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MLS Blows it Badly With Comeback, Coach of the Year Awards

Leave it to MLS to miss a slam dunk.  As part of their daily unveiling of award winners leading up to the MLS Cup (an idea that I like that they do), the league announced the winners of the Comeback Player of the Year and Coach of the Year.  One of these awards was a no-brainer while the other one had reasonable arguments for all of the candidates, but strong arguments in favor of one of the finalists.  So MLS of course went with the biggest names and announced that David Beckham and his coach Bruce Arena had won Comeback Player and Coach of the Year, respectively.

The problem was that neither was the most deserving of this award, and in Beckham’s case it wasn’t even close.

Before I explain the error of MLS’s ways I want to make two critical points.  The first is that I acknowledge that these votes have multiple components, with front offices and players being involved in the voting.  When I say “MLS” I am also criticizing those elements of the vote.  Secondly I acknowledge the fact that some of you may criticize my perspective because I am an avowed DC United fan when I am not professionally covering events.  I won’t be able to convince some of you otherwise except to say that my opinion is shared by non-DCU writers.

On to the awards, and I’ll start with Comeback Player of the Year.  The three finalists for the award were Dominic Oduro (poor 2010 season), David Beckham (2010 Achilles injury), and Charlie Davies (2009 car accident, missed 2010).  Beckham edged out Davies for the award in the weighted vote with Oduro trailing by a decent percentage.  This is an absolute sham.  Statistically speaking, Beckham had a better season than Davies; Beckham was a key midfielder for a team that won the Supporters Shield and almost led the league in assists.  Davies tailed off after a great start to the season and by October there were questions as to whether he would even be brought back by DC United.  Beckham was the league’s first international superstar, Davies has a great story but by the end was making some questionable PR moves.

That aside, this is not a Player of the Year or Most Photogenic award, this is a comeback award, and it is hard to argue that Davies does not deserve this over the rest of the field.  His 2009 car wreck was so horrific his life was in danger potentially and his career certainly was in doubt; he visibly carries the scars with him.  The fact that he scored eight goals and carried DC briefly before the De Rosario trade when the prior year he didn’t even play professional soccer is incredible.  Granted, he isn’t back to where he was but he has come a long way and his comeback is mighty impressive.  Beckham also made a comeback from injury, but that was an Achilles injury probably due to playing overseas plus repeated travel.  Some have claimed that Davies did not deserve to win because he did not play in MLS last season; Beckham was hurt playing in Serie A and openly angling for an overseas loan.  If prior MLS playing time was a criteria (and it should be stated if so), Geoff Cameron deserves this award.  But to give it to Beckham over Davies is a terrible mistake.

Now to Coach of the Year, and this one is less cut and dried.  Bruce Arena is undoubtedly a great coach, there is no doubt about that, and to bring this team of immense egos to the finish line in the regular season is a tremendous accomplishment.  Phil Jackson was coach of the year in the NBA for a reason.  However, on a team where you could solve your striker problem by shedding one designated player to sign another three million dollar a year international, that should count as a strike against your candidacy.  That’s not a coaching skill, that’s a competitive advantage.

Let’s now consider the candidacy of Peter Vermes, a coach I put on my hot seat early in the year.  For the first few months of the season, Sporting Kansas City did not have a home stadium, and rather than drift down into the bottom of the league the team survived to finish first in the Eastern Conference.  There was certainly talent on the team due to some shrewd signings like Omar Bravo, but it was the team’s growth around some young players like C.J. Sapong and Teal Bunbury that really pushed it over the top.  Graham Zusi is now being discussed as a potential USMNT call-up and Omar Bravo, while a proven international talent, could have struggled more in integrating himself to MLS like so many others have before him.  This was a team that made a lot out of not as much proven talent as LA and Seattle, but still clinched the first seed in the competitive East.  Were they a better team than LA and Seattle?  No but they made do with less, and that should be a major consideration for Coach of the Year.

15 Responses to MLS Blows it Badly With Comeback, Coach of the Year Awards

  1. dan says:

    You are such an anti-LA bandwagoner! This article is just
    ridiculous How can you say that any other coach is more deserving
    than Arena? He led the team to being UNDEFEATED at home this whole
    season, they won their CCL group, the supporters shield, AND they
    might have the MLS Cup. Arena has built this Galaxy team to easily
    be considered among the best, if not the best, MLS team ever. Bitch
    all you want about who has players with highest wages, etc but a
    coach has to coach regardless of who is on his team and it shows
    even more talent that he can have 3 DPs on his team and still have
    the best defense in the league, 2 of the best goalkeepers in the
    league (Saunders he got personally to the Galaxy), and then the
    best depth in the league! As for Beckham, he was absolutely
    phenomenal this year. To argue if he is a “comeback” player or not
    is another thing alone and I can respect opinions on both sides.
    Davies sure was injured but he was a fringe player at best and when
    DeRo joined United he was completely thrown to the bench, you have
    to have an impact to be considered a top player in any regard.
    Bitter much?

  2. Alex says:

    i agree with the comeback player of the year award arguement but
    disagree with the coach of the year. first off in a league plagued
    with too much parity bruce arena managed to pick the right players
    and lead them to become the superclub they are now. they are
    undefeated at home, won the supporters shield (the real
    championship btw) all that while balancing CCL. so Bruce arena does
    deserve the coach award. now if there was a Comeback coach of the
    year award then yea, you’d be correct. beckham? no no no. how can a
    name win a award? mls’ biggest marketing tool injured himself while
    in Milan. Davies nearly lost his life. i agree this award isnt
    based on statistics, its based on how a player faced tremendous
    odds to come back and prove himself worthy. for Davies its
    surviving a car accident, recovering from therapy and being a key
    player for United. for beckham it was wearing a tight suit while
    christmas shopping in milan. my guess is they gave that award to
    beckham to please him into staying one more year in MLS. MLS is
    just one big fat conspiracy. .

  3. Dee says:

    Charlie Davies wasn’t a part of the MLS in 2010. It is the main
    thing that I feel should have disqualified him from being in the
    running to get this award.It should go to someone that was an
    official member of the league prior to, during, and after said
    injury which resulted in a comeback where the player’s form or
    stats improved since said injury. Beckham fits this bill despite
    the injury happening in Milan. Oduro turned his season around by
    being traded and the becoming a scoring machine where as Charlie
    started off hot and then began to ride the bench later in the year.
    Charlie’s season regressed but he at least was hurt prior to coming
    to MLS whereas Oduro didn’t even have any injury to “comback” from;
    and if improved form alone is enough to get you nominated, then
    Dewayne DeRosario should’ve been nominated for this thing too as he
    started off the year by getting kicked off of 2 teams before he
    turned it around in DC. Beckham deserved to get this award because
    he actually did make a comeback from something that could have been
    career ending and he surpassed his prior form during that return.
    As for Bruce Arena let’s not forget that Juan Pablo Angel was on
    that team for most of the year stinking up LA’s attack on a
    consistent basis and LA’s backline has been rotating players all
    year long with only Todd Dunivant being the lone defensive starter
    that hasn’t suffered some kind of an injury all year. Arena was
    also able to get production out of guys like Chad Barret, Adam
    Cristman, Mike Magee and Josh Saunders and then was able to sign a
    beast in the form of Robbie Keane who is capable of carrying a team
    if ever needed. With the way LA is built though Keane shouldn’t
    have to do so as they have won games that mattered without any DP’s
    in the lineup. Sigi Schmidt hurt his team’s playoff hopes by
    stupidly starting Mauro Rosales in a meaningless game knowing full
    well he wasn’t ready to start just yet. He already lost players
    this year and the last thing he should have done was stupidly risk
    injuring one of the few that help make his team really dangerous.
    Vermes on the other hand didn’t even start Omar Bravo (one of his
    best players) in a must win game despite the guy being 100% fit.
    Bruce Arena hasn’t done anything this dumb all year. As for
    Vermes’s record, he did indeed have one of the few solid squads in
    a totally weak East conference.That top spot in the East however
    constantly shifted all year with Kansas barely squeaking to the top
    spot by season’s end. Arena’s team not only owned the top spot in
    the West(which is much more competitive) all year long but owned
    the top spot of the league all year as well and it did so with all
    of the above mentioned issues . LA may be a high spending team but
    mismanagement can cost you victories and titles. Just look at the
    NY Redbulls or even the NY Yankee as examples to this fact. Arena
    deserved to win this thing and to win it easily as far as I’m
    concerned.

  4. Charles says:

    Arena outcoached Sigi ,second place in the voting, more times than
    I can count

  5. Daniel Feuerstein says:

    Sorry Robert, I agree with Dee. Charlie Davies should never have
    been in the running because this season was his first season in
    MLS. Now if US Soccer had that type of an award for a comeback
    player of the year, then he counts.

  6. Jjerg says:

    Beckham played great after he came back from that wedding.

  7. Robert Hay says:

    I’ll offer two additional points to those who disagree on Beckham:
    1. The award qualifications do not require a player to have
    previously played in MLS. If someone can show me a link, I’ll admit
    I am wrong. 2. There is precedent for giving the award to someone
    who did not play in MLS the previous year: Troy Dayak who won the
    award in 2001 but played in the A-league in 2000 for the San
    Francisco Bay Seals. Now he had played in MLS a few years prior but
    still he hadn’t played in MLS the year prior.

  8. Chris Riordan says:

    Here’s where I’m gonna show my non – DC bias. First off … Daniel,
    you just pick Beckham because you can’t stand a DCU player getting
    an award. I’m gonna pick Beckham because Charlie Davies rubbed me
    the wrong way in DC. I’m glad he survived that horrific car
    accident and that he can continue his soccer career. However, I get
    being passionate and wanting to play, but I felt his whining to
    Goff about playing time was unecessary. He also showed character
    issues with more than one dive and quite frankly came across
    arrogant to me. Just my two cents.

    • Daniel Feuerstein says:

      Chris Riordan, I enjoy your MLS Talk Podcasts. But let me say that
      THIS IS NOT AGAINST A DC UNITED PLAYER! You are full of it. Charlie
      Davies with DC or not with DC, did not play a single game in MLS in
      2010. All his games are in 2011. Charlie Davies come back is an
      awesome story, but this is not against him because he played for DC
      United. That is a false statement. Charlie Davies is a special
      story and I am thankful he is alive and able to play AT ALL! But
      while he derserves any comeback award, it’s not in MLS. If US
      Soccer had it then yes he gets it. That’s the truth.

  9. Charles says:

    We all have biases and I think that Charlies Davies got too much
    praise for not stopping a drunk driver and almost killing himself
    in the process. So maybe that is my bias on the
    table……………but here is something to think
    about……………………What if you had a superstar playing in
    LaLiga, and he has a down year. I will use Diego Forlan, because if
    he came to MLS it would be the troll morons nightmare. He stinks
    next year, his team has a really bad year and he is drug down with
    them. If he comes to MLS, assuming he isn’t washed up, doesn’t he
    crush it ? So then he is comeback player of the year ? I think that
    is a little rediculous. It is comparing apples to oranges. They
    almost HAVE to play in MLS the year
    before………………………Whether the rules say it or not, I
    would vote that way.

  10. Scott says:

    I think the first two words in your headline pretty much sum it up.

  11. Eric B. says:

    Beckham won because the players overwhelmingly voted for him over
    Davies. That is enough in my book.

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