Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Backpost’s First Annual Wizards End of Year Awards - (Part 2)

Comeback player - Lance Watson
Lance was injured at the beginning of last year and never really got going. This year, he was able to secure a starting role at right back (not his natural position) and held it until Vermes took over.

Coach of the Year – John Pascarella
As the goalkeeper coach, he worked with all of the keepers far more extensively than his predecessor. Even when the top keeper or two might be in the team scrimmage, the other keepers would still be getting drilled and vice versa. He had the keepers working together as a group, pushing each other, learning from each other and improving throughout the year. The keepers normally worked longer than any field players.I saw more odd looking drills with goalies rolling under, diving and jumping over obstacles to block shots to all corners. Hartman’s Save of the year finalist was a save that he and all of the Wizards goalies actually practiced.

Forward of the year - Josh Wolff
Josh is streaky, low-key, quite, confidant and mostly unflappable. He came to play and did his best. Career high in goals and other personal achievements never went to his head.

Midfielder of the Year – Claudio Lopez
I am not sure how it happened, but he seemed to quietly score 7 goals with 8 assists. He still has the drive and creativity. With age catching up to him, he manages to still contribute. I would love to see him on a team with more options. .

Defender of the Year - Matt Besler
What?!!! Not Jimmy? Nope, my pick is Matt. No, he was not always the best defender on the field (nobody else was always the best either). Matt was steady. He had few bad games and played well at left back and in his more natural position of central defender after Vermes took over. Once Matt snagged a starting role early in the season he never let go.

Rookie of the Year - Matt Besler
When Matt came to the Wizards, he was moved to left back, started early in the season and beat out more experienced players to keep starting. He started more games than all but 4 of his teammates. The other rookie on the roster Graham Zusi started off well but due to injury and others was never able to cement a starting spot.

Team MVP - Kevin Hartman
More saves than anyone else in MLS. Numerous records, fantastic saves, kept the Wizards in games they should have lost. Really no other choice. If I gave a hardest worker award, Kevin would get that as well. He was normally practing long after others went in. Kevin would do everything the field players did (usually in the slower group running), face tons of shots in drills and scrimmages with the keepers and still be practicing when other players were already driving out of the parking lot.

2009 Expansion Draft, Wizards protected list

The expansion draft for the Philadelphia Union will take place today. Later today we will know who was picked, if anyone will be picked from the Wizards. Philadelphia can take 10 players, max of 1 per team so 10 teams will lose a player and 5 will not.

Kansas City Wizards Protected List
Arnaud, Davy
Conrad, Jimmy
Harrington, Michael
Hercegfalvi, Zoltan
Jewsbury, Jack
Kamara, Kei
Leathers, Jonathan
Lopez, Claudio
Souter, Kevin
Wolff, Josh
Zusi, Graham

Generation Adidas (protected by default)
Espinoza, Roger
Myers, Chance

Besler, Matthew
Cristman, Adam
Gomez, Herculez
Hartman, Kevin
Hirsig, Santiago
Hohlbein, Aaron
Kraus, Michael
Kronberg, Eric
Marquess, Matt
McKenzie, Rauwshan
Morsink, Kurt
Pardo, Boris
Watson, Lance

While I may have protected different players, there was really only two surprises to me. First is that Besler was left unprotected. He played well, started 26 games as a rookie and has the home town ties. With Conrad protected, three central defenders (Besler, Hohlbein and McKenzie) are available.

The second surprise is that Souter was protected over Hirsig. They had to protect 3 International players so some combination of Lopez, Zoltan, Hirsig and Souter had to be on the list. No way Vermes would expose Zoltan, he showed too much promise at the end of the season and the Hungarian relationship would make exposing him unlikely. While Lopez is aging he was the second leading scorer on the team and could be a key factor if Vermes is able to straighten the team out in 2010.

Hirsig did not play much at the end of the year. He was nursing some injuries but being exposed makes me wonder if he fits into plans for next year. It is possible that Souter has impressed enough for the Wizards to hang onto even though he was injured much of 2009.When he did start practicing he was not removed from the DL but did show a lot of potential in scrimmages.

I was also a little surprised that Leathers was protected. Jonathan is a talented and athletic player but with Myers and Watson on the roster I expected he would be exposed. Guess that makes three surprises...

A lot of fans are concerned that Hartman was exposed again this year. He was unprotected in the last two expansion drafts as well. Last year, Seattle already had a big name keeper signed (Keller) so Vermes felt safe leaving Kevin available. This year Philadelphia does not have a player but Vermes may know something the rest of us does not know. Over the summer, there were rumors that a big name goalie was going to return to the US to play and would go through the allocation process. At the time it was rumored to be Friedel but that was never confirmed. Could Vermes feel safe leaving the all time saves leader unprotected because Philly will get a number 1 keeper through allocation? Ives mentioned that there was very possibly some handshake deals with the Union so that certain players would be exposed without fear. Could he have one of those handshake deals or is the Wizards Technical Director just gambling that the age and salary will deter Philly. By that logic he could have made other veterans with high salary available.

It is hard to criticize the list because I do not know all the possible variables. Contracts, pending trades, handshakes and a dozens other factors that I do not know come into play.

Not a prediction:
If I was picking a player from the Wizards, I would take either Gomez or Hohlbein. Herculez Gomez is a talented midfielder who could provide instant quality for an expansion team. Aaron Hohlbein is mature and expereinced for his age. In the short run he would be better for Philly than Besler because of leadership. Aaron developed center defense leadership experience next to Conrad over the last two years and put it into practice while Conrad was with the National Team.