There have been plenty of bright spots for the Vancouver Whitecaps this season, even as they claw for the final playoff spot down the stretch. Whether it be Camilo's goal scoring, the emergence of Kekuta Manneh, Carlyle Mitchell and Johnny Leveron, the bounce back season from Kenny Miller or the signing of Nigel Reo-Coker, this team has had plenty to cheer for, even if the win total is a little smaller than expected.
Now it's time to discuss who should get the highest accolade of the season; Team MVP. These are just our humble opinions, but tell us what you think, and shoot us your own picks as well.
2013 Player of the Year: Nigel Reo-Coker
Confession time! I was asked by several people before the season began what I thought of persistent rumors that Nigel Reo-Coker was set to join the Vancouver Whitecaps. I thought it was a terrible idea; a guy that has made enemies wherever he has gone is banished from Europe, so he decides to kill some time in MLS before he heads back. I thought Reo-Coker was here to cash a paycheque, rest on his laurels and enjoy living in virtual anonymity in hockey crazy Canada.
Holy shit, was I ever wrong.
In almost no time at all, Reo-Coker established himself as a leader on the pitch, taking over the reigns from Jay Demerit when he went down with injury. His passion, his edge gave the Whitecaps a swagger, a confidence that they'd never had before, and one that has stayed with the club throughout their trials and tribulations in 2013.
Beyond that, Reo-Coker provided a stable, consistent attack from the midfield that the 'Caps have never had before. Davide Chiumiento was a wizard with the football, but he was also small and physical play could take him out of matches. Reo-Coker meanwhile is tall and powerful, a player that welcomes and contact and does it with a smile on his face. Remember the drama with Davide Ferreira earlier this year?
"If they go down, I'll make sure they go down for a good reason."
When on Earth have the Whitecaps even approached this level of badass? Never! That's what makes Reo-Coker the most valuable player; without even looking at stats, I can tell you that no other player has transformed their team like Reo-Coker transformed the 'Caps.
Past the trash talking, the physicality and the leadership, let's talk about his attack. While most teams prefer the slow, methodical approach of probing into the defence, Reo-Coker goes after them like a pit-bull that's just been let off its leash. His long, charging runs have become a staple at BC Place, and while the goal total is a bit of a letdown, there is no question that it doesn't tell the whole story.
Nigel Reo-Coker, you made me look like a complete idiot. For that, I thank you.
Best Highlight of the Season
2013 Player of the Year Runner-Up: Y. P. Lee
His sophomore season with the Whitecaps wasn't as good as his first, but YP Lee has been the one constant on an injury plagued backline. With Alain Rochat gone, Andy O'Brien and Jay Demerit injured for a large portion of the season, and a young backline in desperate need of leadership, Lee rose to the challenge. A consummate professional and teacher, Lee's play on the field only shows a small percentage of what he is worth to this club.
2013 Player of the Year: Kekuta Manneh
Selecting an MVP is like having to decide whose beer you're going to knock over at that scuzzy biker bar that your cousin Guido suckered you into. Nothing good can come of it. Whether it's the ire of "Badass" Larue, "The Crank" Corrigan, or the skullcap dude with the facial scar and the "J.A." monogrammed across both biceps, only a fool would venture in.
The overwhelming majority of Caps fans will point to Camilo Sanvezzo as The Man this year. After all, how can you possibly ignore a monster season in which he accounted for 41% of the team's goals, 30% of their shots on target, and has been at, or near, the top of the MLS scoring race all season? Whitecaps fans have known it for a while, but now the entire MLS knows that this guy has arrived. In a Bentley. With
Scarlett Johansson his lovely wife Jessica. Only a fool would choose someone else as their MVP.
(Shrug)...I've been called worse.
Look, I love the guy... he's an exceedingly rare talent who does it all: corners, FKs, fancy dribbling, and top-quality finishing. The only thing he hasn't done this year is take a turn in goal or fill in for Spike. I wouldn't move him for anything - plus, he may play for Canada one day!
Still, he's not my pick. The Vancouver Whitecaps' Most Valuable Player has got to be Kekutah Manneh, and no...I'm not a crackhead. Neither am I a reactionist that is throwing accolades on the young man after just one outstanding match. No, I wrote this piece before the Seattle match, so you can all put the pitchforks down.
You see, I'm making my selection not just on what he brings to the table now - which has been a hell of lot for an 18-year-old rookie who hasn't been given anywhere near enough playing time this season - but on what he represents as a valuable asset, particularly in the years to come.
But let's take a glance at his stats from this year (heading into Seattle): Seventeen games played, but only three starts. His 529 minutes is only slightly more than the amount of time Corey Hertzog put in before being put out on loan to the Eddies. With virtually no MLS experience, Manneh's third on the team in Goals/90 min, and has a very respectable 7.7% scoring percentage - more than Darren Mattocks. Critics will say that Daigo, Heinemann, and even Jordan Harvey rate higher in that department, but do you really think Jordan Harvey's going to be posting 40% year after year? Which direction do you think Heinemann's percentage is going to move next season? And do you think Manneh's will only improve? I do.
Manneh's got speed, agility, an improving touch, and most importantly the burst of acceleration to leave men for dead. He's a game-changer who's unpredictable, which already makes him dangerous. He's got tons to learn about the game, but for a relatively blank slate, his starting point puts him in a class all his own. Once he develops the confidence to run at defenders and not just past them, I have no doubt he'll be a top striker for years to come.
I have a feeling - and let's face it, this isn't a science in which everything boils down into a nice, convenient little formula - that Kekuta Manneh will pay huge dividends for the Whitecaps, whether it's on the pitch, or on some dotted line in the form of a very significant transfer fee down the road.
Whitecaps fans are going to miss him once he's gone.
Best Highlight of the Season
2013 Player of the Year Runner-Up:
That little Brazilian guy who kicks it into the net all the damned time.
2013 Player of the Year: Camilo Sanvezzo
When I first sat down to write my contribution to this article I thought I would take a little time to consider all five of the nominees instead of voting on impulse. Unfortunately for Messrs. Harvey, Miller, Reo-Coker and Teibert I started my examination with Camilo and he is, without any doubt, my choice for the 2013 Player of the Year.
With two games remaining in the season (just where did the time go anyways?) Camilo still has a shot at winning the MLS Golden Boot and his 18 goals is only one less than Montréal's Marco Di Vaio. By my count, Camilo has had at least four matches with two goals and haven't some of those been beauties? His scissor kick last weekend against Portland will be a finalist for the Goal of the Year without a doubt, but Camilo has scored in all sorts of ways this season: from open play, from penalty kicks, from free kicks - heck, he even scored a pair of headed goals against Seattle back in June.
It's an impressive collection of work considering Camilo did not start the season in favour with the manager. He was limited to the substitutes bench and didn't get his first start until we were a month into the season. The only downside to Camilo's season is that when he's been off, he's really been off, but the stats don't lie; Camilo has had one heckuva year.
Best Highlight of the Season
2013 Player of the Year Runner-Up: Nigel Reo-Coker
The other four players on the list have had good seasons, but for me not one of the other nominees stands out as much as Camilo has. Reo-Coker has become a real leader of the team and carried them on his shoulders. Miller is also a leader and has scored some big goals, but has missed too many matches for various reasons. Harvey has been a pleasant surprise as a source of secondary scoring, but at times he has been exposed as a bit of a defensive liability. Finally, Russell Teibert has emerged as a legitimate player this season, but has struggled to consistently play at the high level he has shown us.
2013 Player of the Year: Nigel Reo-Coker
So often has the lamentation been that Vancouver's attack is stunted without a serviceable attacking midfielder. That may be, but can you imagine what the rest of the 'Caps game would be without a dominant midfield engine to boss the park? Ever since his arrival, Nigel Reo-Coker has freed up the rest of the squad to attack by making a very noticeable home in the center of the park; essentially, Reo-Coker is the catalyst that creates the possession that has jumpstarted the Vancouver attack. Now, imagine what would happen with a Diego Valeri-type wingman running shotgun...?
2013 Player of the Year Runner-Up: Camilo
Let me see: 18 goals, three Player of the Week awards, the July Player of the Month award and an MLS All-Star appearance capped with a free kick assist. So, uh, yeah, he's kinda important. Like, really, really, really important. Without Camilo's service on set pieces or tireless (albeit sometimes overambitious) attacking runs, the Whitecaps' playoff dream ended months ago. O Magico!