Welcome to the Wednesday Q&A series, where we focus on one particular topic – today's being a look at my own midseason MLS award winners – and ask you to react, share, and discuss in the comments section. However, feel free to ask about anything game-related (MLS, USL, NASL, USMNT, CanMNT, etc.) over the next several hours.
The 171st game of the MLS regular season was played this past Monday, and that means we're officially past the halfway mark for 2016. So now is as good a time as any to take stock for mid-year awards and Best XI front-runners.
Bear in mind that the below are all my picks, so invest them with as much or as little weight as your heart desires.
Let's dive in:
I generally prioritize "How good's your team?" in MVP voting, with a healthy slice of "How bad would your team be without you?" factored in. The answer to both of those makes a strong case for Villa -- he's led his team to first place in the Eastern Conference, and he's proved to be irreplaceable.
This vote isn't even all that close from where I sit, but if Diaz stays healthy for the rest of the year and leads Dallas to a Supporters' Shield, he'll deserve serious consideration. When he's on the field FCD are pretty clearly the best team in MLS.
Young Player of the Year
"Young Player of the Year" is my own award, and I like it better than "Rookie of the Year." Players who are eligible: Anyone who spends the entire 2016 season at age 21 or under.
If you want to read the whole Politburo's take on the Rookie of the Year race, have at it.
The biggest question for any striker is repeatability, as in "can you get into position to score the type of goals that you can reliably put away?" Giovinco, for example, bombed away from outside the box all last year, with great results. But even for him that's not repeatable -- and as such he's produced just one goal from outside the 18 thus far, and instead of other-worldly has been merely great."
Larin, who just turned 21, has mastered the art of repeatability with or without the help of Kaká, who's been in and out of the lineup. The Canadian international has also improved immensely as a playmaker over the last 12 months, and has become the true focal point of Orlando City's attack.
Manneh can say the same in Vancouver. Glad edges Acosta for third place simply because RSL have death-spiraled without him, while Dallas have the depth to go without Acosta for a little bit. And Harrison, meanwhile, has been a force of nature since getting healthy and has every chance to climb this list.
Defensive Player of the Year
Consider this my protest against the arbitrary dismissal of defensive midfielders in "Defender of the Year" voting. Cronin has been the most consistent, important and irreplaceable player on the league's best team, and on what is in line to be the best defensive team in league history. Sure, he's got more attacking responsibilities than a pure d-mid, but Cronin is still, first and foremost, about organizing and solidifying the Colorado lines. He has been the most decisive "defensive presence" in the league this season.
Moor's been the one constant for the ever-injured TFC back line, and I touched on Glad's contributions above. Rosenberry, meanwhile, has been a revelation at right back -- his ability to defend in space allows the Union wingers to be much more aggressive than last year. And while Van Damme hasn't been mistake-free, he's nonetheless been as good as advertised for one of the league's best overall defenses.
Goalkeeper of the Year
Bingham has made, by my count, exactly one error all year. It came in last weekend's loss to Chicago, and it was obviously painful -- but without him, San Jose's season is already over. He's a very good shot-stopper, is super-aggressive in commanding his box, and is probably second only to Rimando when it comes to distribution.
D.C.'s Voltron approach (Bill Hamid & Travis Worra) has worked wonders for a team that still concedes and ton of shots, and while Blake hasn't quite been the same since returning from Copa America, his work during springtime speaks for itself.
Irwin earned the final spot for his no-frills, mistake-free play.
Please appreciate Rimando while he's still around, by the way. He's incredible:
The toughest call here was left back, where Matarrita's shortcomings on the defensive side remain unmissable even when his team's playing well:
That said, he's brought much more to the table than he's taken off of it, and Patrick Vieira asks more of him than any other left back in the league, save perhaps for Chris Tierney in New England. Plus -- and this matters to me, even if it might not to you -- Matarrita is fun. The kid makes the game more interesting to watch in the same way DeAndre Yedlin used to for the Sounders.
The rest of the lineup mostly fills itself out, though I am cheating a bit by putting Cronin at d-mid and two pure #10s in at central midfield, as well as by pushing Giovinco out to the wing. I'll plead guilty to all of the above, but I'll also happily bring this team to do battle just about anywhere.
Ok, I'm ready for all of you to rip me apart in the comments section for the next couple of hours.