This column started with a simple question.
The answer, in case you weren’t a Nashville SC supporter burning my mentions, is absolutely. Muhktar is the most influential and productive offensive player of, at worst, the fifth-best team in MLS. He is tied with Carles Gil (still the clear and obvious favorite) and Daniel Salloi for combined goals and assists at 19 (10 G, 9 A).
Muhktar has a solid and compelling case! But is he even a finalist as he is now? How likely is he to win the prize, really? If Nashville were to put all their eggs in one basket, is Muhktar a better MVP candidate than Gary Smith is a Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year candidate?
Think about it and I’ll give you my answer in a few hundred words.
Here’s who I think is the most likely winner of the 27 teams as the playoff push begins. We’re going in order of the week 24 power rankings, and you’ll notice, of course, the nominations weaken as you go. I reserve the right to include the Extratime Awards categories for clubs that do not have viable traditional award nominees.
My mentions (@andrew_wiebe) are open! Hit me with your reward locks and baffle with my picks.
Matt Turner, Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year
How to reduce it to a single winner for this endemic Revs team? Go listen to the first 15 minutes of Monday’s Extratime. What they’re doing this season is amazing.
New England could very well win four of the eight traditional award categories. In fact, I would personally bet on three: Carles Gil for MVP, Bruce Arena for Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year and Turner who wins his first goalie of the year title. Hell, Tajon Buchanan was almost certainly going to win the AT&T Young Player of the Year award, until the Pepi train started.
I took Turner because I don’t see any plausible scenario other than an injury (knocking woodâ¦ why did I even type those words?) That would prevent him from winning. I basically feel the same for Gil and Arena, but I think the candidates around them are stronger.
Raul Ruidiaz, Landon Donovan MLS MVP
The scenario is quite simple: with six points of their two games to play against New England, the Sounders, with now Stefan Frei, Nico Lodeiro and Nouhou, take advantage of a simply average form of the Revs to lead the table and win the Supporters. ‘ Protect.
Who is fueling the race? Who else? Raul Ruidiaz, your Golden Boot 2021 presented by winning Audi. Oh, and he delivers Leagues Cup glory as well. Gil was magnificent, but Ruidiaz becomes MVP in this scenario.
Interestingly for a Seattle-level team, and thanks to the many injuries inflicted on the talent Best XI, their only other real contender for the award is Brian Schmetzer. However, they have several Extratime Awards favorites including Alex Roldan for Fullback of the Year and Joao Paulo for D-Mid of the Year (currently an IMO lock).
Robin Fraser, Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year
The Rapids don’t really have traditional stars, no winners anyway. They have the collective, and it’s a hell of a lot. Padraig Smith’s lineup puts him in the running for the Extratime Executive of the Year award, but Fraser has built the culture and style of play and has an outdoor Coach of the Year chance.
Now he won’t win it – not with Bruce Arena set to make MLS history or, in that alternate universe, Brian Schmetzer rallying Seattle at full strength to a dramatic Shield via matches in hand – but if the Rapids can skip one of the Sporting or the Sounders and finish second in the West and third in the Shield race? Fraser would be an easy runner-up and a deserving winner in many more seasons.
Daniel Salloi, MLS MVP Landon Donovan
13 goals, six assistsâ¦ He’s one of the best strikers in the league. Period. Right now, Salloi is a finalist in my head with Gil and Ruidiaz.
Note: Gianluca Busio might have had a chance to become AT&T Young Player of the Year before moving to Venice.
Landon Donovan MLS MVP Hany Muhktar
If Walker Zimmerman had played more this season, he would be the easy choice here to repeat as Defender of the Year. As it is now, I think Nashville is going to be cleared in the traditional award categories.
Muhktar and Gary Smith (Coach of the Year) have nominations they can be proud of, but not the most overwhelming they would need to be finalists, let alone win their respective award categories. Leave the individual applause for others to enjoy, Nashville. You can focus on making noise in the playoffs.
Julian Araujo, AT&T Young Player of the Year
Two words: Ricardo Pepi. It won’t happen for Araujo, but it’s a good opportunity to praise the 20-year-old right-back even more. There’s a reason Mexico and the United States are both suing Araujo. He is part of the very best cohort of right-backs in MLS this season.
Alexander Callens, Defender of the Year
Make your choice on this NYCFC backline. You can chat either outside – Anton Tinnerholm or Gudmundur Thorarinsson are best in class (or close) to their position – and between Callens, Maxime Chanot and, depending on the game, James Sands, New York’s blue side is absolutely stacked at center back.
I take Callens, who has had an incredible year for the club and the country, although he’s unlikely to win the award.
Note: Taty Castellanos barely misses being eligible for the youngster and would have an MVP scream if the pitch wasn’t so crowded in quality (and NYCFC was higher in the table).
Emmanuel Reynoso, Landon Donovan MVP
Once upon a time, Reynoso had a chance. Now? Well, it’s time to start stretching to find viable candidates!
Antonio Carlos, Defender of the Year
It’s a shame that our most recent image of Carlos is of him diving in and being left behind by Ezequiel Barco. The full picture indicates he has been one of the league’s best defensemen for almost two years now.
Ezequiel Barco, AT&T Young Player of the Year
I would have bet something just short of my life on Josef Martinez as the Returning Player of the Year in February. It could still happen, but Barco looks like he’s going to create some serious late-season momentum in the Young Player of the Year discussion. He now has six goals and five assists, Atlanta United thrills and Josef is back alongside Marcelino Moreno and Luiz “Best XI so far” Araujo.
Good recipe for a push price.
Sebastian Blanco, returning player of the year
It’s strange how the success of the Timbers’ potentially life-saving road trip came with their # 10 talismanic back in the starting lineup. Weird.
Andy Najar, Returning Player of the Year
I’m not going to lie, I thought Najar’s career was potentially over. The injuries and the missed time seemed too difficult to overcome. Think again ! The OG Homegrown is back in DC to do their job and mark Concacaf with Honduras as well.
My apologies and a big thumbs up to Ola Kamara. He might win the Golden Shoe presented by Audi (16 goals !!!)â¦ but he has almost no chance of winning the MVP title. In another season, Hernan Losada could also have been part of the talk about coach of the year.
Gregore, Chris Armas D-Mid of the year
Damn, Chris Henderson really knows how to spot Brazil for defensive midfielders, eh?
Kai Wagner, Rear of the Year
What a signature from Ernst Tanner. Wagner is truly one of the best left-backs in the league. How long can Philly keep it? And can they replace it if they sell? This is the game they are playing. The answer to the second question must be yes.
Cristian Arango, newcomer of the year
Five goals in five starts + a weak newcomer class (especially since the winter window) = Arango has as many chances as anyone, if LAFC can advance to the playoffs.
Honorable mention: Jose Cifuentes, AT&T Young Player of the Year
Quick, who has been LAFC’s best player this season? Cifu. This is the answer.
Djordje Mihailovic, AT&T Young Player of the Year
Yes, Mihailovic is still eligible for the award! He will be 23 after the end of the regular season. Trading large sums of money and giving him the keys to the attack was a decent move for Montreal and Wilfried Nancy.
- 2017: 1 G, 2 A in 732 minutes
- 2018: 1 G, 4 A in 582 minutes
- 2019: 3G, 2A in 1,448 minutes
- 2020: 2 G, 6 A in 1,171 minutes
- 2021: 4 G, 10 A in 1,943 minutes
Since Pepi is going to win this one, I also scored Mihailovic in pencil as the Player of the Year finalist for level overtime.
Damir Kreilach, Landon Donovan MLS MVP
Kreilach will never be close to winning – in fact, we won’t talk about that again – but I have so much respect for his game.
Deiber Caidedo, AT&T Young Player of the Year
Four goals and four assists is a rather encouraging comeback for a 21-year-old arriving in a new league and a new country during a pandemic. Among many reasons, Caicedo’s growth makes 2022 a rather promising year for the Whitecaps. Hell, they haven’t gotten out of the playoff race yet, either.
Cade Cowell, Teenager of the Year
The Young Player of the Year is out of reach, but Cowell could very well win an Extratime Award. Chofis for the newcomer? This should tell you something about the newcomer class.
Ricardo Pepi, AT&T Young Player of the Year
Put this one in ink. Chooooooo chooooooooo !!!
Miguel Berry, first year varsity player of the year
OK, we’re at the point in this column where I’m admittedly cheating. No, this is not Berry’s first year as a pro. It was in 2020, during which he didn’t play a single minute in MLS, so I’m not counting it. Five goals in 330 minutes is pretty darn good.
Caden Clark, AT&T Young Player of the Year
It says a lot about the Red Bulls’ season that Caden Clark is not, in fact, a strong contender for this award.
Ignacio Aliseda for Young Player? This is the only team I have nothing for.
Brenner, newcomer of the year
Let’s say Brenner gets double-digit goals (it takes four) and a few are spectacular winners. Not bad for a 21-year-old striker playing for an underperforming team – you better be nice.
Fafa Picault, in search of a rival price
Nine goals and four assists. Played almost every minute for Tab Ramos. Why did you let him go, FC Dallas? Picault was so good that I had to compose a price category.
Brad Stuver, Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year
Credit where credit is due. It would be the strangest GOY season ever. It will not happen.
Yeferson Soteldo, newcomer of the year
Maybe 2022 will be better, eh?