Wednesday, December 19, 2007

MNT Player of the Year

Over at the Voyageurs board, there is a thread debating which player should be named Canadian MNT Player of the Year. Whether or not it is an actual award, the question is still an interesting one to think about.

For our part, the winner should be a player who:
  1. contributed positively to Canada's performances in important matches (in 2007, the Gold Cup would represent our most important set of matches)
  2. had a strong season with their club sides
We insist on reasonable scores on both of these, which would rule out a player like Ali Gerba (great tournament in the Gold Cup, but a barely a club career to speak of) and Jim Brennan (great year as the leader of Toronto FC, but hardly an impact at all on the MNT scene in 2007).

Here are our top 3, in reverse order.

3. Rob Friend (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany)
MNT resume in '07: 4 appearances (3 starting, 1 sub), 290 minutes, 0 goals.

This third spot was difficult for us to choose, as for me there was no clear winner. Pat Onstad, winning another championship with Houston Dynamo was a strong contender, especially given his outstanding emergency appearances for Canada, and we also considered Atiba Hutchinson. But we continue to be impressed by Friend who is leading his team, currently the top candidate for promotion into the 1. Bundesliga at the mid-point, in goals, and is second overall in scoring. This outweighs his less impressive contribution to the national team in 2007, with 4 appearances, most of which were impressive but didn't yield any goals.

2. Dwayne de Rosario (Houston Dynamo, MLS)
MNT resume in '07: 8 appearances (all 8 starting), 698 minutes, 5 goals

Dwayne had a very impressive year in 2007. Since the MLS season runs in a single calendar of year, it is easier to look at it as a single body of work. His regular season output wasn't as impressive as other years, but he did come through when it was most important, putting in another MLS Cup MVP performance and scoring the winning goal against DC United. He also had a nose for the net while representing Canada, scoring 5 times and closing in on the all-time leaders Califf and Mitchell at 19. He is emerging as a leader for Canada, and is already a leader for his club side, who are repeat champions in MLS (I believe this year was Dwayne's fourth championship overall, and the second time he scored the winning goal).

We had a hard time putting him in second, but our #1 clearly earned his spot

1. Julian de Guzman (Deportivo la Coruna, Spain)
MNT resume in '07: 10 appearances (all starting), 868 minutes, 2 goals

Those of us who watched Canada's Gold Cup match against Costa Rica will never forget that performance. We have never seen a Canadian midfielder take over the game in the way that Julian did that night. His two goals were first rate, but there was plenty of fine work besides, as this youtube video shows. Julian has always been a solid performer for Canada, but this was the year that we saw him take the next step and become the leader on the field for Canada. Whether it was getting up from an atrocious Bocanegra tackle (how that wasn't a straight red is beyond me, thanks Archundia!) or scoring key goals, De Guzman was the man for Canada. If we add in the fact that he is a regular starter in the world's best league, we are entirely comfortable naming Julian our player of the year.

Now if only he can get his brother on side...

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