Now is as good a time as ever to hand out the first ever Be Massive Soccer Mid-Season Awards specifically designed for the Columbus Crew, as their 2-0 loss against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday was their 17th game of the 34-game MLS season.
Rookie of the Year: Ethan Finlay
The speedy Finlay has made more appearances in 2012 than any other Crew rookie. Although the forward/winger doesn’t have a single goal or assist to his name, his pace is definitely something other teams have to worry about when he comes on late in games.
Newcomer of the Year: Nemanja Vukovic
The Montenegrin quickly displaced previous starter Shaun Francis a few games into the season at the left-back spot. Since then, Vukovic has picked up three assists and has brought some consistent defensive prowess to one of the Crew’s weakest positions.
Breakthrough Player: Josh Williams
Williams did not have a single minute of MLS experience before this season. Now, he is a mainstay on the Crew’s first XI. Coming into the lineup due to injuries, Williams impressed so much to the point where he is now almost certain to start if healthy. While he is unlucky to have not scored a goal or three this year, Williams more than makes up for it with his strong defensive play.
Most Exciting Player: Justin Meram
Meram brings a good kind of unpredictable play to the Crew’s attack. Although only having played 427 minutes in eight games this season, Meram is second on the team in goals after scoring three in three consecutive games.
Most Frustrating Player: Dilly Duka
Duka wins this award not for his play, but for the nagging hamstring injury he picked up in the first ten minutes of the Crew’s season opener in Colorado. In fact, it is because of Duka’s great ability that he wins this award. Duka brings a certain kind of class in the attacking third that Columbus has been lacking since Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Whenever it seems like he is close to being completely healthy again, his hamstring unfortunately has different ideas.
Most Consistent Offensive Player: Eddie Gaven
Gaven is leading the team in goals created (goals + assists) this year with five. The nonchalant midfielder, usually lined up on the wings, has also filled in as a second striker. While sometimes too passive, Gaven will always give you a steady performance, along with some great ones.
Most Consistent Defensive Player: Sebastian Miranda
Since joining the team at the beginning of last season, Miranda has started every game at right-back leading up to this past weekend’s loss. The Chilean veteran is steady in defense and also serves in his fair share of crosses. He even scored his first goal for the Crew this season with a header from the edge of the box off of a corner kick.
Biggest Disappointment: Milovan Mirosevic
This award, while being the most undesirable one, is also very tricky to give, mainly because us fans didn’t really understand what we were getting with Mirosevic. I, along with many others, believed Mirosevic was an attacking midfielder who would garner about eight goals and five assists over the course of the season. Instead, we got a great box-to-box midfielder who has also taken a leadership role in the locker room after only half a season with the team. Mirosevic has two goals and zero assists in 13 games. Both of his goals came against the expansion side Montreal Impact, with one of them being a penalty.
Goal of the Year: Emilio Renteria v. Seattle Sounders (May 23rd)
Not much needs to be said about this shot. The only Crew goal even close to being this good in 2012 was Miranda’s header, but, as you can see, Renteria’s shot couldn’t have been placed much better.
Team MVP: Andy Gruenebaum
Without the Hebrew Hammer in goal, I’m afraid Columbus would be very close to the bottom of the league. Gruenebaum is close to the top of almost every major goalkeeping statistical category in MLS, including saves, shutouts, save percentage, and goals against average. He has kept the Crew in countless games this season, helping them earn points when they otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance.
After the year has ended (with hopefully another trophy in Columbus), I will look back at these awards, reassess, and re-award them.
Until then, Be Massive.