AFTN’s 2020 End Of Season Awards (Part One – Vancouver Whitecaps)

AFTN’s 2020 End Of Season Awards (Part One – Vancouver Whitecaps)

It’s Thursday. You know what that means. Another year is over and it’s time for AFTN’s ninth annual end of season awards, as we look back at Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2020 season and some more aspects from the North American footballing landscape.

It was a year like no other they say, yet you can’t help but have a nagging feeling that 2021 is going to be heading the same way, vaccine or no vaccine. The Whitecaps played 24 matches during the 2020 season, playing more games in Portland and Orlando than at home in Vancouver, and then having the playoff qualifying scenario changed on them midseason. With continuing messes off the pitch, it’s another season to quickly forget for long-suffering ‘Caps supporters.

Forced to be road warriors in makeshift homes, players on the three Canadian MLS teams endured a lot to play some football matches. The reward has been for the league to invoke a force majeure clause on them, throwing the 2021 MLS season into even more uncertainty. A lovely kick in the stones to end the year for those that gave up a lot for a league that pleads poverty while raking in obscene amounts of expansion fees to line the owners’ pockets.

Elsewhere, the Canadian Premier League season saw the eight teams play between 7 and 11 matches in The Island Games. A highly successful and enjoyable tournament, but a season that was way too short to meet players’ development and fan demand. International football was thrown for a loop but Alphonso Davies continues to shine on the world stage, with a slew of awards to his name.

All that’s in the history books now, so let’s look back at the best and the worst, the highs and the lows, and the joys and frustrations from the 2020 season, from a Vancouver Whitecaps perspective and more.

Don’t agree with some (or all) of our choices? Great! Let us know who would have got your votes in the comments below.

Here’s our first ten awards and you can also catch up with our choices from previous years in the links below:

2011 awards / 2012 awards / 2013 awards / 2014 awards / 2015 awards / 2016 awards (Part One) / 2016 awards (Part Two) / 2017 awards / 2018 awards (Part One) / 2018 awards (Part Two) / 2019 awards (Part One) / 2019 awards (Part Two)

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AFTN WHITECAPS PLAYER OF THE SEASON :

WINNER: THE GOALKEEPERS – For the first time ever, the consensus of the AFTN team was to give the award to a position rather than any one individual. The main reason being that in a season of disruption, with some players not being with the team for all the phases of play, no one player actually stood out enough to merit the award on their own.

You could argue for Fredy Montero (5 goals and 5 assists from 16 games), but he was streaky to say the least and didn’t contribute a goal or an assist in over two thirds of the games that he did play. Cristian Dajome also had a fairly decent, if unspectacular, first season with the team.

So we’ve settled on the goalkeepers as a unit. All four of them that played in games and the two others that were on the bench across a season that saw a curse hit the keeper pool as injuries sidelined Maxime Crepeau and Thomas Hasal, a bereavement called Bryan Meredith away from MLS is Back, and Evan Bush had to join from Montreal for the final few games. With everything they went through, they deserve the recognition as our Players of the Year.

2019 winner: Maxime Crepeau
2018 winner: Alphonso Davies
2017 winner: Kendall Waston
2016 winner: Christian Bolanos
2015 winner: David Ousted
2014 winner: Pedro Morales
2013 winner: Camilo Sanvezzo
2012 winner: Joe Cannon
2011 winner: Camilo Sanvezzo

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AFTN WHITECAPS YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON :

WINNER: MICHAEL BALDISIMO – If the Whitecaps are anything, and there are several words that could be used to described them, it’s young. There’s a slew of young players that could have picked up this award in theory, but it really boiled down to a two horse race between goalkeeper Thomas Hasal and the winner Michael Baldisimo, two of the few bright lights from this year. And two players who actually dominate our awards this year in general, which says it all.

Hasal’s performances showed the talent that he is and the future is bright for the young keeper. If he’d played out the season, he may have picked up the award, but his nine appearances just weren’t enough to take the title from Baldi, who made 13 appearances, seven of them starts, scoring one goal and adding three assists.

Baldi’s play this year was a joy to watch. A mature head on his shoulders, with some sublime distribution ability and a sweet strike. Would he have gotten his chance in a normal year? Perhaps not, but he certainly grabbed his opportunity with both hands. You don’t want to pile too much pressure on the young lad, but he is the midfield talent the team has been crying out for and he still has a lot of development to take his game to an even higher level. The Whitecaps job now is to continue that development apace so that this time next year he is a regular starter in the team.

2019 winner: Theo Bair
2018 winner: Alphonso Davies
2017 winner: Jake Nerwinski
2016 winner: Brett Levis
2015 winner: Tim Parker
2014 winner: Matias Laba
2013 winner: Kekuta Manneh
2012 winner: Caleb Clarke
2011 winner: Caleb Clarke

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AFTN WHITECAPS ACADEMY PLAYER OF THE SEASON :

WINNER: KAMRON HABIBULLAH – We initially weren’t going to give this award due to the academy’s 2019/20 season being curtailed and their 2020/21 season cancelled, but we decided to present our first back to back winner in Habibullah.

The 17-year-old didn’t get to play much this past year but he is still very highly thought of by the Whitecaps and looks set to become the club’s latest Homegrown Signing for 2021. He will need playing time to continue his development so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him signed and then loaned out initially, maybe even overseas.

2019 winner: Kamron Habibullah
2018 winner: Theo Bair
2017 winner: Jose Hernandez
2016 winner: Alan Camacho

(new award in 2016)

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WHITECAPS GOAL OF THE SEASON :

WINNER: MICHAEL BALDISIMO v TORONTO FC (05/09/20 – 3-2 home win) – The Whitecaps have a free kick on the edge of the box. It’s blocked by the wall. It’s actually a terrible free kick. The rebound though breaks to Michael Baldisimo, making just his second appearance with the first team, and the young homegrown hits an absolute belter from 20 yards out, into the back of the net, for his first ever MLS goal. A fantastic moment that could only have been better if there actually been fans able to attend to witness it. Top drawer.

2019 winner: Ali Adnan v FC Dallas (25/05/19)
2018 winner: Alphonso Davies v Minnesota United (29/07/18)
2017 winner: Cristian Techera v Sporting KC (20/07/17)
2016 winner: Blas Perez v Chicago (11/05/16)
2015 winner: Gershon Koffie v RSL (30/5/15)
2014 winner: Erik Hurtado v Seattle (24/5/14)
2013 winner: Camilo Sanvezzo v Portland (6/10/13)
2012 winner: Darren Mattocks v Toronto (11/7/12)
2011 winner: Eric Hassli v Seattle (11/6/11)

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WHITECAPS GAME OF THE SEASON :

WINNER: 2-0 AWAY WIN v CHICAGO (23/07/20 – MLS is Back) – A bizarre game for a bizarre season. Needing a two goal victory to move into the knockout stages at the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando, things were not looking great for the ‘Caps when lightning forced a stoppage for over 90 minutes with the game goalless. It was getting close to an abandonment but things got going again just in time and Yordy Reyna fired Vancouver ahead two minutes after the restart. Six minutes after that Cristian Dajome made it two, and the ‘Caps were in a Disney dream world.

Chicago thought they had pulled one back with six minutes to go, but VAR ruled it out for a handball, and despite some late Fire pressure, Vancouver held on to advance in really the only modicum of success the team had all year.

Oh, and the game kicked off at 6am Pacific Time. Crazy, crazy, crazy.

2019 winner: v LA Galaxy (29/09/19 – 4-3 away win in penultimate game)
2018 winner: v Portland Timbers (11/08/18 – 2-1 Timbers unbeaten streak breaking win)
2017 winner: v NYCFC (05/07/17 – 3-2 come from behind home win)
2016 winner: v Portland (23/10/16 – 4-1 end of season home win)
2015 winner: v LA (04/04/15 – 2-0 coming of age home win)
2014 winner: v Seattle (10/10/14 – 1-0 Cascadia Cup clinching away win)
2013 winner: v Seattle (9/10/13 – 4-1 away thrashing of Sounders)
2012 winner: v San Jose Earthquakes (5/5/12 – 2-1 win at BC Place)
2011 winner: v Kansas City (2/4/11 – 3-3 draw at Empire Field)

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SAVE OF THE YEAR :

WINNER: THOMAS HASAL v SPORTING KC (26/07/20 – MLS is Back) – Thomas Hasal had a string of fantastic saves in the Whitecaps MLS is Back knockout match with Sporting KC, keeping the game goalless and sending it in to penalties. The pick of the bunch came in the 18th minute when he turned away a powerful Gabi Kinda header. Class.

2019 winner: Maxime Crepeau triple save v Atlanta (15/05/19 – BC Place)
2018 winner: Stefan Marinovic v NYRB (18/08/18 – 2-2 home draw, MLS)
2017 winner: Stefan Marinovic v San Jose (15/10/17 – 1-1 home draw, MLS)
2016 winner: David Ousted v Orlando (16/07/16 – 2-2 home draw, MLS)
2015 winner: David Ousted v Philadelphia (09/05/15 – 3-0 home win, MLS)
2014 winner: David Ousted v New England (22/3/14 – 0-0 away draw, MLS)
2013 winner: Marco Carducci double save v Victoria Highlanders (28/6/13 – Thunderbird Stadium, PDL)
No award in 2011 or 2012.

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WHITECAP TO WATCH IN 2021:

WINNER: CRISTIAN DAJOME – I’ve deliberated stopping this award as it seems to be the kiss of death! But we’ll persevere and hope that changes and to try and force that change, I’ve gone down a different route this time around, picking a more experienced player.

Cristian Dajome is my player to watch in 2021. The Colombian midfielder has had a tough first year in Vancouver and in MLS. He was parted from his family for many months, there was all the Covid side of everything, and then when his family did make it to Vancouver, he had to call Portland home. Factor in playing in a new league, in new cities, in a country that speaks a different language, and it was a lot for him to take on board.

Through it all he showed the sparks and the signs of why Marc Dos Santos made him a Whitecap. Three goals and four assists from 23 matches might not scream difference maker, but it’s a promising start and I really feel that with a better supporting cast (hopefully) around him next season, 2021 will be his year to shine. We saw the exciting prospect of the Dajome/Montero/Cavallini partnership this year. Add in a proper number 10 and some more creativity and we could be talking about Dajome as out Player of the Year contender I feel.

2019 winner: Jasser Khmiri
2018 winner: David Norman
2017 winner: David Norman
2016 winner: Alphonso Davies
2015 winner: Marco Bustos
2014 winner: Marco Bustos
2013 winner: Sam Adekugbe
2012 winner: Ben Fisk
2011 winner: Caleb Clarke

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY A WHITECAP AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL:

No award this year. Thanks Covid.

2019 winner: Gianfranco Facchineri (Canada U17)
2018 winner: Kendall Waston (Costa Rica)
2017 winner: Kendall Waston (Costa Rica)
2016 winner: Blas Perez (Panama)
2015 winner: Darren Mattocks (Jamaica)

(new award in 2015)

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MISS OF THE YEAR AWARD (AKA THE BREK SHEA MEMORIAL TROPHY):

WINNER: LUCAS CAVALLINI Penalty at LA Galaxy (07/03/20) – Taking this on a not so literal footing, you could have the Whitecaps missing out on a top CEO by letting Mark Pannes go, missing a commanding midfield maestro on the park, or Yordy Reyna missing his alarm clock or the news that you shouldn’t be playing pick up football matches in Andy Livingston Park.

But the award is going to an actual miss during a match as usual and it goes this year to another Whitecaps DP for the fourth year running! It’s Lucas Cavallini this year. He had a few bad misses and I’m probably forgetting one worse than this so please let us know! But we’re going for his piss poor penalty against LA Galaxy back in normal times. Or March as it’s also known.

The ‘Caps were leading 1-0 in LA with two minutes to go. You expect your DP to bury that or at least make the keeper produce a spectacular stop, not just hit it weakly straight at him. He also took another poor penalty against Montreal in August and his record from the spot is not great for a good goalscorer. Hopefully someone else is on penalty duty next season.

2019 winner: Joaquin Ardaiz (No one game, just in general)
2018 winner: Brek Shea (v Houston 11/05/18)
2017 winner: Brek Shea (at Tigres 14/03/17)
2016 winner: Erik Hurtado (v New York Red Bulls 03/09/16)
2015 winner: Kekuta Manneh (at San Jose 03/10/05)
2014 winner: Darren Mattocks (Lifetime Achievement award)
2013 winner: Nigel Reo-Coker (v Columbus) {new award}

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TACKLE OF THE YEAR:

WINNER: LUCAS CAVALLINI ON JONATHAN OSORIO (v TFC AT BMO FIELD – 18/08/20) – So much had been made in the build up to this match about the childhood friends meeting on the pitch for the first time in a MLS match. It was a special moment for both players. Lucas Cavallini wanted a special momento to remember the occasion by. Turns out that momento was a piece of Osorio judging by this crunching tackle four minutes in!

When we asked Cava about the tackle a couple of days later, he admitted Osorio wasn’t best pleased: “Jonathan wanted the ref to give me a red card. He already was scared. He was scared that I was on the pitch against him, so he wanted me out as soon as possible!”

To be fair, Cava did say he was going to do that, and as much as I do love a crunching tackle, the ‘Caps DP needs to definitely hone his aggression a little next season. He’s not much use to the team sitting in the stands.

2019 winner: Doneil Henry (Home v Portland 10/05/19 – on Diego Valeri)
2018 winner: Aly Ghazal (Home v Dallas 23/09/18)
2017 winner: Aly Ghazal (Home v Sporting KC 30/09/17)
2016 winner: Garret Kusch (on Mexican pitch invader 25/03/16)
2015 winner: Matias Laba (at Montreal 12/08/15)
2014 winner: Matias Laba (Home v Dallas 4/10/14)
2013 winner: Nigel Reo-Coker (at San Jose) {new award that year}

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And so concludes our first awards from the 2020 season. We’ll be back soon with Part Two which features Quote of the Year, our Heroes and Villains, Most Embarrassing Moment, Disgrace of the Year, and more.

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Authored by: Michael McColl

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