The Vancouver Whitecaps 2017 Major League Soccer season has come to a close. We will take a look back at the season that was, over the next few days. First on the list: Annual Player Awards.
The staff listed their Most Valuable Player, Most Improved, Best Signing, Biggest Surprise, and Biggest Disappointment. Make sure to give us your picks in the comments.
Most Valuable Player : Kendall Waston was the Vancouver Whitecaps official winner, and our staff agreed with the selection. After a disappointing 2016 campaign, giving Kendall Waston the captaincy seemed to be a strong motivator that helped him return to his Defender of the Year nominee status, finishing third in the 2017 voting. Away from the Caps, Waston also scored the goal that sent Costa Rica to the World Cup. It was certainly a great season for the Towering Tico.
Andrew Bahl: Yordy Reyna and Fredy Montero are the easy answers here but I’ll give the MVP honors to Kendall Waston. I said all year that the single biggest change to boost Vancouver’s prospects was the Big Man returning to his 2015 form (and then some). Whether it was the captain’s armband or not, Waston was a force in the type of tactical system Robbo employed and gobbled up enough clearances to help him lead the league in the category. He also added four goals, contributing to the Caps’ dominance off of set pieces. If Tim Parker continues to develop, this could be the top defensive unit in MLS for the foreseeable future.
Cascadia Lion: Kendall Waston
CWilkins: When Reyna plays well the team plays well. When he’s injured or out of form the team does not play well. Montero or Waston were also in with a shout but I don’t feel that the team would be as crippled without them.
Edmondk: Waston. The team was consistently better when he was on the pitch.
Ian Jones: Kendall Waston. The guy was reliable through and through, particularly with the arid goal-scoring in front of him and the late-season goalkeeper roulette behind him. His importance was particularly exemplified in his absence, with the team's drop in quality when Waston was unavailable from injury or international duty.
Most Improved: This was a difficult category for our staff. As Andrew put it ‘can you be considered the most improved if you spent last season in college?’ While Alphonso Davies and Marcel de Jong received some votes, it was Jake Nerwinski that topped the list. We will see Jake’s name pop up again shortly.
Cascadia Lion: Jake Nerwinski
CWilkins: Alphonso Davies: Although he finished the season in a run of poor form, I felt Davies looked significantly better than last year. Last season, he could certainly cause problems but this year there were times when he was dominant. Hopefully next year that can translate into some more goals.
Ian Jones: Marcel de Jong. He didn't really see serious playing time until halfway through the season, but his play was far better than his string of starts after his 2016 signing. I'm thinking he'll make a far bigger impact in 2018.
Andrew Bahl: Can you be considered the most improved if you spent last season in college? Either way, I would argue that no player on the team developed more over the course of the season than Jake Nerwinski. Snubbed in the conversation for rookie of the year, Nerwinski supplanted Sheanon WIlliams at the RB slot in late summer and never looked back. Each game without fail, I would comment on the rookie’s composure and maturity and his crisp passing and defensive intelligence are far beyond his years. While I questioned this pick initially, count this as another SuperDraft win for Vancouver.
Best Signing: The Caps made a couple of important signings to fix their struggling attack. It is no surprise that the top choices for best signing were Jordy Reyna and Fredy Montero. However, Edmond did not that they were ‘worried teams have figured out how to physically rub him out of the game’.
While Reyna and Montero were obvious front-runners, Ghazal/Nosa combination were highlighted, as was Tony Tchani. On the surface, Tchani may not seem like the ‘best’ signing, however, when you consider all the funny money that came with him, and removing a player who, while talented, seemed half-way out the door.
Edmondk: Reyna is the easy choice, but I’m worried teams have figured out how to physically rub him out of the game. In that case, I think it will be Ghazal, with Nosa nipping at his heels.
Ian Jones: Yordy Reyna. With all due respect to Fredy Montero, who had a decent season on his own, but the team shifted into another gear once Reyna returned from injury in July. Here's hoping he can maintain those quality performances across 32 games in 2018.
Andrew Bahl: If I wanted to burn the 86 Forever servers to the ground I would say Tony Tchani, just for kicks and giggles. But, in reality, I see the best signing of the past several years to be Yordy Reyna. While Fredy Montero had an established MLS career, most fans did not know what we would be getting in Reyna. But almost immediately after returning from injury, Reyna showcased his flair, pace and dynamic passing abilities. On a team which was often chided as boring, Reyna consistently injected energy into the Whitecaps’ attack.
Cascadia Lion: Aly Ghazal/Yordy Reyna
Biggest Surprise: Like with most improved, Jake Nerwinski was the leader in this category, with his 6th place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting. Marinovic was also noted, given it was a surprise he was signed period and then that he took over for David Ousted. Finally, Andrew highlighted de Jong’s late-season rise as the biggest surprise. Can’t necessarily argue with that one!
CWilkins: Stefan Marinovic: I was a bit skeptical at the time of the signing, certainly didn’t expect him to seize the reigns like he did.
Ian Jones: Jake Nerwinski. After the Whitecaps's mess at right back in 2016, any improvement would be a godsend. But Nerwinski absolutely overachieved in his rookie season, particularly after the mid-season, team imposed suspension of Sheanon Williams, and ultimately finishing sixth in the MLS Rookie of the Year voting.
Andrew Bahl: I was excited to see Robbo use Marcel de Jong more and more as the season went on. I have long been enamored with de Jong’s versatility on the wing and feel he provides a tactical flexibility and attacking prowess that Jordan Harvey sometimes lacks. It is possible, unfortunately, that Harvey has played his last match as a Vancouver player but if de Jong continues his performances from late this season, the left back slot will be filled by a capable replacement.
Cascadia Lion: Jake Nerwinski
Biggest Disappointment: Without knowing what any of their colleagues chose, Christian Bolaños was the unanimous winner for Biggest Disappointment. It is hard to argue with this one, as he was the 2016 CONCACAF Player of the Year, and appeared ready to lead the offense. However, injuries and inconsistent play lead to a down year. Hopefully he can rebound in 2018, as his Costa Rican teammate Waston did in 2017.
Ian Jones: Christian Bolaños. As much as I like his play and see him as a leader in the locker room, it felt like he kept forcing himself in to poor decisions on the pitch. At times, he could dust himself off and try again, as he had at half time during the April loss away to Portland, but as the season was drawing to a close, a lot of the team's successes felt like they were happening around him rather than with him. I don't doubt he can turn his play around next season, but his 2017 MLS season felt lacking overall.
Cascadia Lion: Christian Bolaños. I’m a fan, and I know there is much more he can bring to the team, but I rarely saw it in 2017.
CWilkins: Christian Bolaños: He was alright but showed up to camp unfit and was pretty much a non-factor by the end of the year. Then again, he did lead the team in assists so what do I know.
Andrew Bahl: It’s tough to pinpoint a player who majorly underwhelmed but I have to say I was disappointed in Christian Bolaños this season. When he played at full fitness, he was generally quite good. But Bola struggled with injuries for much of the season, a rude reminder that he is getting no younger. Hopefully, the Costa Rican can use the offseason to regain his form and put any lingering ailments to bed.
Edmondk: Christian Bolaños
There you have it. Those are our award winners. Who are your picks for each of the awards? Agree with our assessments? Let us know!