USL News Release
Monday, September 24, 2007
TAMPA, FL – United Soccer Leagues announced Monday the finalists for the major USL First Division 2007 season awards Defender of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year and Most Valuable Player. Ten individuals representing five clubs are up for the league’s top honors as voted on by the league’s coaches and general managers.
COACH OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
Similar to the MVP balloting, the Coach of the Year honor had two consensus finalists for the award in 2007 with Seattle’s Brian Schmetzer and Portland’s Gavin Wilkinson getting the nods.
Brian Schmetzer (Seattle Sounders)
Schmetzer is a finalist for the honor for the first time since winning the award in his first season with the team. He took over in 2002 after the club missed the playoffs for the first time ever and guided them to a 23-4-1 record and the regular season title. He went on to lead the Sounders to the 2004 final, winning it the following year. The team missed the postseason last year by one point after winning its third title, but returned with a vengeance in 2007, winning the Commissioner’s Cup as the regular season champions with a record of 16-6-6, going 11-1-2 the second half of the campaign despite also having to focus on their US Open Cup run that extended to the semifinals of the tournament with wins over Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids and Chivas USA.
Gavin Wilkinson (Portland Timbers)
Since the league began announcing the finalists for league awards in 2004, Wilkinson is only the second rookie head coach to be a finalist for the honor. Unlike 2004’s Nick DeSantis, who took over a Montreal squad that finished tied for first in the league (second on tiebreakers) the previous year, the former New Zealand international (38 caps) took over a club that finished tied for last place in the league in 2006 and helped guide it to the biggest turnaround in league history, finishing second this season with a record of 14-5-9, three points back of the Sounders. The former defender is an original member of the Timbers inaugural 2001 squad and was the only player to see action in its first six seasons, playing part-time last year while serving as an assistant coach.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER FINALISTS
The voting had a clear consensus for the top two individuals for the Most Valuable Player honor this season with all others only receiving one vote. Seattle’s Sebastien Le Toux and Atlanta’s Dan Antoniuk are the two finalists for the USL-1 2007 MVP award.
Dan Antoniuk (Atlanta Silverbacks)
Antoniuk capped a three-year beginning to his career in Portland with an All-League honor in 2005, but has since found himself moved around the league. He joined Vancouver in 2006, but was sent to Montreal before the campaign even started last season. In the past offseason, he was moved again, finding a home and success once again in Atlanta. He finished the year as the Scoring Champion with the league lead in points with 23. He was tied for seventh in goals with seven, but took the Assist Leader honor with nine. He became just the second Assist Leader in league history to win the Scoring Championship without also winning the Goal Scoring title (Wolde Harris 1996).
Sebastien Le Toux (Seattle Sounders)
The first-year Sounder striker picked up right where Rookie of the Year and co-Goal Scoring Champion Cam Weaver left off last season, finishing tied for the league lead in goals with 10 in 24 games for the Goal Scoring Championship. With two assists, he also finished second in the league in points with 22, one point shy of the Scoring Championship, as he guided Seattle to the regular season title.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
In a year highlighted by veteran professionals, the three finalists for best rookie in the 2007 season will be awarded to a player who had a supporting role unlike last year’s winner Cam Weaver, who finished as the co-Scoring Champion with Romario. In an odd twist, the finalists for the honor - Portland’s David Hague, Puerto Rico’s Jay Needham and Seattle’s Kenji Treschuk – represent the same teams that have seen players win the award the last three seasons.
David Hague (Portland Timbers)
The NCAA’s leading scorer in 2006 with 33 goals and seven assists for Division II Grand Canyon University proved a difficult player for the opposition off the bench. The Englishman tallied four goals and two assists in limited action spread over 22 appearances on the season. Timbers striker Alan Gordon won the award in 2004.
Jay Needham (Puerto Rico Islanders)
Drafted by DC United, the Hermann Trophy finalist out of Southern Methodist University joined the Islanders and became a fixture in the back line for the club. He was one of three players, along with fellow defender and All-League selection Marco Velez, on the club to log over 2,000 minutes on the season. He also provided a goal and two assists. Puerto Rico goalkeeper Dan Kennedy won the honor two years ago.
Kenji Treschuk (Seattle Sounders)
Last year’s honoree Cam Weaver is a tough act to follow, but Treschuk came into his own as the season progressed, playing in 26 games at midfield with two assists. The native of Hawaii came to the Sounders by way of Penn State.
DEFENDER OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
The three finalists represent a wide variety in three-time winner Gabriel Gervais of Montreal, co-leading goal scorer for Atlanta David Hayes and USL-1 iron man Cameron Knowles from Portland.
Gabriel Gervais (Montreal Impact)
The Montreal back has become a fixture as a finalist for the award, receiving recognition as a finalist for the fifth consecutive year. Three-time recipient of the award, he previously won the honor in 2003, 2004 and 2006. Gervais is the fifth player in the history of the league to be named All-League six times in his career and is the first to do so in consecutive seasons. The other five players to reach six are Danny Pena, Robin Fraser, Scott Schweitzer and teammate Mauro Biello. He helped guide the Impact to third in the league at 14-6-8 and the second lowest goals allowed total at 21. He saw action in 17 games this season and contributed offensively with a goal and two assists.
David Hayes (Atlanta Silverbacks)
A key player in the league since his debut with Milwaukee in 2001, Hayes is receiving the first All-League honor of his career. A critical member of the team’s back line with his aggressive play, Hayes was also a key contributor offensively for the club, finishing tied for the team lead in goals with league Scoring Champion Dan Antoniuk. His four assists also put him tied for seventh in the league in points.
Cameron Knowles (Portland Timbers)
The only player in the league to play every minute, Knowles was a key figure in the Timbers turnaround from tied for last in 2006 to second place a year later. Knowles joined the club from Real Salt Lake, where he played primarily with the reserve squad the previous two seasons, making just four appearances with the first team in 2005. Knowles also provided two goals and an assist for the Timbers on the season.
The winners will be unveiled at the USL First Division Championship Banquet Friday, September 28 in Seattle. The USL-1 Championship match is Saturday, September 29 at 10:00 pm ET on Fox Soccer Channel, live from the Starfire Sports Complex.