How was your 2016? If you're lucky, maybe it stands up against this season's crop of MLS award winners.
In case you entered an early holiday food coma, somehow missed award season entirely while bingeing on the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs or just plain forgot who won, here's a rundown of this year's top performers – from AT&T Goal of the Year to the Landon Donovan Most Valuable Player.
AT&T Goal of the Year:Shkelzen Gashi (Colorado Rapids)
My vote was for Quincy Amarikwa's run-and-chip golazo, but the majority of the voters didn't agree and I can't really argue with them. Gashi proved he was a free-kick artist in his first MLS season, and this strike against the Vancouver Whitecaps encapsulates the magic that resides in the Albanian's cultured left foot.
Newcomer of the Year:Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders)
Sometimes a player comes along and changes the entire complexion of the league in an instant. The Uruguay international was such a player, and received his just reward en route to an MLS Cup title that gave the once dead-in-the-water Sounders their first MLS Cup triumph.
Lodeiro scored four goals and dished out eight assists over 13 regular season games after arriving in July, then added four more goals in the playoffs to make history for Seattle and their fans. The result? A deserved Newcomer of the Year nod.
Comeback Player of the Year:Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union)
Injuries kept Pontius from consistently playing to his potential at D.C. United, but the 29-year-old left those struggles back in the nation's capital in 2016, thriving with the new-look Union. His 12 goals matched a career high and the six assists he added for Philadelphia's first playoff team in five years were also a high-water mark.
Defender of the Year:Matt Hedges (FC Dallas)
Might this be the recognition that finally launches Hedges' international career? The FC Dallas man has quietly thrived since arriving in Texas via the SuperDraft in 2012, anchored a backline that helped lead the club to their first-ever Supporters' Shield. His reward, other than being voted Defender of the Year, was a new four-year deal with the club and some kind words from new US national team head coach Bruce Arena.
Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
If you want spectacular between the posts, look no further than the Union and Jamaica No. 1. The 26-year-old came into his own in 2016 after bidding his time in Philadelphia, and rewarded the faith of Jim Curtin and Earnie Stewart with the sort of individual plaudits that launched the careers of other MLS netminders like Tim Howard and Brad Guzan to even greater heights. Will Blake be the next to take the world by storm? Don't bet against it.
Rookie of the Year:Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
Morris arrived in Seattle with plenty of hype and didn't disappoint. All he did was score 12 goals, most ever by an American rookie and second-most all-time by a rookie, and pick up an MLS Cup winner's medal that made him an instant legend in his hometown. The 22-year-old was a slam dunk for ROY honors. The best part? There's plenty more to come from JMoSmooth.
Coach of the Year:Oscar Pareja (FC Dallas)
The mantra in Dallas says it all: In Papi We Trust. FC Dallas have good reason to lay their hopes at Pareja's feet, as the club has been transformed by their manager's willingness to trust and play young talent from the academy and find stars in South America to lead the way. In 2016, they won the Open Cup and the Supporters' Shield before Mauro Diaz's injury curtailed their MLS Cup dreams. What will 2017 bring? Even more trophies if the past is any indication of the future.
Golden Boot:Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
Raise your hand if you thought BWP might flop when he arrived in MLS in 2013? Most of us should be reaching for the sky. Though Wright-Phillips came as an unknown, the Red Bulls striker has turned himself into a household name in the league where he's scored 69 goals in 107 regular season games and tallied the most ever (68) in a three-year period from 2014 through 2016. All he did this year was bang in 24 goals and win the Golden Boot. No biggie.
Landon Donovan Most Valuable Player:David Villa (New York City FC)
I'd wax poetic about El Guaje and his magnificent season leading NYCFC to their first-ever playoff berth, but it's probably better for the man himself to do the talking. His play said plenty as well in 2016...