The end of the professional season means that it's time to hand out the silverware. At the end of the regular season, the Vancouver Whitecaps organization handed out their team awards, and I told you all where I disagreed with them. Then, last week, the USSF Division Two distributed the league honours, with which I registered my dissent in the now-traditional manner.
Now, it's time for Eighty Six Forever to make its own award selections. I don't expect the Whitecaps or the United States Soccer Federation to run articles debating my choices, but that's okay. As I've already announced my choices of the traditional honours such as most valuable player, best goalkeeper, and so on, I am left with no choice but to improvise new awards to hand out. Inevitably, these awards were so ridiculous and personal that they more-or-less make fun of themselves, and both the Whitecaps and the Soccer Federation may sleep at peace knowing that no ridicule they could heap on me could equal the ridicule I've heaped onto myself.
Also, there are no actual awards. If one of the award winners would like a physical totem to wave about, I would be happy to print them off a certificate as well as give them the phone number of an excellent psychiatrist I know.
After the jump, the first and possibly last annual Official Eighty Six Forever Unofficial Awards for the 2010 Vancouver Whitecaps season.
The "My Boy" Award
awarded to the Vancouver Whitecap who gets the most gushing praise from me entirely disproportionate to his actual contribution for the team:
Oh, it seems like there are quite a few candidates for this honour. I've definitely become irrationally attached to certain Whitecaps this season. But the clear winner for this award, the most prestigious and yet the creepiest of the Official Eighty Six Forever Unofficial Awards, was the only real option. Somebody who's been with the team for years back and who I've been pimping since I've started watching this team regularly. Someone who I felt so strongly should start that I dedicated an article to it. It's diminutive but dynamic striker Randy Edwini-Bonsu.
The trick with the "My Boy" award is that I have to like him way more than the team does. Well, Edwini-Bonsu played only 499 minutes last season, which is Ridge Mobulu territory. Clearly, Teitur Thordarson isn't as enamoured with him as I. But Edwini-Bonsu was benched in favour of guys like Mobulu, or Cody Arnoux, or Marcus Haber, who were far and away less effective. Cornelius Stewart and Nizar Khalfan took the starting spots that should have been Edwini-Bonsu's based on, as far as I can tell, nothing at all. I'm telling you, Edwini-Bonsu should have started a lot more in 2010 than he did. I'm still telling you this. And that's how you get the "My Boy" award.
Runner-Up: well, Terry Dunfield was clearly valued by the club, given that since he arrived you'd need a howitzer to separate him from the pitch. But he still finishes runner-up for this award because of one thing: when the Whitecaps signed him I was spitting venom and hatred that Vancouver could possibly sign somebody so useless and so unsuited for our team, and now I'd let him marry my daughter if I had one. In fact, I'd have a daughter just so Terry Dunfield could marry her. With the things I've written about his play on this website, I'm frankly astonished he hasn't taken out a restraining order against me yet.
The Indian Summer Award
awarded to the Vancouver Whitecap who had the most inexplicably marvelous season:
This award sounds a lot more backhanded than it actually is. It's meant to honour the Whitecap who most personified why I really don't deserve to be a soccer pundit, the guy from whom I expected least and delivered most, the player whose every kick of the ball was a pleasant surprise to idiots like me. It's the award for the player who exemplifies why bookies look at my predictions as indicators of things to expect not to happen. This year's winner, and by a hefty margin, is captain, midfielder, joint leading scorer, and general tribute to the value of old warhorses, Martin Nash.
Look, I had good reason to be down on Martin at the beginning of the year! Really, I did! He's 34 years old, for one thing, and most attacking midfielders aren't at their best around that age. His 2009 season wasn't exactly a thing to inspire confidence, either: whenever I saw him he looked varying degrees of old and tired, his usually unerring distribution had started to fade, and he had all the appearances of a veteran player squeezing a few more seasons out in the second division before he has to call it quits.
Just goes to show I'm an idiot. Nash's four goals this regular season tied for the team lead, and his eight assists led it outright. Playing central midfield and surrounded by players who could run up and down the pitch with the most perfect ease, Nash seemed not only at home but a potential Most Valuable Player candidate. Until the addition of Terry Dunfield, most of our really excellent scoring chances went through Nash in one way or another, and even when Nash wasn't getting the play going himself he was skilfully directing those who did. He was better than ever off dead balls. He was terrific! I'm absolutely certain Nash has no idea who I am, and he still played that season like he was singlehandedly determined to make me look like an imbecile. Bravo, Martin. I couldn't be happier about being a moron, and you could hardly have ridden off into a more brilliant sunset.
Runner-Up: since I gave Luca Bellisomo my hypothetical team Most Valuable Player vote, I obviously have a lot of respect for his play. But even as a twenty-three year old who's been improving for a few years now, the strides he took this season were considerable. I expected him to be good, but not nearly as good as he was. He rose to every occasion, met every challenge, and earned his fake MVP vote. I place him behind Nash because I expected Nash to be bad and he was extremely good, whereas I expected Bellisomo to be good and he was phenomenal. The former is more in keeping with the spirit of the Indian Summer Award, which I just made up so you know the spirit is very important.
The Cardiac Surgeon's Order of Merit
awarded to the Vancouver Whitecap most responsible for me screaming "aaaaah!" in both delight and horror.:
I'm a big Philippe Davies fan. When you're nineteen years old and you're running up and down the ring and slinging in marvelous crosses like a veteran, you're okay by me. He was the third-best of our midfielders defensively, which on a team with Terry Dunfield and Blake Wagner is pretty high praise. But he is nineteen, and at times Davies plays like it.
Philippe Davies has all the right ingredients for this award: he is a sufficiently excellent player that I lean forward a little whenever he has the ball, he is young enough that he plays his way into mistakes through inexperience, and he misses open sitters juuuuust often enough that I occasionally want to kill him. Just as a young Martin Nash could famously smash a free kick into a two-man wall even if it were in a different stadium and facing the wrong direction, a young Philippe Davies can get the ball at the top of the box, keeper out of it, take his time, line up his shot, do it right, and scuff it into the goalpost. He can rampage down the right wing, humiliate a veteran defender, break into the area, and sling a cross right into the central defender's face. With Davies the good far, far outweighs the bad, and if the Whitecaps don't give him a prominent role in the future they're nuts. But right now, inexperienced as he is, he can be just a little terrifying.
Runner-Up: Cornelius Stewart has a lot in common with Davies in terms of inexperience, skill, and occasional howler-dom. He's a lot more athletic than Philippe, which is a good sign for the Cardiac Surgeon's Order of Merit: speed kills in more ways than one. But he also doesn't get himself into as many open positions and lacks Davies's electrifying ball skills, meaning that, most of the time, watching Cornelius Stewart is watching someone run really quickly to no result. That's not terrifying at all. Davies is a clear winner of this "honour".
The Golden Bench
awarded to the Vancouver Whitecap who deserved more playing time than he got:
So, which Whitecap should have gotten more playing time this year? I'll give you a hint: it's the one who played eight minutes. I remain convinced Simon Thomas has the stuff to be a good goalkeeper, but I'm basing this entirely off watching him warm up in the south goal sometimes. He managed to knock former Canadian Soccer League Most Valuable Player Dan Pelc off the depth chart, which is promising. And playing eight minutes at all when you're sharing a goal with Jay Nolly is a pretty impressive endorsement from the Whitecaps organization. The team seems to like him, to the extent they're capable of liking any goalkeeper who isn't Jay Nolly. I think he's okay based on my astonishingly small sample. Plus, at twenty years old it's not like he's an old man.
I realize that, in Vancouver, you have to pry your playing time from Jay Nolly's cold dead hands. All the same, I wish the Whitecaps had given Thomas a run out against Crystal Palace Baltimore or Miami FC or one of them. As far as I can tell, he looks promising enough to be worth a go with the Whitecaps reserves next year. It would be nice to see a few games to confirm that.
Runner-Up: I'll give you a hint: right at the top of this page I ranted about how little playing time he got. Randy Edwini-Bonsu played 62 times as often as Simon Thomas, so I can't honestly give him this award, but seriously, Teitur. Play Randy more.
The Facebook Award
awarded to the Vancouver Whitecap responsible for the greatest moment of sheer, undeniable drama:
This award is slightly bitter-sweet, but it has only one clear winner. I had the privilege of attending Mouloud Akloul's Vancouver Whitecaps debut, and it was a sight to behold. The Whitecaps were attacking south, but even from the south stands I could see Akloul cutting out attacks and putting on a clinic of defense. Then the play came the other way and there was Akloul, charging right into it, playing the ball, a cross, normally I don't like my central defenders being up that far but by God he earned that one, and with a brilliant dive Akloul tucked the ball into the goal. What a marvelous strike, one that opened the scoring in the game. The Southsiders were roaring their approval, cheering the beauty of the goal, cheering until the precise moment we noticed Mouloud seemed to have gone down like a sack of bricks and the trainers attending to him were wearing their concerned faces.
Akloul, it transpired, had broken his ankle twenty minutes into his Whitecaps career while scoring his first Whitecaps goal. He was brought out of the game, replaced with Greg Janicki, and play resumed. But the transition from euphoria to horror, while not the sort of moment one associates with soccer drama, definitely qualified Mouloud for the Facebook Award for the most dramatic moment of the year. And he was very nearly his own runner-up in the last game of the year when, to the delight of the entire crowd, Akloul made his first appearance since that game in the final regular season match of the season, playing sterling defense as a substitute and spending every halftime practicing, of all things, his bicycle kicks on Simon Thomas.
Runner-Up: for a more conventional dramatic soccer moment, how do you feel about a last-minute winning goal against a mortal rival on the road? I give you June 30 of this year, when Luca Bellisomo scored in the ninetieth minute at Stade Saputo to give the Whitecaps a shock 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact. Vancouver had actually been down 1-0 until Greg Janicki scored in the ninetieth, and when Bellisomo gave the Whitecaps three points it was a rare moment of delightful, shocking victory in a season that was mostly made up of bore draws and occasional heartbreak.