It is awards season as the championship game approaches for the USL Second Division Saturday. TSB takes a look at who the top five contenders for the award should be and who, ultimately, the voting will turn out in favor of.
TSB's MVP Rankings
5 – Tom Heinemann (Charleston): His debut to the professional flight last year when the Battery were in the USL First Division saw a minimal amount of time as he only played 621 minutes with a pair of goals. In his second season he proved a critical component as part of a two-man attack, finishing tied for first in assists (5) as well as third in both goals (7) and points (10) as the club won the regular season title.
4 – Hunter Gilstrap (Pittsburgh): After a rough USL-1 season in Cleveland a year ago, Gilstrap became a leader for the Riverhounds defensively, allowing seven fewer goals than they did in 2009. Gilstrap may have only been the league leader in minutes played tied with Brian Levey at 1,620, but he played a key role in the club’s turnaround, finishing second in goals against average (1.00), tied for second in shutouts (6) and third in wins (7). The Riverhounds finished tied with Richmond for the best defense, allowing 20 goals.
3 – Matthew Delicate (Richmond): Always a leader for the Kickers, Delicate finished second again in goals (11) and points (24) as Richmond finished second in the league. He added a goal and an assist in the semifinal contest against Pittsburgh.
2 – Lamar Neagle (Charleston): After not making a league-game appearance as a rookie for the Seattle Sounders of MLS a year ago, Neagle made a splash on the opposite coast for the Battery, finishing as the league leader in goals (12) and points (25). Typically, leading scorers or stars of the regular season champion secure the necessary votes to claim the award, making Neagle nearly a shoe-in for the league’s MVP honor.
1 – Chad Severs (Pittsburgh): Sometimes in sports you don’t realize how important a player is until they are gone. For years the Harrisburg City Islanders have been contenders for the league title. Severs’ move to the state-rival Riverhounds proved how key he was for Isles, where he was the team’s leading scorer last year, ranking in the league tied for third in goals (9) and tied for fourth in points (19). He helped Pittsburgh move from next to last to third in the table, which included winning the season series against second-place Richmond, while Harrisburg dropped next to last after being third a year ago – an exact swap. Severs again the led his team and was among the league leaders. He finished tied for fourth in both goals (6) and points (14).
Having finished on the All-League Second Team, it is unlikely Severs will be an official finalist for the honor when USL announces them. Unfortunately, the award is typically geared towards the attacking players with an emphasis on what you did that season and the impact on the league - apparently he did not do enough in 2010. Defensive players typically receive all-league votes based on their reputation and performance over the past few years, showing consistently well against the opposing coaches. Looking at the First Team list, I would imagine Neagle and Delicate are locks to be finalists with Gilstrap or Heinemann being the third person in the running for the award. In the end, Neagle will take the honor.