First, TSG thinks its title for the award sounds much more exciting…see above.
But, without further adeu, the five finalists for the award are:
Michael Bradley…he of the two goals versus Mexico in February and the right place-right-time goal versus Costa Rica in October.
Landon Donovan…he of the truckload of awards (MLS MVP, Honda Player of the Year), assists and all-around stellar play for the USMNT in 2009.
Clint Dempsey…he of the Bronze Ball at the Confederations Cup, brilliant header at Rio Tinto and the current run of 5 goals in 5 matches for Fulham.
Tim Howard…he of the magnificent saves while frequently getting bombarded by shots for both the USMNT and Everton.
Oguchi Onyewu…he of the stalwart central defense, great work with his dome and transfer to AC Milan.
The five 2009 finalists represent 5 of the past 6 winners of the award — Donovan in 2003 and 2004, Onyewu in 2006, Dempsey in 2007 and Howard in 2008
According to US Soccer:
The finalists for each award were nominated on the basis of: a) competing and excelling at the highest level (both at the national team and professional level) during the calendar year; b) exhibiting decorum on and off the field that reflects well on U.S. Soccer; and c) contributing toward the growth, development, credibility and popularization of soccer in the USA.
Unlike the Honda Player of the Year this award is based on play for both the national teams and club teams.
With all of his accolades and press this year, one would expect Landon Donovan to take this one in a walk. The criteria of club play adds an interesting wrinkle as Donovan clearly isn’t “competing and excelling at the highest level” playing his club ball stateside. However, Lando has been the best performer on the national team this year.
Weighing club play more heavily…
Clint Dempsey should get a boost in his bid for the award as a regular starter and current dangerous striker for Fulham in the EPL. Tim Howard and Oguchi Onyewu had stellar first halves of 2009 for Everton and Standard Liège, respectively. However, Howard has had a statistically poor ’09-’10 campaign behind a suspect Toffee defense while Onyewu’s much ballyhooed transfer to AC Milan resulted in little playing time before his October injury.
I’ll let you folks can chime in on who has or has not been true to criteria “b” above. And of the five finalists, Onyewu probably comes out on top for criteria “c” as his transfer to AC Milan from Standard Liège was viewed and celebrated as a big step forward for American soccer, regardless of his lack of playing time.
The winner will be crowned through voting by fans on US Soccer.com (50%) and media members and US Soccer representatives (collectively, 50%). One can assume that Bob-O can’t vote for Junior, right?
Who are you guys voting for?
Fan voting will be open through December 13th along with all of the Best of 2009 awards, like Best Soccer Blog. (hint…hint.)