MLS announces finalists for rookie, goalkeeper and referee of the year

Major League Soccer today announced the 2004 finalists for the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the MLS Gatorade Rookie of the Year and the Official Sports Referee of the Year.

The Columbus Crew leads all teams thus far in award finalists with the addition of two more candidates to the list of year-end honors. Crew goalkeeper Jon Busch is joined by MLS Honda MVP finalist Joe Cannon (Colorado Rapids) and Kevin Hartman (Los Angeles Galaxy) as finalists for the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award. The Gatorade Rookie of the Year ballot features Freddy Adu (D.C. United), Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution), and Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew). The Official Sports Referee of the Year finalists are Abiodun Okulaja, Kevin Stott, and Kevin Terry.

Finalists for the MLS Coach of the Year, MLS Fair Play Award and U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year will be made public on Monday, Nov. 8. The 2004 MLS Honda Most Valuable Player will be announced live on ESPNews from the ESPNZone in Anaheim, California on Thursday, November 11 at 1 p.m. PT / 4 p.m. ET. The three finalists in the running to claim the Golden Ball will be in attendance at the event: Joe Cannon (Colorado Rapids), Amado Guevara (MetroStars), and Jaime Moreno (D.C. United).

The winners of every other year-end honor will be unveiled at the MLS Cup Media Luncheon on Friday, Nov. 12, while the 2004 MLS Best XI will be announced at the MLS Awards Gala on Saturday, Nov. 13. Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Robin Fraser (Columbus Crew), and Eddie Pope (MetroStars) were previously announced as nominees for the MLS Defender of the Year award while Brian Ching (San Jose Earthquakes), Jaime Moreno (D.C. United), and Ronnie O'Brien (Dallas Burn) are up for the MLS Comeback Player of the Year honor. All finalists for every League award will be on hand for the awards presentations in Southern California from Thursday through Saturday.

Online voting for the Sierra Mist Goal of the Year is underway on www.MLSnet.com. From the original list of 41 goals, the list of top ten vote-getters will be further narrowed down to five finalists on Wednesday, November 3. Final voting will end on Monday, Nov. 8 and the winner will be announced with all others on Friday, Nov. 12.

Following are the finalists for the 2004 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the MLS Gatorade Rookie of the Year and the OSI Referee of the Year:

2004 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Finalists:
Jon Busch (Columbus Crew) - Busch commands his penalty area like few do in MLS, exhibiting the reflexes and alertness which have made him one of the toughest goalkeepers to beat. During the 2004 season, Busch tied for the League lead with 10 shutouts and led the League with 12 wins. The 28-year old was the final line of defense for a team that set a new MLS record by finishing the season with an 18-game undefeated streak, guarding the nets for 48 of the team's 49 total points on the season. Voted the September MLS Player of the Month, Busch also earned his first MLS All-Star appearance in July.

Joe Cannon (Colorado Rapids) - Already a finalist for the MLS Honda MVP award, Cannon picked up right where he left off following the 2002 season when he was selected the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year while with the San Jose Earthquakes. Cannon was acquired by the Rapids from San Jose after a short spell with Lens of the French First Division in 2003, but did not make his first start in a regular season game until April of 2004. The 29-year old was one of only four players in MLS to play every minute of every game (2,700) during the 2004 campaign, leading the League in saves (150) and save percentage (80 percent) while facing the most shots in the League (431). Cannon tied for the League lead in shutouts with 10, while twice compiling streaks of more than 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal. Selected as the team's Most Valuable Player, Cannon surrendered only 32 goals on the season, including five penalty kicks and one own goal. In 15 home games, the Rapids allowed just eight goals, a new all-time low in League history.

Kevin Hartman (Los Angeles Galaxy) - Hartman was selected to his third All-Star Game in July after leading all goalkeepers with nine victories at the midway point of the season. A stalwart for the Galaxy in his eight seasons with the club since joining the team in 1997, "El Gato" Hartman continues to uphold his reputation with clutch saves, consistency and sharp decision-making. The 1999 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year started every game for the second consecutive year, finishing second in wins (11) and while posting seven shutouts.

2004 MLS Gatorade Rookie of the Year Finalists:
Freddy Adu (D.C. United) - The 15-year-old Adu became the youngest professional athlete in the history of modern American team sports when he took the field for his MLS debut on April 3, 2004 at the age of 14. The first overall selection in the 2004 SuperDraft, Adu was one of only 11 players in MLS to play in all 30 regular season games, scoring five goals and adding three assists for 13 points. In July, Adu became the youngest player to appear in an MLS All-Star Game. His goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 19 was selected as the Sierra Mist Goal of the Week (Week 8) and remains in the running for the Goal of the Year.

Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution) - The No. 8 selection in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft, Dempsey led all rookies in scoring with seven goals and one assist for 15 points while playing in 24 games for the Revolution. The Furman University product showed impressive versatility, serving as needed both in midfield and at center forward. A tough, hardnosed battler with a complete skill set, the stoic Dempsey played like a veteran, leaving his mark with a never-say-die attitude and his penchant for diving headers in the box.

Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew) - Marshall led all rookies in starts (27) and minutes played (2446) during the 2004 season, combining with MLS Defender of the Year candidate Robin Fraser and Goalkeeper of the Year nominee Jon Busch to earn 10 clean sheets and establish the new MLS regular season undefeated streak of 18 games. The second overall pick in January's SuperDraft, the 20-year old Marshall started the second game of the season and went on to play every minute of every game for 26 consecutive games. Marshall had a penchant for being in the right place at the right time, blocking five shots on goal and playing a clean defensive game by only receiving one caution during his 28-game rookie season.

2004 Official Sports Referee of the Year Finalists:

MLS coaches, players, the media recognized Abiodun Okulaja (2nd season - Broadview, IL), Kevin Stott (9th season - Rancho Cucamonga, CA) and Kevin Terry (9th season - Carrolton, TX) as finalists for the OSI Referee of the Year award. Okulaja and Terry were the man of the middle for 13 matches while Stott officiated 11 games as a referee. Terry is the only one of the group to previously win the award when he was honored in 2002.


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