Energy Stadium booed Curtin at many games.
But the Oreland native has had near-unanimous support in the Union’s locker room all season, from young players to seasoned veterans, and he has sporting director Ernst Tanner’s trust too. Tanner gave Curtin a new two-year contract in July.
Curtin isn’t likely to win the award, though. New York City FC’s Domènec Torrent is the favorite, having piloted a talented but starless team to first place in the East after starting the season with six ties and a loss. The other finalist is Bob Bradley, architect of the Los Angeles FC juggernaut that won this year’s Supporters’ Shield with the highest regular-season points total in MLS history (72).
The winner of the award, named in honor of the late Sigi Schmid, will be announced Oct. 23.
Also, Union striker Kacper Przybylko is up for comeback player of the year. The award is defined as honoring “an MLS player who has overcome injuries and/or adversity in order to achieve success during the 2019 regular season." Przybylko was nominated for scoring a team-leading 15 goals in 26 games this season, after not playing until April 20 due to foot injuries that hampered him for years. He didn’t play in a game at all in 2018 after joining the team in September, and missed the first seven games of this year, too.
Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris is the clear favorite to win. After missing the entire 2018 MLS season due to a torn ACL suffered in late February, the U.S. national team forward delivered 10 goals and seven assists this year, and changed his position from striker to winger. Also nominated is Los Angeles FC’s Mark-Anthony Kaye, who suffered a fractured left ankle in July of last year. He has played 32 games this season in a two-way role, recording four goals and eight assists, and averaging 1.6 chances created and 2.2 tackles per game.
The winner will be announced Oct. 22.
MLS Award Finalists
Names are listed in alphabetical order.
MLS rookie of the year: Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United), Andre Shinyashiki (Colorado Rapids); to be announced Oct. 14
The award goes to a player without previous professional experience who made his MLS debut in 2019.
Landon Donovan MVP: Zlatan Ibrahimović (Los Angeles Galaxy), Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles FC); to be announced in the days before the MLS Cup final
Defender of the year: Ike Opara (Minnesota United), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles FC); to be announced Oct. 15
Newcomer of the year: Carles Gil (New England Revolution), Héber (New York City FC), Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC) to be announced Oct. 15
The award goes to a player with previous professional experience who made his MLS debut in 2019.
Referee of the year: Allen Chapman, Jair Marrufo, Rubiel Vazquez; to be announced Oct. 15
Assistant referee of the year: Logan Brown, Brian Dunn, Brian Poeschel; to be announced Oct. 15
Comeback player of the year: Mark-Anthony Kaye (Los Angeles FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Kacper Przybyłko (Philadelphia Union); to be announced Oct. 22
Sigi Schmid coach of the year: Bob Bradley (Los Angeles FC), Jim Curtin (Philadelphia Union), Domènec Torrent (New York City FC); to be announced Oct. 23
Goalkeeper of the year: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Vito Mannone (Minnesota United); to be announced Oct. 24
Humanitarian of the year: Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Matt Lampson (Los Angeles Galaxy), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls); announcement date TBD