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Championship Awards Watch – August

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 08/09/19, 2:58PM EDT

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Five months of the season gone, where do the races for season-ending awards stand?

Another month of the season wrapped up, so it’s time for USLChampionship.com’s John Arlia and Nicholas Murray to weigh in on where the races for each of the individual awards this season stand after a busy month of July in the league.

Goalkeeper of the Year

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18 GP
53 Saves
11 Shutouts
0.61 GAA
Zac Lubin

Zac Lubin

Phoenix Rising FC

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Phoenix Rising FC
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19 GP
49 Saves
9 Shutouts
0.63 GAA
John McCarthy

John McCarthy

Tampa Bay Rowdies

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Tampa Bay Rowdies
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14 GP
35 Saves
8 Shutouts
0.79 GAA
Matt Pickens

Matt Pickens

Nashville SC

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Nashville SC

ARLIA: We’re getting to the point where I’m starting to think I congratulated you a little bit too early for picking McCarthy at the beginning of the season. The two-horse race between he and Lubin has started to swing in the direction of the Phoenix goalkeeper, who has backstopped Rising FC over the duration of the club’s Championship record-setting 12-game winning streak. Lubin has kept seven clean sheets over that span while conceding just eight goals and has moved ahead of McCarthy – who has missed Tampa Bay’s last two games to injury – in each of the main statistical categories.

MURRAY: Lubin and Phoenix’s back line are collectively doing an excellent job, and now he’s looking like the one that’s going to challenge the single-season shutout record of 15 that Maxime Crepeau set with Ottawa Fury FC last season. But… coming up around the turn is Matt Pickens and as you wrote an increasingly solid Nashville SC back line. He’s gained significant ground on both Lubin and McCarthy over Nashville’s four-game shutout streak, and after getting nominated for Goalkeeper of the Year last season is working his way back into the picture this year.

Defender of the Year

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21 GP
6 Goals
5 Assists
113 Recoveries
Carl Haworth

Carl Haworth

Ottawa Fury FC

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Ottawa Fury FC
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21 GP
57 Interceptions
95 Clearances
139 Recoveries
Jermaine Taylor

Jermaine Taylor

Austin Bold FC

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Austin Bold FC
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20 GP
121 Clearances
65% Duel Success
82% Tackle Wins
Matt Pickens

Papé Diakité

Tampa Bay Rowdies

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Tampa Bay Rowdies

MURRAY: So, no surprise that Carl Haworth is coming to the fore now given his strong two-way numbers this season, and I can’t exactly say he should be a candidate for the Canadian Men’s National Team if he’s not becoming a clear candidate here from his right back position for Ottawa Fury FC. The one quandary I have here is what might end up of Ken Tribbett’s candidacy? He was clearly in the picture before his injury, but now he’s being used in a holding midfield role when he’s come on in Nashville’s recent contests. His versatility is admirable, and a great asset, but it also means voters might not think he’s played enough in Nashville’s back line to be a contender for this award when the season ends.

ARLIA: I agree with you on Tribbett falling out of the frame, especially as Forrest Lasso and Jimmy Ockford continue to dominate in the center of defense and look likely to remain a pairing over the final stretch of the season. Haworth’s two-way numbers have certainly been impressive for Fury FC, though I think I’m still leaning toward Diakite as the constant center back presence over the entirety of the season. A strong run-in would certainly help his case after this inconsistent stretch for him and the Rowdies, but I think that’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

Young Player of the Year

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15 GP
9 Goals
6 Assists
12 Chances Created
Douglas Martinez

Douglas Martinez

Real Monarchs SLC

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Real Monarchs SLC
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19 GP
8 Goals
2 Assists
23 Chances Created
Felipe Gernandez

Felipe Hernandez

Swope Park Rangers

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Swope Park Rangers
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22 GP
107 Clearances
58% Duel Success
67% Tackle Success
Caleb Richards

Caleb Richards

Tampa Bay Rowdies

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Tampa Bay Rowdies

ARLIA: While the impact that Richards has made by playing nearly every minute of the season for one of the league’s top defenses can’t be understated, I do get the feeling that it’ll be tough for a defender to claim this award. That figures to be especially true when a forward of Martinez’s caliber is not only racking up the goals and assists but carrying his team into the playoff places. That may be what ultimately separates him from Hernandez, who has been the lone bright spot for a Rangers side that is rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

MURRAY: Martinez absence from the Monarchs’ lineup on international duty hasn’t exactly hurt his candidacy – and while he’s been away, he’s helped the Honduras U-22 National Team reach the final of the Pan American Games against Argentina on Saturday. I still want to believe that Richards’ consistency at the back for a defense that is currently tied for the fewest goals conceded in the league has a chance to be rewarded, but you’re right that the big numbers of goals and assist always seem to carry more weight in a category like this.

Coach of the Year

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14-2-5 Record
56 Goals
11 Shutouts
+37 Goal Diff.
Rick Schantz

Rick Schantz

Phoenix Rising FC

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Phoenix Rising FC
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13-2-7 Record
10 Shutouts
15 Goals Conceded
4 Points Dropped From Winning Position
Neill Collins

Neill Collins

Tampa Bay Rowdies

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Tampa Bay Rowdies
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13-5-5 Record
50 Goals
17 Points Gained From Losing Position
339 Disciplinary Pts.
Caleb Richards

Ian Russell

Reno 1868 FC

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Reno 1868 FC

MURRAY: Just as in the apparent duel between their goalkeepers for the award up above, it’s going to be hard to see someone other than Rick Schantz or Neill Collins taking home this award at the end of the season. Phoenix is now doing things that no other club has done and is projecting to break the record for points in a regular season on top of besting FC Cincinnati’s consecutive wins streak. There’s a ton of talent there, to be sure, but Schantz is focusing its energies brilliantly to make sure there that talent coalesces into something great. 

ARLIA: The big difference to me between Schantz and Collins is what the preseason expectations were for their respective teams. The Rowdies were certainly bounce-back candidates after missing the postseason in 2018, but you wouldn’t have expected them to be top of the Eastern Conference for so long given what we saw from them after Collins took charge last season. Meanwhile, Rising FC had the pressure to succeed after reaching the USL Cup last season and there hasn’t been a let down despite assimilating plenty of new players into the squad. They’re both equally impressive.

Most Valuable Player

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19 GP
15 Goals
11 Assists
62 Chances Created
Solomon Asante

Solomon Asante

Phoenix Rising FC

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Phoenix Rising FC
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22 GP
15 Goals
2 Assists
28 Chances Created
Daniel Rios

Daniel Ríos

Nashville SC

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Nashville SC
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18 GP
13 Goals
4 Assists
24 Chances Created
Kevaughn Frater

Kevaughn Frater

New Mexico United

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New Mexico United

ARLIA: Well, we were right about this one. Unless something drastic happens over the final two months, it’s hard to see anyone other than Asante claiming the league’s MVP award come season’s end. The diminutive Ghanaian has been at the forefront of Phoenix’s 12-game winning streak and climb to the top of the league standings, sitting tied atop the Golden Boot race with Rios on 15 goals and leading the league with 11 assists. While the assists separate Asante from Rios, he’s also been remarkably more accurate with his shooting, placing 62 percent of his efforts on target compared to Rios’ 44 percent.

MURRAY: You’re right, this does seem like a forgone conclusion, and Asante had a chance to become only the second player in the league’s history to become Golden Boot and Assists Champions in the same year after Kevin Molino (20G, 9A in 2014). But here’s a stat that might surprise you – and will probably end up motivating him; after Asante scored a hat trick on August 11, 2018 in a 4-3 loss to Orange County SC, he only recorded three goals and two assists for the remainder of the season. We’re at the point of last year’s hat trick now. If Asante’s pace drops, Rios will have a big opportunity to close the season strongly and sway voters.

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