It says a lot about how this season has gone for the Vancouver Whitecaps that of the four players nominated for their Player of the Year two aren’t considered as regular starters, one is almost the definition of an MLS journeyman and the other is an international midfielder who has probably under performed relative to his ability.
It says even more about the season that there isn’t one other player in the squad who could seriously be considered for the shortlist. Kekuta Manneh if he had stayed fit perhaps? But every other possible contender has thrown a howler into the mix for every seeming act of redemption.
But that’s where we are and that’s where we will stay. So let’s break down the four lucky finalists.
Christian Bolaños- Bolaños may not be everybody’s cup of tea (his languid style can often be mistaken for lack of effort) be he leads the team in assists and is joint top scorer of goals from open play (alongside Kekuta Manneh which also says a lot about the season).
More importantly perhaps Bolaños is one of the few players on the team who always wants the ball and is always comfortable with said ball when he receives it.
His acquisition was designed to add the element of guile missing from last season but we’ve only really seen that guile in glimpses this year.
It’s hard to predict what the Whitecaps will look like next season (although recent signings seem to indicate a move toward pragmatism over playmakers) but if Carl Robinson can find a way to get the best out of Bolaños on a consistent basis he could be a genuine difference maker rather than the fitfully enjoyable player to watch he has been in 2016.
Jordan Harvey– Harvey hasn’t had a perfect season (he was beaten on a couple of crucial back post headers that cost points for example) but compared to the rest of the backline he’s been a model of consistency and calm.
When all around him were losing their heads Harvey carried on carrying on as one of the more reliable left backs in the League.
He’s also matched every Whitecaps central striker for goals scored (two) and is always willing to get forward when given the chance.
More than all that though Harvey always plays as though the game is important to him (which hasn’t necessarily been true of every player this year) and he always plays as though he’s enjoying the fact that he is paid money to do something he loves (which hasn’t necessarily been true of every player this year).
In that way he’s as much a pleasure to watch as many more technically gifted players.
Andrew Jacobson- It’s possible to make the argument that Jacobson has been the Whitecaps best central defender, best defensive midfielder and best box to box midfielder this season.
He may have been acquired for his versatility but the failings of others has meant that versatility has been tested to the nth degree and far more often than Carl Robinson planned for.
In central defence he’s a calming presence, as a defensive midfielder he’s happy to sit and just do the job assigned to him and as the partner to a defensive midfielder he’s willing to get forward far more than any other player (like Harvey he has two goals.
Jacobson can probably feel a little unfortunate not to have received more starts given the solidity of his performances and the fragility of others, but at the very least he’s proven just how valuable he will be to the team in the coming years.
Nicolas Mezquida– It seems as though there’s always a player like Mezquida at every club. A player that the fans think should be starting almost every week but, for whatever reason, the coach just doesn’t quite share the same enthusiasm.
Mezquida may not be a great “number ten” but he’s the best the Whitecaps have by some distance, if only because of his willingness to constantly pressure opposition defenders and his willingness to play in the space that a “number ten” is supposed to play in.
It’s only when Mezquida is on the pitch that it feels as though there is a genuine link between the midfield and the forwards and although he’s not a prolific goal scorer (three this season) and his assist play leaves something to be desired he does at least always make a positive difference when he’s on the field.
Another player who can consider himself unfortunate not to have had more starts.
So who should win?- There really is no right or wrong answer for this one. None of these players have been lights out stellar but each one of them deserves to be on the shortlist.
If I were forced to choose I would just favour Mezquida over Harvey but if you asked me the same question tomorrow I would probably just favour Bolaños over Jacobson and so on and so on.
So just vote for whoever you think should win (probably should have just put that at the start really).