Rookies, refs, 'keepers up for awards
Joe Cannon of the Colorado Rapids, Jon Busch of the Columbus Crew and Kevin Hartman of the Los Angeles Galaxy -- have all won points for their team with their tremendous saves.
Cannon, who is also a finalist for MLS MVP, made a remarkable 150 saves on the season and notched 10 shutouts. Despite the fact that the Rapids scored a record-low 29 goals on the season, they finished in third place in the Western Conference, largely due to the work of Cannon, who finished the year with a 1.07 goals against average.
Busch turned in a similarly impressive 2004 season, equaling Cannon's total of 10 shutouts while tallying 132 saves and posting a 1.07 goals against average. In conjunction with a talented back line, Busch held opponents to just 32 goals on the year, a total that tied the Crew with the Rapids for second-best in the league.
Hartman, a veteran of three MLS Cup Finals, was yet again a rock at the back for the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2004. The 'keeper this season took over as the league's all-time win leader while helping his team through a season where the defensive lineup was rarely the same from game to game. While the players in front of him were dealing with injury and suspension troubles, Hartman was his usual steady self, making 117 saves on the season and notching seven shutouts.
Of the nominees for Official Sports Referee of the Year, two have been named finalists before. The new member of the group is Abbey Okulaja, who participated in more matches than any other MLS official this year, presiding over 13 as referee and performing duties as fourth official in seven games. Kevin Stott earns his third consecutive nomination for the Referee of the Year award this season. Earlier this year, Stott oversaw his 100th MLS match as a referee. Kevin Terry, the 2002 Referee of the Year, was the man in the middle for 13 matches this year. Terry is one of two MLS officials to have refereed two MLS Cup Finals.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.