Sunday, December 11, 2011

CSA Players of the Year 2011

As they do every year, the CSA has been soliciting votes from coaches and media for their 2011 Players of the Year. Awards are handed out to men and women in the U17, U20 and World Cup categories.

The criteria for selection, as worded in the CSA press release, follows:
The award will celebrate Canada’s top-two soccer players in recognition of their 2011 achievements with both the national team and their respective club teams.
I hope I am not offending anyone when I state that I care little about the female categories (though Christine Sinclair should win the senior womens' award again) and the junior nominees (though it would be tough to go against Ashtone Morgan in the mens' U20 category).

My interest lies with the senior male nominees. As always, the list of suggested players is a bit curious. Here it is:

Male Nominees

  • Marcel de Jong | GER / FC Augsburg | Toronto, ON
  • Dwayne De Rosario | USA / DC United | Scarborough, ON
  • David Edgar | ENG / Burnley FC
  • André Hainault | USA / Houston Dynamo | Hudson, QC
  • Simeon Jackson | ENG / Norwich City FC | Mississauga, ON
  • Will Johnson | USA / Real Salt Lake | Toronto, ON
  • Olivier Occean | GER / SpVgg Greuther Fürth | Brossard, QC
  • Tosaint Ricketts | ROM / FC Politehnica Timişoara | Edmonton, AB
  • Josh Simpson | TUR / Vestel Manisaspor
  • other selection
Most curious is the absence of 2010 winner Atiba Hutchinson. This could be explained by an extended injury absence in the latter half of the year that kept him out of action for club and country. But the exact same could be said of Marcel de Jong, who with 180 minutes played less for Canada than any other player on the list.

I think I may value a player's national team contributions more than most voters might, so despite the fact that Hutchinson played more matches at a higher level than anyone else on the list, his lack of time for Canada (5 matches and 429 minutes in 2011) disqualify him from my consideration.

Unfortunately, we are left then with a relatively uninspiring bunch. None of the remaining players were consistently excellent for Canada. Will Johnson would be closest, but he was downright atrocious at St Kitts following Salt Lake's exit from the MLS playoffs.

Let's eliminate some more names, shall we?
  • Tosaint Ricketts is an exciting player for the future and opened his Canada account with 3 goals in 2011, but he is a bit part player for the near future and surely knows it. He is a regular in the Romanian second division, which kind of says it all.
  • Olivier Occean played in 5 Canada matches in 2011 and split time between the German 3rd and 2nd divisions. He is a journeyman European striker, an accomplishment in itself, but doesn't jump off the page.
  • David Edgar, finally, is a full-time player. He seems to have found his level in the English Championship. Still, I don't think he plays much for Canada this year if it wasn't for injuries to Dejan Jakovic and Kevin McKenna.
  • If the award was based purely on club performance, it would possible to make a case for Andre Hainault. But the man was absent too often for Canada.
  • Simeon Jackson would have been a good choice if this award was handed out in summer. But he hasn't been featuring for Norwich and has delivered mostly unremarkable performances for his country, hat trick against St Lucia notwithstanding.

We are left with Dwayne De Rosario and Josh Simpson. These players are second and first, respectively, in minutes for Canada in 2011, so their contribution can't be knocked, at least for quantity. Simpson had 3 goals in 2011, De Rosario had 4, though all were penalties. Simpson is an important player for a mid-table Turkish side, undeniably a higher level than MLS, where De Rosario was a controversial selection for MVP.

De Rosario will win the award, clearly. He has the name recognition due to time spent in North America, and more specifically, the vote-rich Toronto market. But does he deserve to?

I'm almost ready to admit that he does. Because there were no standout performers in a Canada shirt in 2011, one has to look to club performances. And unlike the MVP vote, where an argument can be made that team success must be considered, this vote can more easily be made on the basis of individual excellence.

His MLS tally (16 goals, 12 assists) blows away any other 2011 calendar year stats, adjusting for level of play, and despite my reluctance to admit it, equaling Dale Mitchell's all-time Canada goals record at 19 deserves some form of recognition.

So if I had a vote (and I don't), it would be for (gulp) Dwayne De Rosario. I know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You outlined the debate really well, J.