An MLS postseason awards ballot — MVP, Coach, Rookie & more

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Earlier this week, Major League Soccer released the 2015 list for end-of-season awards, which included MVP, Coach of the Year and Rookie of the Year, among others.

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This is my would-be ballot for each of the top awards in 2015, with a little bit of reasoning included below…

Rookie of the YearCyle Larin, Orlando City SC

Larin, a 20-year-old rookie from the University of Connecticut (born in Brampton, Ontario), scored 17 goals and singlehandedly kept the expansion side alive in the playoff race until the final day of the regular season. There was no “hitting the rookie wall” for Larin, who only got stronger as the season went on (11 goals scored from July 26 on).

Runners-up: Matt Polster, Chicago Fire; Fatai Alashe, San Jose Earthquakes

Coach of the Year Oscar Pareja, FC Dallas

With all due respect to Jesse Marsch, who became Red Bulls manager under difficult circumstances and went on to win the Supporters’ Shield, part of being a manager is also building something for the long term, not just the season at hand. 14 players appeared in more 20 or more league games this year for FCD — their average age: 25.4 years old. FCD not only missed out on the Supporters’ Shield by virtue of goal differential this year, but they’re also perfectly positioned to come right back and challenge for it again next year.

Runners-up: Jesse Marsch, New York Red Bulls; Carl Robinson, Vancouver Whitecaps

[ MORE: Which MLS teams should be in the Cubo Torres sweepstakes? ]

Defender of the YearKendall Waston, Vancouver Whitecaps

No team in MLS conceded fewer goals than the Whitecaps (36 in 34 games), and Waston, the Costa Rican behemoth that he is, was a vitally important piece of that defensive title. Since Waston arrived in MLS, he’s been the scariest defender in the league. This year, he combined that fear, his massive frame (6-foot-5, 195 pounds) and an aerial dominance maybe never before seen in MLS to anchor the best defense in the league.

Runners-up: Laurent Ciman, Montreal Impact; Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City (not on list of nominees); Matt Hedges, FC Dallas

Goalkeeper of the YearBill Hamid, D.C. United

D.C. United conceded 43 goals on the season. Without Hamid between the sticks for 25 of their 34 games, that number could have easily been 55, or higher. Part of the allure to Hamid is that his midfield and defense was so bad by the end of the season that he was asked to make five, six, seven or eight spectacular saves each game. That shouldn’t take away from his resume, though, because he still made them in the end. Hamid was probably ready for regular minutes with the U.S. national team this time last year. He got very few in 2015, though he’s without a doubt ready to challenge Brad Guzan and Tim Howard for the starting job.

[ MORE: Gerrard won’t be returning to Liverpool (to play) ]

Goal of the YearKrisztian Nemeth, Sporting Kansas City

Here’s the problem with the quality in MLS continuing to improve year after year: there are entirely too many great goals scored to pick just one. Nemeth’s marathon, twisting, turning, elusive, pinpoint tally against the Portland Timbers last month comes out on top for me, though, if only for 1) the number of players taken on in the build-up, and 2) the quality of said players — Diego Chara and Nat Borchers are borderline elite players at their respective positions. Nemeth was a delightful surprise in terms of a relatively unknown foreigner coming to MLS and regularly displaying this level of quality.

Runners-up: Marco Donadel, Montreal Impact; Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders; Taylor Kemp, D.C. United; Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders

Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable PlayerSebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC

22 goals and 15 assists (an MLS record for goals and assists combined in a single season)…in his debut MLS season. Need I say more? There’s also the undeniable fact that, without Giovinco, TFC get nowhere near the MLS Cup Playoffs this year (first berth in club history), while Columbus, Montreal and Kansas City are all borderline playoff teams without their respective MVP candidates. Giovinco’s the best player to ever do his thing in MLS, the first player in MLS history that could walk into the starting 11 of just about any title-contending team in Europe.

Runners-up: Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew SC; Didier Drogba, Montreal Impact (not on list of nominees); Benny Feilhaber, Sporting Kansas City

Manchester United triggers Bailly contract extension

Manchester United triggers Bailly contract extension
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Manchester United has picked up a two-year option on Eric Bailly‘s contract, according to Sky Sports.

The Red Devils now have the giant 25-year-old center back under wraps through the 2021/22 season.

Bailly is nearing full fitness after his latest injury setback, knee and ankle injuries costing him dozens of matches since arriving from Villarreal in 2016. He underwent knee surgery in late July.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

There’s little reason for United not to pick up the option, as Bailly could’ve left for free in the summer and the extension allows for a possible transfer fee.

That said, Bailly has been very good with healthy and in-form, especially in an exceptional debut season at Old Trafford. He has 34 caps for the Ivory Coast, and is nearing the prime age for a center back.

United visits Liverpool at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday, and Bailly is not expected to play.

The center back may get a chance to get to know Bruno Fernandes, who is being tipped for a $77 million transfer. He likely won’t see Ashley Young, who’s arrived in Milan ahead of a transfer to Inter.

Report: Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United after Lisbon Derby

Manchester United lands Bruno Fernandes
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Bruno Fernandes may get his move.

The 25-year-old Sporting Lisbon midfielder wants a move to Manchester United, and Sky Sports is reporting that the two clubs are close to agreeing on a fee.

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The move will cost $56 million and could escalate to $77 million with incentives, and that it could happen as soon as the end of Friday’s derby between Sporting and Benfica.

From Sky Sports:

Part of the negotiations over a deal for Fernandes included Manchester United not wanting him to play in Friday’s game but the player and Sporting insist that he was going to play in order to say a proper goodbye to the club and the supporters.

United will be crossing its fingers over Fernandes’ health during the 4:15 p.m. ET kickoff is Lisbon.

Sporting is already 12 points off the Champions League places, and 16 off Benfica’s title pace.

Fernandes has been red hot for Sporting, notching 15 goals and 13 assists in 25 appearances, including five and three in five Europa League outings.

He scored 32 times with 18 assists in 2018/19, and could take United’s Top Four push to a whole new level.

Liverpool’s Klopp rips AFCON move, says FIFA needs to step in but won’t

Liverpool's Klopp rips AFCON move
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Jurgen Klopp is furious about Cameroon moving the Africa Cup of Nations to January 2021, something that would hinder the Reds’ likely title defense.

(No, Klopp is not counting his title chickens before they hatch, even if it’s a foregone conclusion).

Cameroon moved the tournament from summer to winter due to its climate, which seems like a decision that could’ve been made ages ago. The nation had hosting rights stripped away for the 2019 tournament, but will host in 2021.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The Reds could be without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita for the better part of a month should Senegal, Guinea, and Egypt all qualify for the tournament. Joel Matip could be there with hosts Cameroon if the federation is successful in convincing him to return to the international fold.

Klopp went on a lengthy and mostly understandable diatribe against the move. We write mostly because there’s something lost in translation regarding the import of the tournament.

He’s upset at how it will tax his squad and how he keeps the players happy if he needs to add players just to deal with one month of the schedule.

“Do we really want to open this book? I couldn’t respect Africa Cup of Nations more than I do, I like it, I’ve watched it a lot. Difficult circumstances a lot of times,” Klopp said, via The Liverpool Echo. “It is another tournament, there are too many of them. Other thing is it doesn’t help African players. We won’t sell Naby, Mo or Sadio because of it but if we bring someone in, it affects the decision. Normal process. We have to think about that. Players aren’t asked. … FIFA, who should [step in] doesn’t look like being involved. It’s a strange situation. If we want lesser games they will say take less money. I will say, I am ready to do so. Yes.”

He continued.

“For us it’s a catastrophe, If we say (a player) can’t go, he’s suspended. How can the club who pay his salary not decide. If he’s injured and we say he cannot play for us, we have to send him to Africa so they can have a look. We don’t have any say. We just plan the route. These are all things that should not be like this. I speak about it now and no one will listen. The moaner from Liverpool again. It’s a complete waste of time. As long as nothing changes, I will keep saying it. It’s about the players, not me.”

Manchester City (Riyad Mahrez), Arsenal (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), and Leicester City (Wilfried Ndidi) are among the many clubs who could lose stars for a month.

Premier League tells referees to view replays for red cards

Premier League tells referees to view replays for red cards
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LONDON (AP) The Premier League has advised its referees to use sideline monitors to make a final ruling on red card decisions.

Through 22 rounds of the first Premier League season with video review, referees have not gone over to the screens at any point to watch replays after being told to use them sparingly. Instead, referees have been relying on feedback from the video assistant referee in a London control room.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

But officials were reminded at a meeting of Premier League referees this week that they should go over to what is known as the “referee review area” when VAR suggests upgrading a yellow card to a red or downgrading a red to a yellow.

It has been a more familiar sight at games in other European competitions, like the Champions League, to see referees watching replays in the stadium.

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