ST. PAUL, Minn. — Major League Soccer named Vito Mannone its 2019 Goalkeeper of the Year on Thursday.
Minnesota United’s goalkeeper led total voting with 17.67 percent in a close race. Strong showings from both the player and media vote, and a notable first place finish with 25.51 percent of the club vote, earned Mannone the postseason award.
D.C. United’s Bill Hamid (13.33 percent) finished second and New York City FC’s Sean Johnson (10.98 percent) came in third. Atlanta United’s Brad Guzan was fourth and New England Revolution’s Matt Turner was fifth in voting.
“It’s a wonderful achievement,” Mannone said. “It’s been a long road for me in general — in my career and in my life. I’m grateful for such an amazing award. I’m grateful for the opportunity, so thanks to the club, all [my] teammates, the coaching staff. Of course my family, who supported me every day, my special wife, I share the award with her. The fans have been amazing to me and I wouldn’t have won without their help.”
Mannone also mentioned his parents, both of whom are deceased, and that the award was the type “that goes up in the sky,” noting the sacrifices his parents made to help him become a professional goalkeeper.
Playing every minute of the Loons’ regular season, Mannone finished second in the league and set an MNUFC record with 123 saves. The Italian’s 1.26 goals-against average was tied with Atlanta United’s Brad Guzan for fifth best, and the 169 shots on target Mannone faced were third-most in MLS in 2019. Additionally, Mannone’s team-record 11 clean sheets trailed only Guzan and Hamid, who each recorded 14.
Last winter, financial concerns saw England’s Reading Football Club looking to reduce its wage bill. Mannone, no longer the Royals’ first-choice keeper, was loaned to MNUFC for the duration of the 2019 MLS season.
Alongside fellow off-season acquisition and 2019 MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara, Mannone was part of a defensive rebuild in Minnesota. Over the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Minnesota earned the dubious honor of becoming the first team in MLS history to concede 70-plus goals in back-to-back seasons. With Mannone, Opara, Romain Métanire, Osvaldo Alonso and draft picks Chase Gasper and Hassani Dotson, the new-look Loons’ defense allowed just 43 goals in 2019. That 28-goal decrease represents the third-best year-to-year defensive improvement in MLS history.
That improved defense helped carry Minnesota United to its first MLS Cup playoffs berth, and did so in Allianz Field’s debut season.
“He’s come in and within two or three weeks you think he’d been here for years,” MNUFC head coach Adrian Heath said. “He’s made the saves I expect a keeper of his stature to make, but then he’s come up with big, big moments that have kept us in games, or won us games. And that’s the sign of a really good goalkeeper.”
With his initial loan agreement ending, Mannone’s future with Minnesota United is unclear. Following the Loons’ 2-1 playoff loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday, the keeper addressed his situation.
“Yeah, I’m open [to returning],” Mannone said. “I really want to sit down and relax a little bit. I’m not going to be making decisions like this in a moment like this, because while I gave everything for this club and for this season to go well, my emotions are still up and down. I want to relax, talk to my family, talk to my agent, talk to whatever clubs want me, and obviously I need to talk to Minnesota. There are many things that need to happen, and I’m really not the only person that’s deciding my future at the moment.”
On Thursday, Heath added: “He’s been a great pickup for us. Hopefully we can turn this loan into a permanent deal and he’ll be here for a few years to come.”