2018 MLS Awards Ballot: MLS Comeback Player of the Year award

Award season is almost here.

Players, technical staffers (technical directors, GMs and coaches) and a select group of national and regional media will begin voting for each of the awards on Monday, October 15.

Each voting group, representing one-third of the total vote, will select from the below list of 15 players named to the ballot for the 2018 Comeback Player of the Year award.

All players on the Comeback Player of the Year ballot were nominated by their respective club, with a maximum of two nominations permitted per team. Finalists (three per award) will be announced on Wednesday, October 31.

Michael de Leeuw

Chicago Fire attacker Michael de Leeuw ruptured his left ACL on Sept. 30, 2017 in the first half of the Fire’s match against NYCFC. After 10 months and 13 days of intense rehab, de Leeuw made his long-awaited return to the pitch on Aug. 11, 2018. Since his return, the Dutchman — affectionately known as "The Lion" – has scored one goal and added two assists in eight matches.

Djordje Mihailovic

The Fire’s Homegrown midfielder Djordje Mihailovic suffered a right ACL rupture in the Fire’s Eastern Conference Knockout match on Oct. 25, 2017. After being sidelined for nearly a year, Mihailovic returned to the pitch on Aug. 18, 2018 and has since scored one goal, a strike that won MLS Goal of the Week for Week 31, and added three assists in seven matches. 

Gaston Sauro

Halfway through the 2016 season, Gaston Sauro injured his left knee and was forced to undergo surgery. As a result, Sauro was sidelined for over a year. Despite medically only being given a 50-50 chance of being able to return to action, Sauro defied the odds, returning to the field and making five regular-season appearances for Columbus Crew SC in 2018.

Gyasi Zardes

In August of 2016, Gyasi Zardes suffered a season-ending injury. After undergoing knee surgery in early 2017, he scored two regular-season goals, before suffering another injury in October of that year. Zardes joined Crew SC ahead of the 2018 season and bounced back to score 16 regular-season goals this year – more than any other American player in MLS this season.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Zlatan Ibrahimovic

After suffering a career-threatening injury on April 20, 2017 with multiple ligament damage in his knee, Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to action less than seven months later and put himself in the discussion for MLS MVP since joining the LA Galaxy. This year, Zlatan has 21 goals and 9 assists in just 25 appearances, including seven game-winning goals. His 21 goals are second only to Josef Martinez in MLS, despite playing in seven fewer games than the Atlanta United forward.  

Ronald Matarrita

After an injury-plagued 2017, Ronald Matarrita returned to NYCFC in 2018 and has been an instrumental part of City’s success. His play earned him a spot on Costa Rica’s 2018 FIFA World Cup roster; however an injury derailed his World Cup dreams. Matarrita has returned from that setback to help lead NYCFC on their MLS Cup push.

Mason Stajduhar

In November 2017, at age 19 (he’s now 20), Orlando City SC goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar was diagnosed with Localized Ewing’s Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. He spent the next seven months undergoing radiation treatments and chemotherapy through June 20, the day he rang the bell for remission at his Florida-based hospital. Stajduhar, who chose a lengthier treatment plan vs. a career-ending surgery option, never stopped training, commuting nearly four hours round trip between his home team and his team of doctors every week for half a year to continue training with the team.

Harold Cummings

San Jose Earthquakes center back Harold Cummings missed the entire 2017 season to a high-ankle sprain and fractured fibula. The Panamanian returned in 2018 to play a key role in the center of the team’s defense, while also representing his nation of birth at the FIFA World Cup.

Nick Lima

After missing more than one-third of the 2017 MLS season to injury, San Jose fullback Nick Lima returned to become one of Major League Soccer’s minutes leaders in 2018. The second-year Homegrown Player has been the one constant on the Quakes’ backline this season.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Osvaldo Alonso

After battling injury in the 2017 postseason and again in the early portion of 2018, Seattle Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso’s presence has been felt more than ever for the Rave Green this campaign. Seattle is 11-5-2 in the 18 matches Alonso has started in midfield, with his return to form bolstering a single-season MLS record of nine consecutive wins. For players that have logged at least 500 minutes, Alonso is first in MLS in passing accuracy (92.29 percent), while Seattle have allowed just 17 goals with him on the field as a starter. Now in his 10th season with Seattle, Alonso is the club’s captain and the only remaining original member of its 2009 expansion season squad.

Felipe Gutierrez

Sporting KC midfielder Felipe Gutierrez earned MLS Player of the Month honors in March before undergoing hernia surgery on May 1. He was sidelined for the next two months before returning in the late summer to lead Sporting KC to four straight wins in August. Gutierrez has seven goals and two assists in his debut MLS campaign, and Sporting KC are 10-5-3 when he plays.

Diego Rubio

After overcoming a long-term ACL injury that ruled him out for part of 2017, SKC striker Diego Rubio continued to work his way into form before exploding this summer. He scored or assisted in a club-record eight straight games from July through September and currently ranks in the top three in MLS with 0.99 goals per 90 minutes. Rubio has eight goals and six assists in eight starts (19 appearances) this season.

Jonathan Osorio

After a difficult 2017 regular season, Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio had a strong performance in the 2017 MLS Cup final. Osorio earned a regular starting position this year and contributed a career-high 10 goals and 6 assists to date in league play. Osorio earned the Concacaf Champions League Golden Boot and was named the Canadian Championship MVP.

Doneil Henry

After being sidelined for 15 months due to a devastating run of injuries, including an ACL tear in 2016, Vancouver Whitecaps center back Doneil Henry made his long-awaited return to action this season. The Canadian center back impressed on a loan stint with Ottawa Fury FC before establishing himself as a regular with Whitecaps FC, starting 12 MLS regular season and three Canadian Championship matches, as well as returning to the Canadian men's national team.

Brett Levis

Vancouver left back Brett Levis made his MLS debut as a late sub in Vancouver’s 2016 MLS regular season finale – the culmination of an improbable journey from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. However, Levis tore his ACL in that brief cameo and spent the next 18 months working his way back to full fitness. As he’s been doing his entire life, Levis persevered again and has started 10 of his 11 MLS regular season appearances this season.