Major League Soccer announced that Seattle Sounders FC forward Fredy Montero won the MLS Newcomer of the Year award, and Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton won the MLS Comeback Player of the Year award for the 2009 season.
Montero, 22, from Barranquilla, Colombia burst onto the MLS scene in 2009, leading the expansion Sounders FC in scoring with 12 goals while recording seven assists to tie for the second highest total on the team with Nate Jaqua.
Montero got off to a blazing start with Sounders FC, tallying two goals and an assist in the club's season-opening win against the New York Red Bulls before a sellout crowd at Qwest Field and live national audience on March 19. He was named MLS Player of the Week for Week 1 and MLS Player of the Month for March after scoring four goals and tallying one assist in the opening month.
Montero joined Sounders FC after four seasons with Deportivo Cali in Colombia. He spent the 2006-07 season on loan to Colombian squad Atletico Huila. The 2009 MLS All-Star was a key contributor to a Sounders FC team that found success on and off the field in its inaugural season.
Montero's 12 goals included four game game-winning tallies - against the Red Bulls (March 19), the San Jose Earthquakes (June 13), the Colorado Rapids (June 28) and D.C. United (Sept. 12). Montero led the voting ahead of teammates Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg, the other finalists for the award.
The Newcomer of the Year honors the player who is in his first season in Major League Soccer, but has prior professional experience, making him ineligible for Rookie of the Year honors. The award's prior recipients were D.C. United's Luciano Emilio (2007) and San Jose's Darren Huckerby (2008).
Chivas USA's Thornton is adding another trophy to his 2009 collection with the Comeback Player of the Year award, after being named the 2009 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year last week. The 36 year-old goalkeeper from Edgewood, Md., led Chivas USA to its fourth consecutive playoff berth in his first full season as a starter since 2006.
After spending eight years as the starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire, Thornton spent the 2007 season with Colorado, playing just one game, and made no appearances with New York in 2008 before being traded to Chivas USA on Aug. 1 after Brad Guzan's departure for Aston Villa. Thornton took over as the starter, playing seven games before an injury sidelined him until the final regular season match, and posting a 1.80 goals against average in his eight matches played.
Working in the offseason with Chivas USA Goalkeeper Coach Leo Percovich and on his own, Thornton came into 2009 slimmer and fitter, and his work paid immediate dividends. He led Chivas USA to a 13-11-6 record and posted a career best 12 shutouts and 0.87 goals against average. His 12 shutouts were one shy of the club record and his goals against average ranks second all-time behind Pat Onstad's 0.82 in 2007. Thornton led the League in goals against average, shutouts and ranked second in wins with 12.
Thornton led the voting ahead of Chicago Fire forward Brian McBride and D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen, the other finalists for the award.
The MLS Comeback Player of the Year and the Newcomer of the Year winners earned the most votes in polling of MLS players, general managers, coaches, and members of the media.
MLS Newcomer of the Year Winners:2009: Fredy Montero - Seattle Sounders FC
2008: Darren Huckerby - San Jose Earthquakes
2007: Luciano Emilio - D.C. United
MLS Comeback Player of the Year Winners:2009: Zach Thornton - Chivas USA
2008: Kenny Cooper - FC Dallas
2007: Eddie Johnson - Kansas City Wizards
2006: Richard Mulrooney - FC Dallas
2005: Chris Klein - Kansas City Wizards
2004: Brian Ching - San Jose Earthquakes
2003: Chris Armas - Chicago Fire
2002: Chris Klein - Kansas City Wizards
2001: Troy Dayak - San Jose Earthquakes
2000: Tony Meola - Kansas City Wizards