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Pro Soccer USA MLS Midseason Awards

We’ve officially reached the midpoint in the Major League Soccer calendar. 

Four months of play is in the books and there are four more months left to decide the 2019 champion. 

Before we dive head first into the playoff races over the next few months, the Pro Soccer USA staff took a few minutes to reflect back on the first half of the campaign.

The voting staff of myself, Dylan Butler, Arman Kafai, Mitchell Northam, Ben Ferree, Julian Cardillo and Dan Santaromita made our choices for 11 different categories for midseason awards and also looked ahead to the second half by picking out a player and storyline to watch.

Below are the results for the Pro Soccer USA MLS midseason awards.

Most Valuable Player

Carlos Vela, Los Angeles FC 

May 16, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) and FC Dallas defender Reto Ziegler (3) battle for the ball in the first half at Banc of California Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Vela is the unanimous choice for Most Valuable Player right now, and he probably will be when we vote again at the end of the season. 

The 30-year-old Mexican has 17 goals and 11 assists in 18 games for Los Angeles FC, and there appears to be no slowing down as he chases Josef Martinez’s single-season scoring record. 

In total, Vela has played a role in 28 of LAFC’s 44 goals during its 12-2-4 start to the season, which has it on track for the Supporters’ Shield 

Coach of the Year 

Jim Curtin, Philadelphia Union 

Oct 6, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin to the field before match against the Minnesota United walks on at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Our staff voters were torn on the perfect Coach of the Year candidate, but Philadelphia’s Jim Curtin gets the nod for leading his club to first place in the Eastern Conference. 

Curtin’s Union have dealt with a litany of issues, including injuries, suspensions, international duty and Cory Burke’s visa status, but they have remained in first place. 

San Jose’s Matias Almeyda and LAFC’s Bob Bradley also received votes. 

Rookie of the Year

Andre Shinyashiki, Colorado Rapids

Jun 1, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; Colorado Rapids forward Andre Shinyashiki (99) chases down a loose ball in the second half against FC Cincinnati at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft has come up with a few big goals for the Colorado Rapids. 

Andre Shinyashiki has four goals and an assist in 16 games for the Rapids after he lit the nets on fire at the University of Denver. 

While Shinyashiki is the current Rookie of the Year favorite, he faces stiff competition from New England’s DeJuan Jones and a few others.

Most Improved Player

Miles Robinson, Atlanta United

Mar 17, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) plays the ball in front of Philadelphia Union midfielder Ilsinho (25) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Two Atlanta United players received votes from our writers in this category, but Miles Robinson edged out Ezequiel Barco. 

After playing in 10 games in his first two seasons, Robinson has started 17 of the 18 games he’s appeared in, and he’s worked his way on to the U.S. Men’s National Team radar in a deep center back pool.

Through 18 games, Robinson and the Five Stripes defense have let up 20 goals, which is the fourth-fewest total in MLS.

New York Red Bulls defender Amro Tarek and forward Brian White, as well as Columbus’ Pedro Santos received votes in this category.

Newcomer of the Year 

Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC 

May 15, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC forward Alejandro Pozuelo (10) driblbles the ball against D.C. United at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Replacing Sebastian Giovinco’s impact on the Toronto FC attack was never going to be easy, but Alejandro Pozuelo has filled the void through the first half of the season. 

The Spanish playmaker has seven goals and eight assists in 15 games for the Reds, who are fighting for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. 

Although this award is Pozuelo’s now, it might not be his at the end of the year with Nani playing well at Orlando City and Brian Fernandez on a scoring tear in Portland. 

Best Goal

Wayne Rooney, D.C. United

This was one of the easiest answers for the writers we pooled. 

Wayne Rooney’s tremendous 70-yard goal for D.C. United on June 26 is the front-runner for Goal of the Year.

Rooney put the perfect amount of weight on his shot and caught Orlando City goalkeeper Brian Rowe out of position to send his shot into the right side of the net. 

Most Surprising Player

Brian White, New York Red Bulls

Jun 28, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls forward Brian White (42) carries the ball as Chicago Fire defender Marcelo (2) defends during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Brian White has done an admirable job filling in for Bradley Wright-Phillips at the top of the New York Red Bulls attack. 

The 23-year-old, who has climbed his way up the Red Bulls organizational ladder, has five goals and two assists in 11 appearances. 

While he’s not at Aaron Long-level success yet, he’s on the same track as the U.S. Men’s National Team defender .

Philadelphia’s Kacper Przybylko, Minnesota’s Jan Gregus, LAFC’s Mark-Anthony Kaye and Robinson all received votes in this category as well.

Most Surprising Team 

San Jose Earthquakes 

Jul 3, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, USA; San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Tommy Thompson (22) controls the ball during the first half of a match with Minnesota United at Allianz Field Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

The turnaround taking place in San Jose over the last few months has been spectacular to watch.

Almeyda has instituted his system to near perfection, and it has led to the Quakes making a surge into the playoff places in the Western Conference. 

San Jose received one more vote than Philadelphia in this category, while Montreal, who is quietly in third place in the East, earned a vote as well. 

Best Young American (21-and-under) 

Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas

Apr 13, 2019; Frisco, TX, USA; FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal (19) celebrates the win over the Portland Timbers at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The tickets for the Paxton Pomykal hype train sold out early in the 2019 MLS season. 

The U-20 World Cup participant has marveled with his passing and overall ability in the final third for FC Dallas. 

Pomykal’s first-half performance has set much higher expectations for him for the rest of the year with Luchi Gonzalez’s side fighting for a playoff position. 

Most Disappointing Player

Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez, Atlanta United

Jun 26, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Atlanta United FC midfielder Pity Martinez (10) celebrates after scoring a goal on a penalty shot against Toronto FC at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

In 17 games, Pity Martinez has two goals and three assists. 

That production simply isn’t good enough for a player who was expected to replace the void left by Miguel Almiron’s sale to Newcastle United. 

Since Atlanta United have plenty of stars at their disposal, they’ve been able to deal with Martinez’s struggles better than other clubs, but his lack of production is still a glaring set back for the defending MLS Cup champion.

Philadelphia’s Marco Fabian and the FC Cincinnati pair of Nick Hagglund and Fanendo Adi also received votes in this category.

Most Disappointing Team 

Sporting Kansas City 

Jun 1, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes argues a call while playing against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City and Columbus were neck-and-neck in the voting for most disappointing team, but Peter Vermes’ side received one more vote. 

Sporting KC currently sits in last place in the Western Conference with 19 points from 18 games.

Although the club has dealt with a slew of injuries, we expect more out of a team that has set such a high standard for itself. 

Columbus has been a disaster in its own right in Caleb Porter’s first season since it sits 11th in the East with 17 points. 

Second Half Player to Watch

Ezequiel Barco, Atlanta United

Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) smiles at his bench after scoring against the New England Revolution during the first half at Gillette Stadium.

Apr 13, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) smiles at his bench after scoring against the New England Revolution during the first half at Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

How Barco follows up his strong showing at the U-20 World Cup will be interesting to watch.

The Argentinian has shown glimpses of his high quality during the season, but he hasn’t put together a significant stretch of goals and assists yet. 

In order for the Five Stripes to claim the No. 1 seed in the East, he has to make more of an impact. 

Brian Fernandez, Emerson Hyndman and Nani also received votes. 

Second Half Storyline to Watch 

What Can Bruce Arena Do With the Revs? 

Jun 26, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution head coach Bruce Arena reacts during the second half against the Philadelphia Union at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

This was the most open-ended question we asked of our reporters, and we received a handful of great responses, but the one that stood out the most was Bruce Arena’s impact on the New England Revolution.

The legendary manager has already put his imprint on the team by stringing together a six-game unbeaten run, but the Revs will need more production in order to make the playoff after a disastrous start under Brad Friedel.

The other stories our writers will be watching are Portland’s second half with a large chunk of home games, LAFC’s incredible run to the Supporters’ Shield and if San Jose can stay hot with Almeyda leading the charge. 

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