NEW YORK - Major League Soccer today announced the 2004 finalists for the MLS Honda Most Valuable Player, the MLS Defender of the Year and the MLS Comeback Player of the Year. Today's announcement marks the first of a series of three Monday announcements leading up to MLS Cup 2004 which will reveal all the finalists for the remainder of the League's annual year-end awards.
Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Joe Cannon becomes the second consecutive Rapids players to be among the three finalists for the prestigious Honda MVP Award (John Spencer - 2003). Cannon will be joined on the MVP ballot by MetroStars midfielder and 2004 co-Budweiser Scoring Champion Amado Guevara and D.C. United's Jaime Moreno, who is back to All-Star form after returning to D.C. United and registering his highest point total since 2000.
Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Robin Fraser (Columbus Crew), and Eddie Pope (MetroStars) are 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 Years honor.
Finalists for the seven other year-end awards will be made public on each of the next two Mondays - Nov. 1 and Nov. 8. The 2004 MLS Honda MVP will be announced live on ESPNews on Thursday, November 11 at 4:00 p.m. ET from the ESPNZone in Anaheim, California as a kick-off to the 2004 MLS Cup Weekend, culminating in the League's Championship game to be played on Sunday, November 14 at The Home Depot Center (3:30 p.m. ET - live on ABC Sports). The winners of every other honor will be unveiled in the week leading up to MLS Cup 2004.
Online voting for the Sierra Mist Goal of the Year is underway on www.MLSnet.com. Fans have the opportunity to vote for the most spectacular goal of the year from a total of 42 nominees, which include all 29 weekly winners of the Sierra Mist Goal of Week in addition to a small group of other nominees. The top ten goals after the first week of voting will enter a second round of voting from which the top three finalists for the 2004 Sierra Mist Goal of the Year will emerge.
Following are the finalists for the 2004 MLS Honda Most Valuable Player, the MLS Defender of the Year and the MLS Comeback Player of the Year:
2004 MLS Honda Most Valuable Player Finalists:
Joe Cannon (Colorado Rapids) - Although he had not started a regular season game in Major League Soccer since the 2002 season while with the San Jose Earthquakes, Cannon this year proved that he was still the same goalkeeper that earned the 2002 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors. He was one of only four players in MLS to play every minute of every game during the 2004 campaign, leading the League in saves (150) and save percentage (80 percent) while facing the most shots in the League (431). The 29-year old tied for the League lead in shutouts with 10, twice compiling streaks of more than 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal. Cannon gave up only 32 goals, including five penalty kicks and one own goal.
Amado Guevara (MetroStars) - Guevara, the co-Budweiser Scoring Champion, was the only player in the League to register double figures in both goals (10) and assists (10). The second year player registered several key performances during the season including scoring three game-winning goals and two game-winning assists. The 2004 Sierra Mist All-Star MVP, who scored twice during the midsummer showcase, was a perfect 6 for 6 from the penalty spot. At one point in the season, Guevara recorded a point in nine consecutive games (seven goals, six assists), the highest such streak since the 1998 season when three players had streaks of 11.
Jaime Moreno (D.C. United) - Moreno, who re-signed with United the day before the 2004 season kicked off, had his best year since 2000 with seven goals and 14 assists for 28 points. The League leader in assists, who returned to his vintage form after an injury-plagued year with the MetroStars, had back-to-back three-assist games for United in the month of September, having a hand in six consecutive D.C. United goals. His consistent and unselfish play has put opponents on their heels all season, and has been one of the main reasons for United's success in 2004.
2004 MLS Defender of the Year finalists:
Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards) - The anchor of a Wizards backline that allowed a League-low 30 goals during the season, Conrad dominated the central defense and allowed his team to win the most games (14) since the 2000 MLS Cup winning side. Conrad was the mainstay of the defense that led the League with 12 shutouts, doing so with two different goalkeepers after Bo Oshoniyi replaced starter Tony Meola with nine games remaining in the season.
Robin Fraser (Columbus Crew) - The nine-year veteran enjoyed one his best seasons in MLS after an off-season trade from the Colorado Rapids to the Columbus Crew. Aided by 10 shutouts, the Crew set an MLS record by finishing out the regular season with a record 18-game unbeaten streak. Fraser led a young Crew defense, which included a 19-year old rookie, and the team allowed the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference (32) on its way to its first Supporters' Shield in club history.
Eddie Pope (MetroStars) - Pope continued to show in 2004 why he is often time referred to as the best American defender in America. Although the Metros captain split time with both the MetroStars and U.S. National Team, Pope was a steadying force for the MetroStars, leading the club to its second consecutive MLS Cup Playoff appearance.
2004 MLS Comeback Player of the Year finalists:
Brian Ching (San Jose Earthquakes) - Brian Ching completed an incredible comeback from a devastating ruptured right Achilles tendon that prematurely ended his 2003 season. Ching suffered the injury on Aug. 16, 2003 and missed the final 15 games of the year and playoffs after surgery. Ching recovered from his injury with abandon, exploding as a true force at forward for the Quakes and the U.S. National Team. The 26-year old tied for the League in goals with 12 - all scored in the run of play. The Hawaiian native has recovered from the intensive surgery to make an immediate impact on the U.S. National Team as well, scoring two goals in his first two World Cup Qualifying appearances.
Jaime Moreno (D.C. United) - Prior to the season, Moreno risked his career to have surgery to correct a pair of herniated discs in his back after managing to score only two goals during the 2003 campaign while with the MetroStars. The 30-year worked tirelessly in the off-season to rehabilitate and earned a spot on D.C. United's final roster on the day before the start of the regular season, and muscled his way back into the starting lineup. He has become a vital part of the current United attack, tallying seven goals and 13 assists, to help United return to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the second straight year.
Ronnie O'Brien (Dallas Burn) - The 25-year-old O'Brien saw his second MLS season in 2003 end prematurely after just three games when he suffered a broken tibia against D.C. United. The Republic of Ireland native came back stronger than ever in 2004 and emerged as a team leader. Among the league leaders in assists (10) and arguably the most dangerous right flank player in the League, O'Brien has been was selected to start his first MLS All-Star game in July of this year. O'Brien was selected as the MLS Player of the Week after contributing to three Dallas goals on August 28.
2004 MLS FINALISTS ANNOUNCEMENT SCHEDULE
Sat., Oct. 16: Winner 2004 Supporters' Shield - Columbus Crew
Sun., Oct. 17: Winner 2004 Budweiser Scoring Champion - Amado Guevara (MetroStars) and Pat Noonan (New England Revolution)
Mon., Oct. 25:
MLS Honda MVP Finalists - Joe Cannon (Colorado Rapids), Amado Guevara (MetroStars), Jaime Moreno (D.C. United)
MLS Defender of the Year Finalists - Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Robin Fraser (Columbus Crew), Eddie Pope (MetroStars)
MLS Comeback Player of the Year Finalists - Brian Ching (San Jose Earthquakes), Jaime Moreno (D.C. United), Ronnie O'Brien (Dallas Burn).
Mon, Nov. 1: Gatorade Rookie of the Year, MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, OSI Referee of the Year Finalists
Mon, Nov. 8: MLS Coach of the Year, MLS Fair Play Award, Sierra Mist Goal of the Year, U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year Finalists
Thurs, Nov. 11: MLS Honda Most Valuable Player winner (ESPNZone, Anaheim - 4:00 p.m. ET)