MLS Table Talk - End of Season Awards
So at last we've come to the end of the 30-game regular season, and it's time to review the stats and dish the statues celebrating achievement or lack thereof in MLS 2008. Without further ado . . .
The Wilt Chamberlain Award for Promiscuity goes to . . . The Los Angeles Galaxy!
Let's face it, when they weren't scoring, they were being scored upon. Despite banging in a league-leading 55 goals (1.83 per game), they also surrendered a league-worst 62 (2.07 per game), 11 goals more than their nearest competitors. That's an astonishing margin of 22%! Now comes the conundrum. With Donovan looking to jump ship for Europe and Becks flirting with Milan, does the Bruce search for more offensive weaponry, or does he plug those gaping holes at the back? The only saving grace here is that Lalas can't stick his fingers in the pie anymore.
The Bob Dole Award for Failure to Perform goes to . . . DC United!
Expectations were high for the two-time defending Supporters' Shield champs. They brought in a raft of South American talent and embarked on a campaign littered with competitions. Pre-season punditry envisioned a United side at or near the top of the Eastern Conference. Eight months later, they're out of the playoffs, exited the international competitions meekly, and are left clutching only the Open Cup for their efforts. Time for some soul (and player) searching.
The Steve Carell Award for Lack of Scoring goes to . . . The San Jose Earthquakes!
Despite making a furious charge in the second half of the season to compensate for the sub-goal-per-game mark that hung on them for most of the season, the Quakes still finished with the lowest goal total (32 goals, 1.07 per game) in the league. Toronto made things interesting with their own pathetic haul (34 goals, 1.17 per game), but in the end, Expansion Fever proved too much of a burden to overcome for Yallop's men. That said, the strong second half of the season points to a much sturdier haul for the Quakes in 2009. As for TFC . . . ?
The Roger Waters Award for Sturdiest Wall goes to . . . The Houston Dynamo!
In a shocking come-from-behind victory, the Dynamo claim the crown as the strongest defense, having only surrendered 32 goals (1.07 per game). All season, the Chicago Fire were the dominant defensive force, consistently boasting of having surrendered less than one goal per game. But some high-scoring affairs in the final few weeks saw them approach, and finally eclipse, the goal-per-game mark. Houston, meanwhile, grew tighter and tighter at the back, nipping in to claim the title at the end.
The Michael Strahan Award for the Biggest Gap goes to . . . The Columbus Crew!
For a long stretch of the season, the Chicago Fire boasted the league's best goal differential, courtesy of their solid defense. But as the season wore on, the Crew seemed to go from strength to strength, finally pulling ahead in the goal differential sweepstakes in the final months of the season. But the race was not quite over. The Dynamo's late-season surge almost allowed Orange to catch Yellow, but alas, Houston's +13 tally finds them one shy of the Crew's +14. A more impressive gap is surely the one at the top of the table. The Crew finished six points clear of the nearest competition.
The Tacoma Narrows Award for the Biggest Collapse goes to . . . The New England Revolution!
Yes, the Revs did make the playoffs, but does anybody think they're going to last long on the available evidence? The Revs leapt out to an early lead in MLS, bossing the league as they stormed through the summer months. But in the wake of their SuperLiga triumph, the Revs started to wobble. Injuries and fatigue began to take their toll, causing them to crash and burn with reserve rosters thrown out to fight for the Open Cup and Champions' League qualification. The conclusion the season was equally miserable as a six-game winless streak was capped by two red cards in the final outing and injuries to two of their most productive players--playmaker Steve Ralston and goal-poacher Taylor Twellman.
Well, that about wraps it up for Table Talk in 2008. Anybody else have awards they want to hand out? Let's hear them in the comments.