World soccer being such the transient place it is, there are always abundant choices for Newcomer of the Year in MLS, where players come and go like it was taco night in the dorm cafeteria.
This year is no different. And so far, we don’t have a choice that’s obvious as two soccer balls on the field, as we did last year in Columbus’ Federico Higuain.
So, here goes our best effort to sort out this one. (Fifteen rounds of play remain … a lot could happen, including introductions of new players from the summer transfer season.)
My pick is: New England’s Jose Goncalves
First up, you say it “gon-SAL-vez.” I mean, if the guy is going to win a major award, we probably should know how to say his name.
Any way you say it, he’s way up in the conversation. New England was hanging on in matches in the season’s early days even though they needed about three games just to score once. A big part of the reason was Goncalves’ steady work in the back. Even now, New England’s 14 goals allowed is best in MLS.
More than just the body of work at center back, Goncalves is helping tudor some of the Revs’ promising young talent in the back, like rookie right back Andrew Farrell and converted midfielder Stephen McCarthy.
Others to monitor over the final 15 rounds (in alphabetical order):
- Vancouver Whitecaps Nigel Reo Coker
- FC Dallas Raul Fernandez
- FC Dallas’ Michel
- Sporting Kansas City’s Claudio Bieler
- Portland Timber’s Diego Valeri
- New England Revolution’s Diego Fagundez
Five MLS teams have made the playoffs, but in the world of probability that number is a lot closer to 10.
Red Bulls, DC, L.A., Vancouver and Dallas are in the postseason, while Toronto, Columbus, New England and Sporting KC are on the verge. Seattle is just behind that group.
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So how about those final two slots?
Montreal: at Colorado, vs. New England, at Toronto
Orlando: vs. NYC, at Philadelphia
New York City: at Orlando, vs. New England
Obviously, the Impact have the wheel here, though a pair of road tests — one across the continent — aren’t easy. If it comes down to a match against their rivals at BMO Field, all bets will be off. NYC can do Montreal a huge favor by getting a result in Orlando, but Jason Kreis’ side need all three points (Well, all six points… and a load of help). No one is playing better than Orlando right now.
San Jose: vs Sporting KC, at Dallas
Portland: at RSL, at LA, vs. Colorado
Houston: vs. Seattle, at Vancouver
Real Salt Lake: vs. Portland, vs. Dallas, at Seattle
Quite literally anything can happen here in terms of these four. Pressure’s surely on Caleb Porter and the Timbers to finally give their supporters a side worth their passion. RSL is the only other side with three matches left, and the two pair up next. Houston has a harrowing pair of matches, one without Cubo Torres, while San Jose also has two tough efforts.
Longtime Serie A goalkeeper and World Cup winner Marco Amelia is giving Chelsea some cover.
The ex-AC Milan man, 33, has also played for Roma and Livorno amongst other stops in Italy, and has been on trial at Stamford Bridge for some time.
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Amelia will backup Asmir Begovic, and give the Blues three keepers in the absence of Thibaut Courtois.
He’s available for Chelsea’s next match, against Aston Villa, and will potentially slide into the No. 2 slot ahead of 21-year-old Jamal Blackman. Whether he’s an upgrade in skill is debatable, but his experience could prove invaluable.