0630 Midseason Awards

As MLS Week 17 comes to a close, we’re at the halfway point of the 2022 season. And boy has it flown by.

This juncture, among other things, allows for a period of reflection. Which teams are legitimate trophy contenders? Which players are a clear cut above the rest? Which coaches are working wonders on the sidelines and training ground?

We’re answering most of those inquiries in MLSsoccer.com’s midseason awards; stay tuned for more team-by-team analysis in the coming weeks. And for the sake of transparency, a dozen folks offered their top fives on honors that’ll get officially recognized as the league’s 27th campaign concludes later this year. Individuals recognized are a byproduct of said votes, granting an early frontrunner and four runner-ups (listed in sequential order, five total).

There are plenty of questions still to be answered, and league dynamics could change drastically this summer and fall. But in the meantime, let’s get underway on what’s defined the 2022 season to date.

Landon Donovan MLS MVP

Also receiving votes:

  • 2nd: Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas, F)
  • 3rd: Luciano Acosta (FC Cincinnati, M)
  • 4th: Sebastian Driussi (Austin FC, M)
  • 5th: Hany Mukhtar (Nashville SC, M/F)

CF Montréal are atop the Eastern Conference standings with 17 games down and 17 to go, in no small part thanks to Mihailovic’s at-times dominant season. He’s on seven goals and four assists across 14 matches, figures that aren’t higher only because of an ankle injury that painstakingly ruled him out of the US men’s national team’s June window.

Even still, Mihailovic’s form with CF Montréal should keep him in contention for a call-up to the USMNT’s September camp, their final gathering period before rosters are determined for the Qatar 2022 World Cup in November. That’s how influential he’s been, reigniting reports of interest from across Europe about a transfer abroad.

In truth, Mihailovic’s been a fantastic signing by CF Montréal. The 23-year-old Chicago Fire FC homegrown product was acquired ahead of the 2021 season and has been hugely impactful ever since, operating on the ‘2’ line of Montréal’s 3-4-2-1 formation.

Young Player of the Year

Also receiving votes:

  • 2nd: Talles Magno (New York City FC, F)
  • 3rd: Mamadou Fall (LAFC, D)
  • 4th: Leonardo Campana (Inter Miami CF, F)
  • T-5th: Obed Vargas (Seattle Sounders FC, M)
  • T-5th: Thiago Almada (Atlanta United, M)

This one almost went to Magno, but it’s incredibly difficult to squabble with Ferreira’s case. He’s the early Golden Boot presented by Audi leader with 10 goals and four assists, is a genuine MVP candidate, has become a possible starting No. 9 option for the USMNT at the World Cup, and is playing with a level of swagger and confidence not seen since the homegrown forward first turned pro in 2016.

Should Ferreira win the award, he’d be the second straight FC Dallas player to do so since Ricardo Pepi took home 2021’s recognition. That breakout year helped springboard Pepi’s club-record outgoing transfer (reported $20 million) from FC Dallas to German Bundesliga side FC Augsburg, another moment on the forward’s hype train. Perhaps a similar outcome could await the 21-year-old in 2022?

Quick note: There’s a growing number of young talents across the league, which meant Chicago Fire FC goalkeeper Gaga Slonina, Orlando City SC winger Facundo Torres and more didn’t crack the top five. The margins are tight, and the pecking order could change quickly.

Newcomer of the Year

Also receiving votes:

  • T-2nd: Thiago Almada (Atlanta United, M)
  • T-2nd: Taxi Fountas (D.C. United, F)
  • 4th: Luquinhas (New York Red Bulls, M)
  • 5th: Sebastian Ferreira (Houston Dynamo FC, F)

Simply, it’s hard to imagine Inter Miami’s new-look lineup without Campana – that’s how impactful the Ecuadorian international striker has been. He’s got seven goals and two assists across 16 matches, earning World Cup consideration through his MLS form.

Now, it’s important to note that Campana’s been strong enough to push the club’s only rostered Designated Player, Gonzalo Higuain, to the bench. That’s an Argentine legend who’s played for the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Juventus – some of the biggest clubs in the world. It required a gutsy coaching decision from Phil Neville, and it’s paid off in spades.

The U22 Initiative forward is on loan from Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers through the end of the year, and the Herons hold a purchase option. Surely, Inter Miami are thinking of securing Campana’s services long-term.

An important note: Summertime moves could change the Newcomer of the Year landscape dramatically. That’s bound to happen when Hector Herrera (Houston Dynamo FC), Lorenzo Insigne (Toronto FC), Gareth Bale (LAFC) and more are en route to the league.

Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year

Also receiving votes:

  • 2nd: Dayne St. Clair (Minnesota United FC)
  • 3rd: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
  • 4th: Brad Stuver (Austin FC)
  • 5th: Steve Clark (Houston Dynamo FC)

Right off the jump: Only one point separated St. Clair and Johnson in the voting process. But a small advantage went Johnson’s way, and it comes as he pushes to make the USMNT’s World Cup roster, possibly featuring alongside MLS exports Zack Steffen and Matt Turner.

Here in MLS, Johnson has a league-leading eight clean sheets and is getting some much-deserved recognition after leading the Cityzens to an MLS Cup 2021 title. Capable of game-changing saves of the stunning variety, Johnson also captains NYCFC as they’re challenging for the Eastern Conference lead.

Johnson’s now in his 13th MLS campaign and sixth with NYCFC, having spent the prior seven with Chicago Fire FC. In perhaps underrated fashion, he’s been super dependable for well over a decade.

Defender of the Year

Also receiving votes:

  • T-2nd: Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
  • T-2nd: Mamadou Fall (LAFC)
  • 4th: Jack Elliott (Philadelphia Union)
  • 5th: Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls)

So close to a three-peat, Walker Zimmerman. Instead, top billing went to NYCFC's Alexander Callens via our voting process – a Peruvian international who, earlier this month, nearly booked a World Cup spot before falling to Australia in penalty kicks.

That doesn’t detract from Callens’ fantastic league form, though. The 30-year-old center back has played every minute for the league’s second-best defense (measured via goals against). He’s also scored a career-high three goals already, and it’s worth remembering he scored the game-winning penalty kick in MLS Cup 2021 vs. Portland Timbers.

Callens, now in his sixth NYCFC season after signing in 2017, is an absolute pillar for this Eastern Conference heavyweight. Whether it’s Thiago Martins or Maxime Chanot alongside him, Callens is the ever-steady force whom forwards hate to go against.

Comeback Player of the Year

Also receiving votes:

  • 2nd: Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders FC, M)
  • 3rd: Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC, F)
  • 4th: Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew, M)
  • 5th: Matt Hedges (FC Dallas, D)

Back with a vengeance, Long has picked up right where he left off after suffering a ruptured Achilles' tendon in May 2021. Out nearly a year, it’s easy to see why he earned the 2018 MLS Defender of the Year award.

The center back has considerably lifted the New York Red Bulls’ ceiling as they challenge for the Eastern Conference’s top spot and chase a 13th-straight Audi MLS Cup Playoffs spot. Athletically and tactically, he’s a dominant player who brings so much alongside Sean Nealis, John Tolkin and more in defense.

This all leaves Long poised to feature prominently for the USMNT at the World Cup, perhaps alongside Nashville’s Walker Zimmerman. In cruel fate, that’s partially because Atlanta United center back Miles Robinson suffered a ruptured Achilles' tendon of his own in early May.

Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year

Wilfried Nancy
CF Montréal

Also receiving votes

  • T-2nd: Pablo Mastroeni (Real Salt Lake)
  • T-2nd: Nico Estevez (FC Dallas)
  • 4th: Steve Cherundolo (LAFC)
  • 5th: Jim Curtin (Philadelphia Union)

Now in his second year as CF Montréal’s head coach, Wilfried Nancy has his squad atop the Eastern Conference standings at the season’s halfway point. For a club that narrowly missed the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs a year ago, that’s significant progress.

Now, Nancy doesn’t have the highest-profile squad at his disposal. But that hasn’t stopped him from steering the collective on an upward path, leaning on veterans like Victor Wanyama and Kei Kamara alongside younger international-level players like Djordje Mihailovic, Kamal Miller, Alistair Johnston and Ismael Kone.

A former academy coach for CF Montréal, Nancy was thrust into the lead first-team role after Thierry Henry’s sudden departure before the 2021 season. The 45-year-old Frenchman has taken full advantage of the opportunity.