With the end of Major League Soccer's regular season comes the playoffs and the league's annual awards season. The New York Red Bulls have an interest in both. While the team prepares for its Eastern Conference semifinal second leg against Montreal Impact, the league announced the shortlists for its major awards. Sacha Kljestan, Luis Robles and Bradley Wright-Phillips are up for MLS-wide honors. BWP and Kljestan have made the three-man shortlist for league MVP; Luis Robles is among the finalists for Goalkeeper of the Year and Humanitarian of the Year.
In the MVP category, BWP and Kljestan are up against New York City FC's David Villa of NYCFC. Villa was the second-highest scorer in MLS this year, playing for the team that finished second in the Eastern Conference. Votes have already been cast, of course, so there is no chance to influence the outcome at this stage. We're looking at the top three vote-getters for MVP in BWP, Kljestan, and Villa - and we're waiting to be told what order they finished in. While one would think either the league's Golden Boot winner - BWP - or its leading assist-man, Sacha Kljestan, would be the most likely winner, there is a strong suspicion that Villa will sneak away with MVP thanks to a split vote for the other two candidates.
But I am choosing to believe common sense will prevail. Villa had a very good season for a very good team. BWP and Kljestan had historic seasons for a better team. Wright-Phillips became the first player in MLS history to tally 20 or more goals in the regular season on two occasions (his first was that 27-goal wonder-year he enjoyed in 2014). Sacha is the first player to tally 20 assists in MLS since Carlos Valderrama did so in 2000. It will be a curious thing if the voters were so baffled by having to pick between two of the league's all-time best, individual, season-long performances that they collectively opted for a guy who simply had a good year.
The 2016 MLS MVP will be revealed on December 6.
Before that, we will find out whether Luis Robles will collect another major accolade from the league, after winning the 2015 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award. This year, he is up for GotY again, facing competition from Andre Blake of the Philadelphia Union and Tim Howard of the Colorado Rapids. Howard seems an odd finalist in this category, since he only joined Colorado in the summer transfer window, by which time the team was already established as a title contender with a solid defense. But he's also the biggest name in the current MLS goalkeeping mix.
Blake was the number one pick in the 2014 SuperDraft and established himself this season as the Union's undisputed starter, as well as consolidating his position as the first-choice 'keeper for the Jamaica Men's National Team. Robles is the least celebrated name on the list, but he led MLS in shutouts in 2016 and was as important to RBNY's worst-to-first (in the East) turn around this year as any player on the team.
MLS Goalkeeper of the Year will be announced on November 17.
Robles is also a finalist for the MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year Award. This season, he committed to donate $100 for every save he made to the Tackle Kids Cancer Program in partnership with Hackensack United Medical Center. Chicago Fire's Matt Lampson and La Galaxy's Gyasi Zardes are the other finalists for the league's Humanitarian award. The winner will be revealed on November 3.
Good luck to these three gentlemen. It is a compliment to their work on and off the field that they are in the running for these awards, and all three have been key contributors to RBNY's recent success.