2007 3rd Degree Awards – The Thirds

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the 11th Annual 3rd Degree Awards.  The 3rd Degree Awards were created in 1998,  with the addition of the Spark award in 1999, and the Ember Award in 2006.  This year there seemed to be more clear cut choices than in some years past.

The “Thirds” consist of two major categories, FC Dallas awards and League wide awards, and are based on regular season play.  You can take a look at previous winners in our Award History.

2007 FC Dallas

Napalm Award (MVP)

Juan Toja

What a steal of a loan signing Toja turned out to be.  6 goals doesn’t begin to underline the influence he has on the FCD midfield.  His late season production was undermined by the ankle injury and the Denilson signing, but prior to that he was a top three MLS MVP candidate.  He should have been the All-Star game MVP but was robbed of the award in favor of a NY Star.  In a season of front line meltdown and a bunch of kids in midfield, Toja set the tone on the field and carried the largest load for FCD.  FCD has a purchase option this winter on his contract.  Buy, buy, buy.

Band-Aid Award (best mid season addition)


A tremendous value for FCD, this time arranged through partner Atletico Paranese.  Ricardinho only costs FCD $33k on the books though his sweetheart loan deal.  8 games but only 3 starts, 1 assists in 279 minutes out performs Denilson’s 1 PK goal in 8 games 7 starts 606 minutes.  Ricardinho wins it running away on cast to value ration.

Phoenix Award (best emergence or rebirth)

Arturo Alvarez

Three goals and three assists in league play don’t tell the whole story.  This was the year Arturo became the player everyone expected by playing the Leonel Mesi like role on the right wing for Dallas.  The ability to cut inside, take defenders on the dribble, and score some real crackers is a wonderful asset.  Just check out that goal in the USOC Final for example.  It’s also the willingness to play some defense, if not all that well yet, and the continued attempts to make the adjustments the coaches ask for.  A spot on the US Olympic team should be in the works as a result.

Spark Award (best rookie)

Anthony Wallace

Wins this award almost by default since he is the only rookie to make a first team appearance.  Wallace is still a player with immense upside as demonstrated by his no-warning conversion to left back and overall excellent play at the U20 Worlds.  A bright future awaits this kid.

Ember Award (Reserve MVP)

Scott Jones

2 goals (both game winners) and 4 assists in 12 games (11 starts).  Overall a series of strong performances from the young Mr. Jones to lead the reserves all season long.  Jones has a great set of raw tools, but needs to work on his game smarts, focus, and his overall consistency to progress into the first team.

3rd Degree’s 2007 MLS Awards


Juan Pablo Angel, New York Red Bulls

19 goals (2nd MLS – Emilio) is more than double the next leading Red Bull goal scorer. 5 game winners (2nd MLS – Johnson), 4 assists (T3rd NY – Richards, VDB) all of which came in 23 games.  His team ranks 7th in the league for assists which means he’s doing it almost all by himself.  The best pure goal scorer and most dangerous forward game in and game out in MLS.  Angel is true evidence that scoring goals is often about the mind and will more than speed and power.

Best Player

Luciano Emilio, DC United

We all know DC has some superb talent, but Emilio takes the prize as the best player in MLS right now.  It’s no wonder he is talking about moving onto a bigger stage after one season.  20 goals is impressive and he’s the first 20 goal scorer since Twellman and Ruiz back in 2002, but here’s the stat that amazes me 20 goals on 47 shots on goal.  That means he scores on 42.5% of his shots that find the mark (that’s almost 10% better than Angel by the way).  Sure he’s got help, but that kind of scoring efficiency blows me away.  Emilio is a player who can and does get it done by himself and I for one hope he stays in MLS.

Best Defender

Eddie Robinson, Houston Dynamo

Houston set some serious defensive records this year and Robinson is a big part of that.  His toughness and leadership in the back sets the tone for the entire team.  He battles hard, defends hard, fouls hard, earns lots of yellow cards (11) but rarely get ejected (1) and it was a joke.  He’s also a qulity tactical defender, holding the Houston back line together and keeping a great team shape.  He even pitched in 2 goals and 2 assists.

Best Goaltender

Pat Onstad, Houston Dynamo

Quietly had a fantastic season, arguable one of if not the best in MLS history. A sparkling 0.82 GAA (1st MLS) will set a single season GAA record currently held by Kevin Hartman with 0.91 in 1999 for the LA Galaxy, Other numbers by Onsted this season include 22 Goals against (1st MLS) 78.0 save % (85 of 109 – 1st MLS), 11 shutouts (2nd MLS), 85 saves, 13 wins (3rd MLS), and a 547 minute shutout streak that was almost 2 games (171 minutes) longer than the next best streak this season (Ronald Waterreus, NY). 

Rookie of the Year

Maurice Edu, Toronto FC

I thought Edu was clearly the best player in this year’s draft pool, but I never thought Mo would play him enough to get the Rookie of the Year award.  Nice seasons were had from Harrington, Findley, and Richards, but Edu remains the class of this class and of the Toronto midfield.  25 starts, 4 goals, and an assist for a player that is essentially a holding midfielder.  Blessed with great range and a fantastic instinct for when to go forward, he creates real match up problems for any team.

Best Mid Season pick up

Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Chicago Fire

I can’t get over how good Blanco has been.  I expected him to be divisive to his team, but he’s the real deal.  Chicago would be way out of the playoffs if not for Mr. White.  4 goals and an assist in 14 games, that’s an assist every other game and a goal every 3.5 while being double teamed and the focus of every opposition.  Blanco is everything a DP signing should be.

Trade of the Year

Real Salt Lake, Nathan Sturgis and Robbie Findley for Chris Klein.

The Saints aren’t great yet, but Kreis pulled off some beautiful trades.  None better than the deal for Sturgis and Findley.  When Celtic played LA, Gordon Strachan called Sturgis the Gal’s best player, Findley is so good he just got his first cap for the senior US side after leading RSL in scoring.  All it cost was an aging outside midfielder who’s best days are in the past, has a fat contract, and has a year or so left at best.

Pack Your Bags Award

Fernando Clavijo, Colorado Rapids

The Rapids are going the wrong way in the standings and some of the moves Clavijo pulled off are mystifying.  How can you give up your MVP caliber midfielder for a rookie who is barley ready to start?  The tactics became a mess and some of the personnel decision need to be explained.  The ownership up there is used to winning and won’t stay with Clavijo this winter.

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