2008 3rd Degree Awards – The Thirds

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the Twelfth 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. 

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.

2008 FC Dallas Awards

Napalm Award (MVP)

Kenny Cooper

Some things are just irrefutable, 18 goals this season means Cooper is the Napalm Award winner as team MVP.  A strong second half gave Ricchetti an outside shot at this award, but when a striker ties the club’s single season goal scoring mark it’s a lock.  Cooper’s four game winning goals tied for tops in MLS. 

Band-Aid Award (best mid season addition)

Jeff Cunningham

Nice work by the new coaching staff to bring in Cunningham in a low risk move as Toronto paid most of his contract.  Five goals in eleven games is basically a goal every other game and that’s a really nice add. Full credit to Cunningham for not living up to his reputation and instead proving to be a good teammate and hard worker.

Phoenix Award (best emergence or rebirth)

Blake Wagner

In his third season Blake Wagner has finally broken through the clutter at left back to lock down the job full time over the last 2/3s of the season or so.  Behind Chris Gbandi in previous years, David Wagenfuhr and Adrian Serioux this year, Wagner’s step forward in maturity allowed Hyndman to move Adrian Serioux to right back. 

Spark Award (best rookie)

Eric Avila

Despite the coaches preference for Bruno Guarda over the last 9 games, our nod for the Spark Award as Rookie of the Year goes to Eric Avila.  Clearly demonstrating offensive talent over his 14 appearances (3 starts), Avila notched 2 assists but more important provided a jump start to the frequently static team by taking on defenders and providing a forward impetus.

Ember Award (Reserve MVP)

Chase Wileman

His 693 minutes for the reserves are the most for that side as Wileman made a start in all eight games.  One goal and three assists as a mostly defensive midfielder are nice marks.  Wileman also played some wide midfield and attacking midfield for the reserves.

2008 MLS Awards


Guillermo Schelotto, Columbus Crew

Usually we like to think outside the box a little on these kinds of things, but this year you just cant ignore what Guillermo Schelotto has done.  Given his non-impact of last season, this year’s 7 goals and stunning 19 assists is truly remarkable.  Combine it with the resurgence of the Crew and Schelotto earns the nod.  Getting it done at his age just goes to show what a high mental level truly great soccer players have compared to the average MLS player.

Best Player

Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy

No player in MLS can single handedly dominate a game like Donovan can.  When he’s interested in playing no one can stop him.  Twenty goals and nine assists for one of the highest scoring teams in league history make him the best individual player in MLS.  To bad the rest of his team is garbage, except for Beckham of course.  Donovan’s been to good for this league for four years now, maybe he’ll finally go Euro.

Best Defender

Jimmy Conrad, Kansas City Wizards

Four teams had better goals against marks than KC, but here’s why Conrad is the defender of the year: Michael Harrington, Aaron Hohlbein, Jon Leathers, Chance Myers, and Tyson Wahl.  Who?  Exactly.  The fact those 5 people you have never heard of constitute the rest of the KC defense shows you just how good Conrad is.  He also scored six goals and almost led his team in scoring.  Hell, maybe Conrad should be league MVP.

Best Goaltender

Jon Busch, Chicago Fire

Close fight this year, but a well earned nod for Busch with his 1.10 goals against, 122 saves, 13 wins, and 10 shutouts.  While Pat Onstad actually had a lower GAA, the Canuck is behind a better collective team as evidenced by the 55 shots faced margin between Onstad and Busch.  It’s the 122 saves that is remarkable for Busch with a talented but younger, unproven defense.

Rookie of the Year

Sean Franklin, LA Galaxy

LA’s first round draft pick and US U23 made 26 starts for the Galaxy in defense. Yes their defense isn’t very good, but he’s the only rookie to be a full season starter.  The allowed a lot of goals but he’s playing with Klein and Jazic, who play hardley any defense, and Vanney, who used to defend well but is clearly past it.  Franklin played in these tough conditions and committed fewer fouls than both Vanney and Klein.

Best Mid Season pick up

Darren Huckerby, San Jose Earthquakes

What a pick up, signing an veteran European with a reputation for odd decisions was a risk but it certainly paid off.  Huckerby balanced out the Quakes attack with Ronnie O’Brien on the right, and in only 14 games became the team’s leading scorer with six goals and four assists.

Trade of the Year

FC Dallas, Jeff Cunningham for a 3rd round SuperDraft pick.

With Toronto eating most of Cunningham’s salary, this was a low risk high reward trade that paid off in spades for Dallas.  The pick will be the FCD natural pick, 34th over all in the 09 draft, and the only real risk would have been Cunningham’s reputed locker room negative impact.  That negative attitude was never seen in Dallas, instead Cunningham worked hard and looked the consummate team players providing 5 goals and 2 assists in 11 games.

Pack Your Bags Award

Mo Giblin Johnston, Toronto FC

Time to go Mo, your team stinks.  Again.  But more than that is the chaos and disarray of the last two years.  This year alone there are 31 players listed getting playing time with the first team.  Add to that are 27 last year.  Moving up stairs and giving the team to Carver was a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough.  Toronto fans, the best in MLS, deserve better.

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