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MLS Awards finalists: Keane, Gruenebaum notable omissions

Nov 15, 2012, 2:49 PM EST

Columbus Crew v San Jose Earthquakes Getty Images

Two clear omissions stood out as finalists for Major League Soccer honors dropped today. Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was not among the threesome of finalists for Goalkeeper of the Year, and Robbie Keane was jilted as a Most Valuable Player candidate.

Neither was some stunning screamer of an omission; let’s call them “misdemeanor” level indiscretions rather than “felony” level. (The finalists are the top three vote getters in a weighted combination of media, player and management balloting.)

The finalists for Goalkeeper of the Year are:

  • Michael Gspurning, Seattle Sounders
  • Dan Kennedy, Chivas USA
  • Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting Kansas City

As for Gruenebaum (pictured), he was simply outstanding in a full year of replacement duty for injured No. 1 William Hesmer. He certainly passed the eye test all year, but one big chunk of statistical evidence also exists to provide a supporting case: Gruenebaum was first in MLS in saves (124).

Columbus wasn’t very good, save for a brightly let stretch at the end of summer. Otherwise, Gruenebaum was more responsible than anyone around Crew Stadium for keeping Columbus in playoff contention until the last couple of weeks. He was voted team MVP and Defender of the Year, as well.

In my book, Dan Kennedy probably should come off the finalist list. I hate to say it, because he had so little defensive support at the end. But those numbers – egad! It would take a lot of research to prove, but I be his goals-against average (1.69) is the highest in 17 MLS seasons for a Goalkeeper of the Year finalist.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s Goalkeeper of the Year conversation)

Not that it really matters, because Chris Wondolowski will be the runaway winner when this puppy is handed out, but the finalists for MVP are:

  • Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls
  • Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes
  • Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City

Keane’s case is a little more difficult to make since he started so slowly, out of the gate like New Hampshire molasses, just like the rest of his team.

But what a finish! The Galaxy’s Irish international was probably Major League Soccer’s top striker over the last two months. Thanks to that sizzling close, Keane finished fourth in league goals (16) and tied for ninth in assists (9).

Zusi had a fabulous season. But he contributed directly to 20 goals, five short of Keane. And as I’ve said before, I would call Roger Espinoza’s contributions in Sporting Kansas City’s midfield even more important to the Eastern champs this year than Zusi’s.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s Most Valuable Player conversation)

  1. orbmech - Nov 15, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    I think Henry should get the Best Pouter award. Watching him throw his hands in the air, snarl at refs, and glare at his teammates made entertaining watching.

    • Steve Davis - Nov 15, 2012 at 3:35 PM

      They have that? … Well, if they do, he sure gets my vote! (You are correct about that man’s body language, which I have called out several times on the blog and via Twitter.)

      • alexsenn01 - Nov 15, 2012 at 8:24 PM

        haha – yeah, Henry would probably win that award, but I think Beckham and Keane would give him a run for this money. While Keane played well in the second half of the season, he was still waving his arms and getting upset with his teammates more often than he was scoring.

      • orbmech - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:00 AM

        I always thought they left out a few good categories like Best Pouter, Howler of the Year (worst goalkeeping goof), the Wiff (worst miss at goal), the Bright Red Card ( worse reffing decision), and the Dead Weight (the player who hurts his team the worse while playing for them). I can only dream.

  2. tylerbetts - Nov 15, 2012 at 7:34 PM

    Wow. Just a lack of respect for Andy Gruenebaum this year. First the All-Star Game complete ommission from anything resembling recognition. Now not even being among the finalists for ‘Keeper of the Year. I’m not a Soccernomics expert, but I’m sure if we could show VORP or Win Shares, it’d be tough to find a ‘Keeper that was ranked higher than Andy.

    Maybe those voting couldn’t spell his name, and decided to go with “Kennedy” instead?

  3. alexsenn01 - Nov 15, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    Agree on Keane being more deserving than either Henry or Zusi for MVP finalist, but don’t agree that Keane was “the league’s top striker over the last two months”. Wondo was – in final 8 games, Wondo had 9 goals and 2 assists, while Keane had 5 goals and 3 assists. Wondo was dominant from the start to the end of the season.

    Not sure I agree about Gruenebaum being the biggest goalkeeper snub – I would have said Rimando was. Both Kennedy and Gruenebaum had very good starts to the year, but both tailed off. Particularly Gruenebaum – he had 7 shutouts in the first 18 games, and only 1 the rest of the year in 15 games played. Meanwhile, Rimando stepped up down the stretch and helped his team win or tie games that they should have lost.

  4. danielofthedale - Nov 15, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    Wow, talk about a way to make an award have no credibility! Gruenebaum was hands down the best keeper in the league this season and he does not even make the short list! This is worse than the PK Shootouts to end games.

    • alexsenn01 - Nov 15, 2012 at 8:23 PM

      Out of curiosity, what are you basing your opinion on? As I pointed out, the only stat that Gruenebaum led the league in was saves, and he was far behind several keepers in other stats. Saves made is not really that good a measure, as many saves are fairly routine. Don’t get me wrong, I thought he had a very good year, but don’t see how you can argue he was better than Nielsen or Gspurning (or Rimando).

      • danielofthedale - Nov 15, 2012 at 11:43 PM

        Well on Rimondo, I have seen a lot of RSL games over the last three season and by and large over the course of the regular season I think that this season was not as good as the previous ones.

        You can easily explain why Gruenebaum had a higher GAA as something other than a negative. The raw number of shots he faced was considerably higher than the other top keepers. That means you have more chances to score on him, and if you look at Sv% you see that he is as good or better than most of the top keepers. So you say that the higher GAA is just a by product of the sure higher volume of shots he had to stop.

        I think you should look at the quality of the back line that is in front of them. Gruenebaum clearly had the weakest back line, which the volume of shots is one of showing. It also means you face more quality shots.

  5. alexsenn01 - Nov 15, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    More on Gruenebaum and why I think he “fell off” in the second half. He allowed only 19 goals in the first 18 games, while making 69 saves. That’s 1.06 goals per game, and a .784 saves rate. But in the final 15 (he sat out one game and didn’t play) that he played, he allowed 22 goals and made 59 saves. That’s 1.47 goals per game, and only a .728 save rate.

    For the whole year, Rimando had a much better goals allowed (1.03 vs 1.26), more shutouts (12 vs 8), and seemed to be the better keeper to me. Rimando finished very strong, allowing only 9 goals in his final 12 games and 14 goals in his final 15 games, with 7 shutouts in those 15 games.

    It’s hard to compare keeper stats because a lot of what they do is organizing the defense or getting the ball before a shot is taken, which doesn’t count in their stats. But my “eye test” in watching both play tells me that Rimando was the better keeper this year.

    Good article, though, it’s always an interesting discussion when looking at individual awards and who is deserving.

    • east96st - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:41 AM

      I think you’re overlooking that Gruenebaum played hurt the second half of the season, had no credible scoring threat for most of the season holding the opposing team’s attack back, went into games with the unbelievable pressure of knowing that if he allowed two goals to go in his team would be hard pressed to tie, plays for an organization that is allergic to spending money to improve the team, and plays for a coach that would be over his head in most college games. Hands down Gruenebaum for what he did AND the conditions he did it under. Why do we excuse scorers when they play without any support and not goaltenders when they have to play without any support? Dan Kennedy faced 167 shots and made 109 saves. Andy faced 166 shots – ONE LESS – and made 124 saves!!! Rimando only faced 126 shots!! That’s FORTY less than Andy. FORTY! Tells you everything you need to know right there. Andy has a 75% save percentage, Rimando has 73. No goaltender with 30 games or more has a better save percentage than Andy. None. Andy is being punished for being on a bad team in a small market.

  6. Steve Davis - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    Nice discussion, fellows. I took Thursday afternoon off. Clearly, I left this in good hands. Thanks

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