USL News Release
Thursday, October 2, 2008
TAMPA, FL – United Soccer Leagues announced Thursday the finalists for the Defender of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors for the 2008 USL First Division season. Twelve individuals representing eight clubs are up for the honors as voted on by the league’s coaches and general managers.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER FINALISTS
For the first time in five years, more than one of the finalists for the league’s top honor found themselves on clubs falling short of the postseason. The trend of new players being featured as the finalists also continued as no player over the past five years has ever been in the final running for the honor more than once.
Alex Afonso (Miami FC Blues)
The Brazilian newcomer made quite an impact for Miami, finishing as the league’s Scoring (34 points) and Goal Scoring (15) Champion despite failing to reach the postseason. His strike tally on the year accounted for just over half of the team’s 28 goals on the campaign.
Macoumba Kandji (Atlanta Silverbacks)
The fast-rising talent was among the league leaders in scoring the first half of the season and would finish fourth in goals (11) and tied for third in points (27) over the course of his 21 games played due to late season injury and eventual loan to New York of MLS. Despite finishing 10th, the Silverbacks were tied for the league’s second best offense. Kandji is the second consecutive leading scorer from Atlanta to be a finalist for the honor, following Dan Atoniuk from a year ago.
Jonathan Steele (Puerto Rico Islanders)
On his third club in three years, Steele find found his stride to help guide the Islanders to the regular season championship and the league’s top offense while finishing as the league’s Assist Leader with 11 on the season in 26 games. He also chipped in for two goals and finished the year tied for 13th in points.
COACH OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
For the second consecutive year and for the third time since 2004, only two coaches were finalists for the Coach of the Year honor. The trend of new coaches also continued as former Impact coach Nick DeSantis remains the only manager to be a finalist more than once (2004, 05, 06).
Colin Clarke (Puerto Rico Islanders)
Clarke’s second season with the Islanders started off on the wrong foot with three losses in the first four matches, but they only lost three more times over the course of the remaining 26 games while moving to the top of the table and claiming the Commissioner’s Cup as the regular season champions with a record of 15-6-9 and the league’s top offense and defense. Included in the club’s impressive campaign are two currently running unbeaten streaks. Since their 1-0 loss July 4 in Miami, the Islanders have not dropped a game on the road, going 7-0-4 with five straight immediately following the initial loss before returning home. They are also unbeaten in their last 12 (6-0-6) league games dating back to their 2-1 home loss to Seattle August 1, all while going unbeaten on the road in the CONCACAF Champions League through five games (3-0-2) in preliminary round and group games.
John Limniatis (Montreal Impact)
Limniatis took over June 10 in Montreal with the club at the bottom of the table and finished the campaign 10-6-4 to finish third, all while also competing in the Canadian Championship and, subsequently, in the CONCACAF Champions League. The club’s goals allowed rate dropped slightly under Limniatis from 1.00 per game to .90, but it was the doubling of the offense’s scoring rate from .60 to 1.35 goals per game that proved critical as the club climbed the ladder.
DEFENDER OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
Cristian Arrieta (Puerto Rico Islanders)
While helping guide the Islanders to the best defensive rank in the league with only 23 goals allowed, Arrieta proved to be just as much of a threat on the offensive end of the pitch with a team leading seven goals on the season for the league’s most productive offense. Arrieta also chipped in with two assists in his 26 matches played this season.
Taylor Graham (Seattle Sounders)
The Seattle back received his third selection as an All-League player (2005, 2007). He helped guide the defending champions back to the postseason, playing in 26 matches on the year and contributing one goal.
David Hayes (Atlanta Silverbacks)
The veteran player earned his second straight All-League selection despite playing on the league’s worst defensive-ranked team. His all-around contribution to the Silverbacks, who were tied for third in offense, included three goals and two assists in 28 games.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
Osvaldo Alonso (Charleston Battery)
The Cuban defector’s first year as a professional turned out to be quite good from himself and the Battery as he helped lead Charleston to the postseason while finishing fourth on the team in scoring with four goals and two assists in 23 games.
Vicente Arze (Vancouver Whitecaps)
The talented attacking Bolivian midfielder out of Mercer University saw plenty of action for the Whitecaps in his first season as a professional, notching a goal and two assists in 26 league appearances while helping lead the side to a second-place finish on the season.
Martin Nunez (Carolina RailHawks)
Leaving college after his freshman season at Georgia Perimeter College proved to be a wise decision as the diminutive attacking midfielder from Uruguay nearly helped lead the RailHawks to the postseason. The former USL Super-20 League standout was the club’s second leading scorer with five goals and two assists in 28 games.
Historical: List of finalists in previous seasons [+]