Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
Every year, a fresh batch of newcomers enters MLS and finds ways to make an impact.
Few players, however, do it as impressively as Diego Valeri did in 2013.
Valeri took the MLS season by storm since making his Portland Timbers debut back in an entertaining 3-3 draw against the New York Red Bulls in Week 1, showing off his classy skill and game-changing abilities on a nearly game-to-game basis. The Argentine midfielder not only proved to be a sorely-needed facilitator for the Timbers, but also one of the main reasons Portland has enjoyed such a great turnaround this year and why many consider the club a favorite to hoist the MLS Cup in December.
That is also why he was named SBI’S MLS Newcomer of the Year, unanimously voted as the winner for his ability to make an impact by scoring or setting up goals. The 27-year-old Argentine netted 10 times and delivered 13 assists in his first year in MLS, which is no easy task considering the adaptation period that some of the league’s more talented players have gone through upon their arrivals.
Valeri edged out a talented group of nominees for the award. Here is a rundown of the runners-up:
The SBI MLS Defender of the Year, Goncalves had a monster season in defense for a young New England Revolution team that counted upon his experience and leadership. Goncalves did such a fine job at leading the Revolution that he was named captain by Jay Heaps, and he rewarded his coach by helping guide New England into the playoffs. The Portuguese centerback was also as dependable as they come, starting in all of the club’s 34 games this season while only picking up three yellow cards.
Successfully making the jump from USL Pro to MLS is no small feat, but doing so as a 24-year-old goalkeeper is seemingly unheard of and downright impressive. Irwin enjoyed a remarkable first year in the league, stepping in goal for the Colorado Rapids and helping them reach the postseason despite a bevy of injuries to several of the club’s players. Irwin pitched 10 shutouts in his 31 starts (he played in 32 games) and looks like the Rapids’ starter for many years to come.
PA MODOU KAH
Like Valeri, Kah was an integral part of the Timbers’ successes this year. The 33-year-old Gambian centerback stepped in as a starter in late May and got the nod in almost every game since. Kah’s defensive abilities and physicality have made many forget about the injured Mikael Silvestre, and will play a big part in determining how far Portland makes it this year.
What do you think of SBI’s selection? Agree that Valeri was the best newcomer in 2013? Think it should have been someone else like Goncalves?
Share your thoughts below.