SEATTLE, WASH. – Major League Soccer today announced finalists for the 2021 MLS Year-End Awards, honoring the top performers on and off the field during the regular season. Sounders FC midfielder João Paulo is one of five finalists for Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player award, while Yeimar Gómez Andrade is one of three finalists for MLS Defender of the Year and Head Coach Brian Schmetzer is one of three finalists for Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year.
The finalists were determined by earning the most votes in polling among the three voting groups: current MLS players, MLS club technical staffs (coaches, general managers / technical directors) and select media members. Award winners are being announced in the coming weeks.
João Paulo started 28 of 31 appearances in his second season with Sounders FC in 2021, recording three goals and 11 assists (tied for sixth in MLS). A two-way standout in midfield, João Paulo finished fifth league-wide in touches (2,463), while ranking first in tackles won (42), second in interceptions (36) and third in duels won (176) among players with at least 10 assists. The set piece specialist ranked second in MLS with 42 chances created from set plays and tied for third with six assists from set plays.
Yeimar appeared in all but one game in 2021, starting 29 and leading a defense that finished tied for first in MLS with just 33 goals allowed. The towering central defender led MLS with 86 interceptions (13 more than any other player) and finished tied for first with 55 tackles won. He also finished second league-wide with 147 clearances, tied for first with 80 headed clearances and eighth with 87 aerials won. Yeimar was rewarded with his first career international callup to Colombia for November’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
In his sixth MLS season as Sounders FC’s Head Coach, Schmetzer guided the Rave Green to a consistent campaign in which the club never fell below second place in the Western Conference all season. Seattle began the season without a loss in its first 13 contests (8-0-5), establishing a MLS record for an unbeaten streak to start a season. The club’s nine road wins and plus-seven road goal differential both ranked first in the Western Conference. Sounders FC’s success this season came despite a heavy slate of long and short-term injuries, as Schmetzer’s side qualified for Extreme Hardship in six matches this season, with the club winning three of those fixtures.
After concluding the 2021 regular season with a 1-1 draw at Vancouver on Decision Day, Seattle Sounders FC (17-8-9, 60 points) prepares to face Real Salt Lake (14-14-6, 48 points) in Round One of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs at Lumen Field on Tuesday, November 23 (7:30 p.m. PT / FS1, KJR 1090 AM, El Rey 1360 AM).