Two Seattle Sounders are making a case for year-end awards in 2016

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Osvaldo Alonso should be on the final ballot for MLS MVP. I’ve already climbed up on my stump for that cause this week, a take that might seem to have more heat in it on first blush than it really does.

Still, it’s probably more than a little controversial. A non-attacking player hasn’t won the MLS MVP trophy since goalkeeper Tony Meola in 2000.

Alonso, though, shouldn’t be the only Sounder up for a league-wide end-of-year plaudit. The league actually hands out nine awards toward the end of the year honoring everything from the league’s top scorer to its best goal of the year. Even a couple weeks ago it might’ve looked like the Sounders had little chance of getting anyone on that list. Now, thanks to a stirring turnaround, they might have more than one.

Here’s what those awards look like, with those taking the awards in 2015 in parentheses.

  • Most Valuable Player (Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC)
  • Golden Boot (Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC)
  • Coach of the Year (Jesse Marsch, New York Red Bulls)
  • Rookie of the Year (Cyle Larin, Orlando City)
  • Goalkeeper of the Year (Luis Robles, New York Red Bulls)
  • Defender of the Year (Laurent Ciman, Montreal Impact)
  • Comeback Player of the Year (Tim Melia, Sporting KC)
  • Newcomer of the Year (Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC)
  • Goal of the Year (Krisztian Nemeth, Sporting KC)

Giovinco was obviously the big winner last year with three major awards. But you’ll also notice the Sounders didn’t put anyone on the list, and despite a good year as a team they didn’t come all that close individually. Stefan Frei deserved a shout in the final round of voting for keeper of the year, but he was surprisingly shut out. Aside from that, all quiet on the awards front.

That should not be the case this year. At the very least, it should come down to the wire.

We knew before the season the Sounders might have a crack at the Rookie of the Year honor. The fanfare surrounding Jordan Morris’ entry into the league was hard to miss, but it also made some prognosticators wary. Could he possibly live up to the expectations? Especially after Cyle Larin raised the bar with a record-breaking 18 goals in 2015, no one was sure what to expect.

If it’s possible for Morris to exceed those expectations, he’s done so this year. No rookie in the league has been as integral to his team’s success as Morris, who has 12 goals with three games left to play in the regular season. Not only is that a rookie record for an American, but his six game-winners is also the rookie record period. Full stop.

Voters have others to consider, including names like Philadelphia’s duo of Keegan Rosenberry and Fabian Herbers. But I think what they’ll ultimately find is that Morris is the easy choice. In fact, it shouldn’t even be much of a contest. The Sounders should absolutely land their first-ever Rookie of the Year.

Barring something miraculous, the Sounders probably should rule out the Golden Boot, and while Brian Schmetzer’s done yeoman’s work getting the Sounders this far, he’ll have a difficult time beating out coaches who’ve gone the full season without an MLS Cup. Might as well take out Newcomer and Defender too. Frei and Chad Marshall have both been quite good this year, but it’s probably safer to bet the field. And unless a Sounders player hits a miracle strike in the next two weeks, Goal of the Year is probably out too.

That leaves one more; Comeback Player of the Year. And I know just the man.

Roman Torres was on the shelf for almost 365 days with a knee injury he suffered in September 2015 against San Jose. He’d been with the team for less than a month, and the hulking Panamanian suddenly faced a full year of recovery. That sparked the #FuerzaRoman movement in Seattle, where a large group of supportive fans shadowed his long trek back to 100 percent. And when he got there this August in time for the first game of his return, nobody was quite sure what to expect.

Turns out they needn’t have worried. Torres was ready, alright.

Torres embodies the spirit of the award as well as anyone. It’s given to a “player who showed impressive improvement after overcoming a serious injury or medical condition or after a previous slump in his career.” And the Sounders do have history with this particular award. In 2012, recent signing Eddie Johnson won it after a difficult few years wandering without success on loans in Europe and then a brief stay with Puebla in Mexico.

Torres’ example might be even more dramatic. He missed 30 straight games before being subbed on Aug. 28 against Portland, and he’s started all five matches since. The Sounders have yet to lose with Torres in the starting lineup this year, and he’s looked as dangerous as ever along the back line. Almost like he never left.

There are other stories in MLS of comebacks gone right, but Torres’ might take the cake. And if the Sounders keep playing like this, it’ll be hard to vote against him.



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