A week or two ago, I was asked to cast my vote for the Kansas City Wizards season ending media awards. The winners were announced and recognized before last Saturday's season finale against San Jose Earthquakes. Now that the long offseason is upon us, I figured it would be worth taking the time to share who I voted for, along with a couple more "award" type recognitions on the squad.
For the record, the official team award winners can be found here. So, without any further ado...
Rookie of the Year: Teal Bunbury
Really, who else was it going to be? I'm quite a fan of little Korede Aiyegbusi, but he hardly played in 2010. Bunbury was the single spark that ignited the Wizards' late playoff push. It was his first career professional goal, the game-winner against Columbus Crew on that started a run of play that basically salvaged the season not only for the team, but the fans that stuck through the months of May and June, when the team scored a grand total of six goals combined.
Bunbury finished his first professional season with five goals (including two game-winners) and two assists. I can't help but wonder if those numbers, or the team's point total, would have been a little higher had he been named a starter earlier on.
Moment of the Year: Josh Wolff's 97th minute winner vs Houston
Honorable Mention: Kei Kamara scoring his goal in the 4-1 win over New England at home, in front of his mother, who was seeing him play in Kansas City for the first time.
Newcomer of the Year: Ryan Smith
On most teams, it tends to be somewhat pointless to give out a NotY award, because there are usually only a couple of new players brought in that make a considerable difference in a year, if that. But, after head coach Peter Vermes made such wholesale changes after the 2009 season, there were candidates a-plenty to choose from.
I had to go with Smith, if for nothing other than the sheer excitement he adds to any given game. I can think of no one in MLS as technically gifted when dribbling the ball, and very few as quick out of the starting blocks as the Englishman. But, he's also productive, flash and flair aside. He sees plays to be made that most others never imagine, and surprises even his teammates with some of his fancy passing abilities.
Smith finished the season with three goals and seven assists.
Defender of the Year: Michael Harrington
The winner of the team award for DotY went to goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, and with good reason, but my vote was with Harrington all year long. As a coach or a keeper, when you can go into a game not worried about being beaten down one entire side of the field, that takes a huge load of worry of your back. That is the luxury that Harrington allows Nielsen and Vermes. So few times in 2010 was Harrington beaten down his right side of the field that it seems as if you could count them on one hand.
I've said it all summer long: Harrington and leftback Roger Espinoza are the best fullback duo in MLS.
Most Valuable Player: Kei Kamara
Ten goals (including four game-winners) and six assists. Next closest on the team in goals was Davy Arnaud (six) and the leader in assists was only a single goal creating pass ahead (Smith - seven). Kei played in 29 of 30 league games and started 27 of them. Of the six combined goals scored by KC in the months of May and June, he had four of them. If not for Kei, then who?
Twelve players in the league (from ten different teams) scored double-digit goals this year. Obviously, that's less than one per league team. The luxury of having someone in that fairly select club had a lot to do with what success the Wizards did have in 2010. If you take away Kei's goals and assists, this team may struggle to score 20 goals in 30 games, because where else would they have come from?
And, that's the definition of "most valuable."