Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC
TAMPA, Fla. – The winners of the USL Fans’ Choice Midseason Awards were announced on Monday, with Real Monarchs SLC’s record-setting first half of the 2017 USL Regular Season netting the club a pair of awards.
More than 8,000 ballots were cast overall by fans at USLSoccer.com over the past weekend, as one race came down to a fraction of a percentage point to determine a winner when the polls closed on Monday morning.
Photo courtesy Real Monarchs SLC
Hoffman has been one of the most consistent goal-scorers in the USL over the past three seasons, but is now on course to set single-season career-highs in both goals and assists. The central point of the Monarchs’ outstanding attack earned 37 percent of the poll, as his 11 goals and five assists made him the only player in the league to rank in the top five in both categories.
After recording 14 goals in the regular season a year ago, Hoffman is on course to surpass that total comfortably and could be on his way to the first 20-goal season of his professional career. He looks to surpass fellow Midseason MVP candidates Romario Williams of the Charleston Battery, who took 25 percent in the poll, and Dane Kelly of Reno 1868 FC – who took 24 percent.
Photo courtesy David Calvert / Reno 1868 FC
Wehan claimed victory in the tightest-fought race of the Fans’ Choice Midseason Awards, earning victory over the New York Red Bulls II’s Arun Basuljevic by one-tenth of a percentage point. Wehan finished with 38.1 percent, to just edge out Basuljevic’s 38 percent in a race that mirrored the quality both have brought to the field in their first professional seasons.
After going unselected in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Wehan has likely turned some heads over the first half of this season. He entered the weekend tied for the league-lead in assists with seven and also sat second in chances created to help 1868 FC record a stellar record in the opening half of its inaugural season. Red Bulls Homegrown signing Basuljevic, who has played every minute for the Red Bulls II this season, would also have been a worthy winner, and it could be a tight race to the finish for the official award at the end of the season for both as they look to reproduce their first-half performances over the next three months.
Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC
The widest margin of victory in any category was recorded by Restrepo, who was the only player to register more than 50 percent of the ballot to earn the Midseason Goalkeeper of the Year award. Since entering the lineup for the injured Matt Cardone, the veteran standout has posted remarkable statistics, and made some outstanding saves to sit tied for the league-lead with seven shutouts, and a miniscule 0.39 goals-against average.
Restrepo’s nearest rival for the award was Orlando City B goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr., who earned 15 percent of the ballot after being a big part of OCB’s presence in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race this season. With the way Restrepo and San Antonio FC’s defense is playing, though, the chance to catch Brandon Miller’s single-season shutout record of 13 set in 2015 might be within reach before the season is out.
Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
Louisville City FC sported the best defensive record in the first half of the season in the Eastern Conference, and while there were numerous reasons for the side’s success, the two-way play brought to the side by Kyle Smith earned the fans’ vote for Midseason Defender of the Year. Smith remains the lone player to play every minute of the season this year for City, while his first-half of the season totals of 27 tackles and 15 interceptions, two assists and 16 key passes illustrated his value to the side at both ends of the field.
Smith earned 37 percent of the poll, winning over a strong field that also included San Antonio FC standout Sebastien Ibeagha, who took 26 percent, and the Charleston Battery’s Forrest Lasso, who took 20 percent. With as many quality defenders as currently reside in the USL, though, this top three could look very different by the time the end of the season arrives.
Photo courtesy Real Monarchs SLC
Promoted to become the Monarchs’ Head Coach after the opening game of the season, Briggs has taken a talented group and quickly turned it into the current favorite to win the USL Regular Season championship. Only Orlando City SC in 2014 has accumulated more points through 17 games than the Monarchs, when the side had 45 points through a 14-0-3 record, putting Real in rare company as a team this season.
Briggs claimed 36 percent of the poll, pushing Reno 1868 FC Head Coach Ian Russell – who himself has done a stellar job in his first season as a Head Coach to put Reno into not only a playoff position but a top-four berth in the Western Conference – into second place with 27 percent. With the focus the Monarchs have approached this season with, however, Briggs has to take major credit for putting the side in position to claim its first silverware.