Daily Kickoff - 10.6.23
What you need to know

Minnesota United part ways with head coach Adrian Heath

The club's first and only coach of their MLS era, Heath departs the Loons with just two games remaining in the regular season and Minnesota sitting three points shy of the ninth-and-final playoff spot in the West. Assistant Sean McAuley will take over as interim coach through the end of the year.

MLS announces nominees for 2023 Year-End Awards

Major League Soccer on Thursday announced the nominees for the 2023 Year-End Awards. MLS clubs determine nominees and can nominate a maximum of two players for certain awards. Take a look at all the nominees here.

USMNT roster for October friendlies announced

The US men's national team have called in 23 players for an October international window that includes marquee friendlies against four-time World Cup champion Germany (Oct. 14) and African powerhouse Ghana (Oct. 17) on home soil. There are two MLS players in Gregg Berhalter's squad: Atlanta United center back Miles Robinson and New England Revolution fullback DeJuan Jones.

Sign up for The Daily Kickoff in your inbox! The Daily Kickoff is more than an article – it can be delivered to your email account as well.

Narrowing down the MLS Award nominees

We officially have our nominees for end-of-season awards. There are… a lot. Every team gets to nominate folks. Which is how we end up with a player who has just one goal and two assists being nominated for Landon Donovan MLS MVP. I don’t think we should be too worried about Lionel Messi winning the award, though. 

Still, we need to narrow this thing down a bit. Without declaring a winner outright, let’s shorten up the shortlist for end-of-year awards as best we can. I’m sure everyone will agree with our final decisions. Or at least be proud of us for trying our best.

Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year
  • Bradley Carnell - St. Louis CITY SC
  • Pat Noonan - FC Cincinnati
  • Oscar Pareja - Orlando City SC

A trend I noticed putting these together is that it usually didn’t get hard until the third person. There are generally two surefire candidates for each award and then you have to think a bit. As of now, I think it makes sense to include Oscar Pareja in the shortlist. He won’t win over Noonan and Carnell for obvious reasons, but Pareja came into the season with a weird amount of criticism thrown his way. His seat even felt kind of warm if you talked to the… uh… most eager Orlando City fans. It’s almost like the years of Jason Kreis and James O’Connor kept the seat permanently warm.

He's responded to that by helping guide the team to what will likely be the second or third-best record in the league. That’s despite a brief stint in CCL. Along the way, he’s had to make some tough decisions. In particular, he opted to go with SuperDraft pick Duncan McGuire at striker over (now former) DP Ercan Kara and generally started Iván Angulo on the left wing over DP Martín Ojeda. If you, like us here at The Daily Kickoff, believe a manager is generally only as good as his players, then you probably have to concede those are two relatively bold personnel decisions that appear to have impacted Orlando’s season for the better.

I could have also opted for a manager like Wilfried Nancy, who’s clearly very, very good at this. But it felt like a good time to give Pareja his flowers.

MLS Comeback Player of the Year
  • Alan Pulido - Sporting Kansas City
  • Miles Robinson - Atlanta United
  • Bobby Wood - New England Revolution

There’s genuinely stiff competition for the Comeback Player of the Year award this year. Alan Pulido returned from an ACL tear that caused him to miss all of 2022 and has put up 13 goals and three assists in 24 starts this season. Miles Robinson came back from an Achilles tear that caused him to miss most of 2022 and all of the World Cup and has largely looked effective for an Atlanta side that… let’s just say they haven’t made life easy on their center backs at times. And Bobby Wood returned from an abductor injury that forced him to miss most of 2022 and has quietly put up seven goals and five assists for New England.

MLS Young Player of the Year
  • Thiago Almada - Atlanta United
  • Duncan McGuire - Orlando City SC
  • Noel Buck - New England Revolution
  • Aidan Morris - Columbus Crew

There’s a clear front-runner here, but that didn’t make it any easier to narrow this down to three. Duncan McGuire is certainly the SuperDraft Pick of the Year after a season that’s seen him put up 10 goals and three assists. McGuire spent last year battling his way through the Big East. He spent this year averaging 0.70 goals per 90 in MLS. That’s the third-best mark in the league among players with more than 1,200 minutes. The only two better are Giorgos Giakoumakis and João Klauss.

Noel Buck burst onto the scene early and played well enough to get two calls from the England U-19 squad. The 18-year-old has been a centerpiece in midfield for a Revs team set to finish with one of the league’s better records. And Aidan Morris has been the same for the Crew. Per FBref, Morris is in the 94th percentile among midfielders in passes attempted and the 98th percentile for pass completion percentage while still finding time to be in the 98th percentile in tackles plus interceptions.

MLS Newcomer of the Year
  • Giorgos Giakoumakis - Atlanta United
  • Eduard Löwen - St. Louis CITY SC
  • Evander - Portland Timbers

This is a tough one to predict. Are voters naturally going to go with Giakoumakis? He’s tied for the league lead in non-penalty goals and leads the league in goals per 90. Of course, choosing Giakoumakis almost feels like we’re ignoring the outstanding year Löwen has had. Roman Bürki is the most significant contributor to St. Louis’ success this year, but Löwen is 1(b) on that list. He’s been unreal in midfield and has put together an all-around season that’s seen him significantly contribute as a goal scorer, chance creator and (to a lesser extent, but still) defensive presence.

Meanwhile, Evander is starting to quietly live up to his price tag a little more each week. He won’t get more votes than GG or Löwen, but he’s been the driving factor behind Portland’s surge to the playoffs out West. He has nine goals and four assists on the season and has scored four times in his last six games. No one has benefited more from Miles Joseph taking the restrictor plates of this team.

MLS Defender of the Year
  • Matt Miazga - FC Cincinnati
  • Robin Jansson - Orlando City SC

I tried, but I genuinely couldn’t pick a third. There are usually two clear standouts this season in the discussions I’ve seen about this award. Miazga has been a cornerstone for the Supporters’ Shield winners, while Jansson has outstanding numbers and looks great in the eye test for Orlando.

Normally I would have taken this opportunity to proselytize for a fullback to get their due in this award, but no one stands out like Kai Wagner did last year. Sorry, fullbacks. It’s going to happen one day, though. I’m fully prepared to fight the good fight when handed a sword.

Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year
  • Roman Bürki - St. Louis CITY SC
  • Daniel - San Jose Earthquakes
  • Andre Blake - Philadelphia Union

We can go purely off numbers here and feel very, very good about our choices. By looking at post-shot xG (a measure of how often a shot is likely to go in based on where it’s placed on goal) minus goals allowed, we can get a great sense of how effective a 'keeper has been as a shot-stopper. Bürki is putting up one of the best-recorded seasons in the past decade, Daniel has been outstanding and technically even better than Bürki on a per-96 basis, and Blake has slowly but surely climbed his way back into the top three in this stat after a slow (by his standards) start to the year.

Landon Donovan MLS MVP
  • Luciano Acosta - FC Cincinnati
  • Thiago Almada - Atlanta United
  • Dénis Bouanga - LAFC

I could talk about this now OR make y’all wait for the final MVP Power Rankings next week.

I’ll probably just make you wait. You won’t believe who’s number one though.

Other things

Toronto FC midfielder Servania out with knee injury: Toronto FC midfielder Brandon Servania is out long-term after suffering a torn left ACL. The 24-year-old joined TFC in an offseason trade with FC Dallas, tallying one goal and one assist in 28 games (21 starts). Servania was a homegrown player for FCD, where he played from 2018-22.

Messi, Farías & Almada called up for Argentina World Cup qualifiers: Lionel Messi has been called up by Argentina for the October international window despite his injury problems with Inter Miami CF, highlighting a 34-man roster that also includes Herons' teammate Facundo Farías and Atlanta United star Thiago Almada.

The Reading Rainbow
Full Time

Good luck out there. Here is a dog who is good at soccer.