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

Nuno ‘proud of the boys’ after Wolves’ magical UEL run ends

Nuno Wolves
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Nuno proud, but frustrated: Wolves’ 2019-20 campaign kicked off 383 days ago, on July 25, and finally ended on Tuesday in a late, heartbreaking defeat to Sevilla in the quarterfinals of the Europa League.

[ MORE: Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David ]

From those early-round UEL qualifiers, to another fine season in the Premier League (finishing 7th), to reaching the quarterfinals, it’s been an incredible, dramatic, exhausting road for Nuno Espirito Santo and his players.

Speaking after the game, Espirito Santo revealed he was experiencing equal part pride and frustration at the way their season had just ended. Pride for meeting the challenges they faced along the way, and frustration for the missed opportunity — quotes from the BBC:

“We have frustration, in the last minutes it is something that has happened to us many times. We required focus on a set piece. I am proud of the boys, we played a tough team and we had moments, small details, small margins.

“That happens in football. We came this far and now it’s over. Let’s rest and look to the future. We need more players to help us, it’s a small squad.

“Sevilla made us run, we made a big effort to control it but of course there were players who gave everything and the legs and brain doesn’t work so good. We must be proud of ourselves, admit we made mistakes during the season that we need to rectify to compete at a high level. We must work harder and become stronger.

“We are here because we did things good the previous season. European football is something that we chase because we want to improve and compete agianst the best. The Premier League is challenging enough, it’s like playing the Champions League every week.”

The Wolves players will now have the next week or two off before reporting for the first day of 2020-21 preseason later this month. The 2020-21 Premier League season is currently scheduled for Sept. 12.

Europa League: Wolves knocked out by late Sevilla winner

Europa League Wolves
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Europa League: Wolves’ magical run through the Europa League came to an end on Tuesday, as Nuno Espirito Santo’s side was knocked out in the quarterfinals by UEL specialists Sevilla.

[ MORE: Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-1 Sevilla

Sevilla were quite comfortably the better side on the night, the side with the vast majority of the scoring chances, and thoroughly deserving semifinalists. Julen Lopetegui’s side will face Manchester United in the semis on Sunday.

It didn’t come easily for Sevilla, though. The game remained level at 0-0 for 87 minutes, until Lucas Ocampos rose above the crowd to head home his 16th goal of the season in the 88th minute.

Wolves had the game’s first — and virtually their only — chance to go ahead inside the first quarter-hour, but Raul Jimenez was denied from the penalty spot in the 12th minute. The real story here, however, is the ease with which Adama Traore left the pack behind and dribbled the ball 81 yards before Diego Carlos cut him down from behind.

Jimenez’s blunder from the spot was one of just two shots on target — both by Jimenez — that Wolves could muster in the game.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Ramsey available ]

Sevilla began to ramp up the pressure after halftime and went dangerously close to breaking the deadlock just after the hour mark, as Youssef En-Nesyri weaved his way through traffic inside the penalty area before firing a low strike on goal. Fortunately for Wolves, Rui Patricio was all over and denied En-Nesyri his wondergoal.

Ever Banega forced Patricio to make a vital save of his curling free kick in the 77th minute, but again the Portuguese was up to the challenge. He scrambled across goal and rose high to get a hand on the ball and push it over the crossbar.

Shakhtar Donetsk thrashed Basel 4-1 in Tuesday’s other quarterfinal. They will face Inter Milan in the second semifinal next Monday.

Other Europa League scores

Shakhtar Donetsk 4-1 Basel
Man United 1-0 Copenhagen (Monday)
Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen (Monday)

Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David

Lille sign Jonathan David
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Lille sign Jonathan David: Lille announced on Tuesday their signing of Canadian star Jonathan David from Belgian side Gent for a reported transfer fee of $35 million.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Ramsey available ]

The fee paid is a record not only for a Canadian player, but also makes David Lille’s club-record signing and the most expensive player ever sold by a Belgian club.

David had been linked with a move to dozens of clubs across Europe, including a handful of Premier League sides, in recent weeks but it would appear that Lille’s recent success with young players starring in the first team, before selling them to those bigger European sides for massive profits, was an important factor in David’s decision to move to Ligue 1.

[ MORE: Spurs sign Hojbjerg from Southampton; Walker-Peters to Saints ]

The 20-year-old operates predominantly as a center forward but has, on rare occasions, played as a second striker underneath the main man. David racked up 48 goals and 20 assists in his two seasons at Gent, including a number of standout performances in the Europa League.

Wolves – Sevilla: How to watch, start time, prediction

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Wolves – Sevilla should be an epic UEFA Europa League quarterfinal on Tuesday (start time, 3pm ET) in Duisburg, Germany as both teams will fancy their chances of winning the trophy if they advance.

Remember: these ties are one-legged encounters so the winner on the night will advance to the semifinal.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Nuno Espirito Santo and Wolves have come through the qualifying rounds to get this far as the Premier League side have been in the 2019-20 Europa League for over a year, while Sevilla are the unofficial top dogs in the competition having won it more times than any team in history.

The La Liga side finished fourth this season in Spain under Julen Lopetegui, while Wolves finished seventh in the Premier League and know the only way they will be playing in Europe next season is if they win this competition and there qualify for the Champions League.

Ahead of a huge night for Wolves, below is a look at how to watch Wolves – Sevilla in the USA, the betting odds, prediction and much more.


Team news

What they’re saying

Nuno Espirito Santo praised Sevilla and knows his team have a big challenge ahead, while he backed his team to take the next step on their three-year journey together:

“It’s been a long journey, not only this season. A long journey that started three seasons ago in the Championship. It’s basically the same group of players. It was about trying to build a team, creating an identity, and we look forward to tomorrow to compete well and play a good game. We’ve been able to create an identity. It’s one of the most precious things in football – having an identity, based on a style of play and how we deal and socialize with our rules and tasks, how we deal with problems that happen. Trying to create a team, recruiting players, some take time, some not, but this is what it’s all about. We have to manage the result and I’m very proud of how we’ve done things and now I can say we have our own identity. It’s based on strong foundations of respect and hard work, and this is what we want to show tomorrow – a good team, with an identity, committed to the challenge.”

Sevilla star Lucas Ocamps on the threat Wolves possess: “Anyone who watches a little football has already seen them play. I feel like they are very competitive and physical. They have great players and they come here hungry for glory to beat us. I think it will be evenly matched because we’ll have the same desire and it’s going to be tough.”


Odds for Wolves – Sevilla – Full Europa League, Champions League odds

Wolves are the underdogs (pardon the pun) as they are +235 to beat Sevilla who are +120, but the tie at +230 is interesting. We can see this going to extra time and maybe even penalty kicks.


Prediction for Wolves – Sevilla

Wolves love upsetting the odds and Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore will be looking to exploit Sevilla on the counter, but Sevilla are a savvy team and are third favorites to win the Europa League yet again. Wolves are dangerous but I’m going for a Sevilla win after extra time. 2-1.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com