2016 MLS Award Winners
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
Runner-Up: Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union)
Keegan Rosenberry was phenomenal all season for the Philadelphia Union. He played every minute of the season, made his first All-Star team, and was arguably the best right back in MLS. How’s it possible that it was not enough to take home the Rookie of the Year award? Because Jordan Morris scores goals, and goal scorers are difficult to find. Morris stepped up for his team when they needed him the most and was a huge part of Seattle’s second half resurgence to finish 4th in the west. He ended the season with 12 goals and 4 assists in 34 games, the second most ever for a rookie only behind Cyle Larin’s stellar 2015 campaign. Expectations were extremely high for Morris coming into the season given his role with the US National Team. While some fans were disappointed with Morris and criticized him for most of 2016, those of us watching him week after week appreciated the talent he possesses. His speed, strength, and direct approach to the goal make him one of the most dangerous strikers in the league. As he continues to gain more experience and composure in front of net, he should develop into a perennial golden boot contender.
Newcomer of the Year
Winner: Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders)
Runner-Up: Jelle Van Damme (LA Galaxy)
When was the last time a midseason signing was able to change a team and make an immediate impact the way Nicolas Lodeiro did in 2016 for the Seattle Sounders? Since his arrival in July, he has played in 13 games contributing 4 goals and 8 assists while the Sounders have moved up to 4th in the western conference. Lodeiro has already proven in a short time that he is one of the best playmakers in the league. His ability to float into free space and find the ball is second to none in MLS. The Uruguayan midfielder simply makes the players around him better by bringing them into the game with service that few in MLS can match (just ask Jordan Morris). A strong case can be made for the LA Galaxy’s Jelle Van Damme as the Newcomer of the Year, but even a player like Van Damme cannot match the influence Lodeiro has on his team.
Goalkeeper of the Year
Winner: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
Runner-Up: Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)
Andre Blake barely edged out New York’s iron man in Luis Robles to take home our Goalkeeper of the Year award. While 6 shutouts and 99 saves in 32 games might not jump out as Goalkeeper of the Year statistics, anyone who watches MLS knows that Andre Blake stood on his head more than any other keeper in the league. Philadelphia’s back four was questionable to say the least. Rosenberry was great, Marquez was good but inconsistent, Tribbett nor Yaro ever really settled in, and Fabinho continued to be a question mark on the defensive side of the ball. The diving saves we saw from the Jamaican international week after week are obviously what stood out but how difficult must it have been to organize such an inexperienced backline? If it weren’t for Andre Blake’s impressive performances, Philadelphia would have been looking at their fifth straight year missing out on the playoffs.
Defender of the Year
Winner: Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids)
Runner-Up: Matt Hedges (FC Dallas)
Colorado was the best defensive team in MLS this season allowing just 32 goals in 34 games and recording 13 shutouts. With such a fantastic defensive record, it is only fitting that the club’s best defender over the course of the season takes home this award. At 6 ft. 8 inches Axel Sjoberg is not one of the quicker guys in MLS. He makes up for his lack of speed with his ability to read the game and put himself in positions to help his team cut out their opposition’s attack. His large frame allows for him to impact the game from a physical standpoint by blocking shots and winning aerial battles. Colorado ended up finishing with the second best record in MLS in what was one of the best year to year turnarounds we have ever seen in MLS. Outside of Pablo Mastroeni, Axel Sjoberg might be the biggest reason for the club’s drastic improvement in 2016.
Most Valuable Player
Winner: Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC)
Runner-Up: David Villa (NYCFC)
Sebastian Giovinco followed up his 2015 MVP campaign with another remarkable season. The Atomic Ant led his club to a 3rd place finish in the east and a second straight postseason appearance. Once again, he was the undisputed best player in MLS and the most exciting player in the league to watch. You never know what is going to happen when he gets the ball because he is a capable of anything. He finished the season with 17 goals and 15 assists in 28 games. Had he not picked up an injury late in the season, he might have finished with 20+ goals and 18+ assists, which would have been enough to win this award by a landslide.