2020 End of Year Awards: The case for each nominee

We’re currently hosting our own Nashville SC End of Year awards here at Broadway Sports, including MVP, Defender, Midfielder and Attacker of the Year, and Goal of the Year. With just three days left to vote, Ben Wright and Jonathan Slape break down the nominees and make cases for why each player has a claim.

Photo by Casey Gower / Broadway Sports

Most Valuable Player

The nominee: Walker Zimmerman

Shop MLS Jerseys at MLSStore.com

Why he should win: First MLS goal scorer for the club, Defender of the year shortlist, anchor of the third best defense in the league. Walker Zimmerman has been the lynchpin to this team’s defensive solidity while also contributing to the goalscoring. It is hard to look past Walker as an MVP choice. – Slape

The nominee: Dave Romney

Why he should win: Walker Zimmerman will get most of the headlines, and let’s be clear; he’s been really, really good. Romney hasn’t been quite as flashy, but he’s been a stud defensively, and he’s also pitched in offensively with a goal and a pair of assists. The lone field player to play every minute this season, he’s been every bit as important to this team as Zimmerman. – Ben

The nominee: Dan Lovitz

Why he should win: To most people, the fullback position isn’t sexy, but in the modern game it has become an important position both offensively and defensively. An Expansion Draft pickup from Montreal who has been a crucial part of Nashville’s style of play, he has quietly been one of the top left backs in the league and definitely in the MVP conversation. – Slape

The nominee: Joe Willis

Why he should win: Willis has the benefit of playing behind the best defense he’s had in his career, but he’s still been really good when called on. His goals-minus-expected-goals total is the sixth best in the league, and he’s fourth in MLS in saves. He’s quietly been very, very good. – Ben

The nominee: Dax McCarty

Why he should win: The captain and heartbeat of this team. Dax McCarty has been a rock in the middle of the pitch that has dictated so much of how this team performs. The leadership and veteran presence allowed this team to be competitive from the offset and propelled them to a playoff finish. – Slape

The nominee: Randall Leal

Why he should win: Leal started slowly, but really found his form in the latter stages of the season, and picked up a lot of the slack left by Hany Mukhtar when he went out injured. His three goals and four assists carried the team through a rough patch, and his workrate on both sides of the ball is hard to overlook. – Ben

Photo by Casey Gower (Broadway Sports)

Attacker of the Year

The nominee: Randall Leal

Why he should win: Aside from Hany Mukhtar, Randall Leal was the most exciting prospect that Nashville had going into the season. While it may have taken a few games to get his first goal he was always a threat on the pitch. One of the most creative players on the team, Leal stepped up and put the offense on his back while Mukhtar was out with an injury registering either a goal or an assist in five straight matches. An in form Randall Leal is a force to be reckoned with against any team.Slape

The nominee: Daniel Ríos

Why he should win: He’s the best pure finisher on this team. He hasn’t got the minutes he probably should have, with Dom Badji preferred in the first half of the season and injuries hampering him in the second. Still, he’s been a good hold up option, and when the team can get him involved, he’s a solid finisher, leading the team with four goals in under 800 minutes. – Ben

The nominee: Derrick Jones

Why he should win: As someone who has been driving the Derrick Jones Hype train since USL days, he has been an asset to this team.  I did not see his role as being the back up number 10 to Hany Mukhtar but he has added another facet to his game. Jones has some of the best feet on the team and his ability to dribble out of tight situations was quite useful. He may have only registered two assists, but played the set up ball many times. – Slape

The nominee: Hany Mukhtar

Why he should win: While he did miss a good chunk of time due to injury, the difference with versus without him is stark. Nashville is simply a much better team with him on the field. Tied for the lead with four goals, and adding in three assists, he’s the heart of this team in the final third. – Ben

The nominee: Abu Danladi

Why he should win: Abu Danladi was brought in to stretch teams late in games and provide a change of pace off the bench but he stepped up into the striker role when this team needed it most.Slape

Photo by Casey Gower (Broadway Sports)

Midfielder of the Year

The nominee: Dax McCarty

Why he should win: Nashville couldn’t have asked for a better leader on and off the field in their first year. His four assists are tied for the team lead, and while his partnership with Anibal Godoy has been a strength of the team, he’s also helped players like Brian Anunga and Matt LaGrassa adapt to the MLS level. Simply put, he’s been absolutely crucial to Nashville’s success. – Ben

The nominee: Aníbal Godoy

Why he should win: If you have listened to any episode of Speedway Soccer, you probably know how much of a fan I am of Aníbal Godoy. His ability to not only break up play but ability to transition into the attack is up there with the best in the league. It is easy to see why Mike Jacobs and team made acquiring Godoy a top priority. If not for his mid season injury, Godoy could easily be in the MVP conversation but definitely deserves consideration for midfielder of the year. – Slape

The nominee: Brian Anunga

Why he should win: I certainly didn’t think Anunga would play this big a role in his first year – he seemed more like a long-term signing. In the weird season that is 2020, though, he’s played a huge role and allowed Gary Smith to rotate McCarty and Godoy without a huge dropoff in quality. Anunga has set himself up well for a big role in this squad. – Ben

The nominee: Matt LaGrassa

Why he should win: I was happy to see Matt LaGrassa get the opportunity to play for the MLS team after a strong stint for the USL side. But like Anunga, I did not see him getting as much time as he did. A versatile two way player who will continue to play a role in this team both starting and off the bench. – Slape

Photo by Casey Gower (Broadway Sports)

Defender of the Year

The nominee: Walker Zimmerman

Why he should win: He was my vote for MLS Defender of the Year. He’s put out plenty of fires in front of goal, and he has a knack for scoring some pretty important goals on the other end. Signing him was one of the best pieces of business in MLS history, for my money. – Ben

The nominee: Dave Romney

Why he should win: Walker Zimmerman may have received the lionshare of headlines but Davey Romney is just as important to the solidity of the defense. Being able to come into this team and play every single minute in a condensed schedule makes it hard to overlook Romney. – Slape

The nominee: Dan Lovitz

Why he should win: A two-way fullback with one of the best workrates I’ve seen at the MLS level. Consistently available and a steady presence on the left, and his service into the box is among the best in the league. – Ben

The nominee: Joe Willis

Why he should win: In most award categories, goalkeeper is seperate from defender but as the league leader in shutouts Joe Willis is a deserving defender of the year candidate. Some may argue he is a product of the defense in front of him but Willis came up with crucial saves time and time again. – Slape

The nominee: Alistair Johnston

Why he should win: Right back was a major issue for Nashville to start the season, but Johnston burst onto the scene after the restart and solved a lot of problems. He plateaued a bit down the stretch, but looks like a long-term presence on the right. – Ben

Photo by Casey Gower (Broadway Sports)

The nominee: Aníbal Godoy vs Inter Miami CF

Why he should win: A weak footed rocket from outside the box. What isn’t there to love about this goal? It reminded me so much about some of my all time favorite goals. It’s also hard to argue the importance of this goal as it secured a much needed win over Inter Miami. – Slape

The nominee: Hany Mukhtar vs Houston Dynamo

Why he should win: I mean, there’s not a goalkeeper on the planet who’s stopping that. Impossible to place any better, and it sealed a pretty important win to boot. – Ben

The nominee: Daniel Ríos vs FC Dallas

Why he should win: Rito Ziegler will have nightmares about this one for years. We didn’t typically see Rios go at defenders like this at the USL level, but the run and finish is next-level. That’ll be one for the highlight reel for quite some time. – Ben

The nominee: Dan Lovitz vs Orlando City

Why he should win: A goal so good, we had to add it as an option. A weak footed rocket from outside the box, where have we heard that before? As a rec league fullback, I can’t get enough of this goal. – Slape

Photo by Casey Gower (Broadway Sports)

Win of the Season

The nominee: Nashville SC 4 – 2 Atlanta United

Why it should win: Nashville exorcised the demons from their previous losses to Atlanta. Granted, it wasn’t the same Atlanta side they lost to in February, but it got the proverbial monkey off their back and showed that they were capable of scoring more than a single goal.

The nominee: Houston Dynamo 1 – 3 Nashville SC

Why it should win: This win was the breakout attacking performance for this team and for Hany Mukhtar. The 4-2 win over Atlanta  was the first multi-goal performance for the team, but Nashville made a statement in this match. Starting off the game and scoring three goals in under 25 minutes away from home gave Gary Smith something to build upon for the rest of the season. – Slape

The nominee: Nashville SC 3 – 0 FC Dallas

Why it should win: Dallas is a really, really solid team. Nashville didn’t just beat them; they dominated them. Sure, they had a pair of deflections to help them, but they were by far the better side, and it was a deservedly emphatic victory. – Ben

The nominee: Orlando City 2 – 3 Nashville SC

Why it should win: You cannot underestimate what a come from behind win means for a team as they head in to the playoffs. It means even more when it is against one of the top 4 teams in the East who had yet to lose a game at home. From start to finish, it wasn’t Nashville’s best performance but possible it’s best result. – Slape

Photo by Casey Gower (Broadway Sports)

Moment of the Season

The nominee: Nashville SC’s MLS debut against Atlanta United

Why it should win: February seems like such a long time ago doesn’t it? The largest soccer crowd in Tennessee and the largest crowd for an MLS home opener was a near perfect way to open up an inaugural season. While Nashville did not get a result against an inform Atlanta team, going toe to toe with one of the best gave this team confidence going forward. – Slape

The nominee: David Accam’s 86th minute winner against FC Dallas

Why it should win: After the MLS is Back debacle, it’s hard to overstate how important winning the first match back was. Despite playing on the back foot, getting a late winner like that was a major confidence boost. The run and finish from Accam showed why he has been such a good player in MLS, and begs the question, why hasn’t he been more involved?Ben

The nominee: Nashville’s 4-2 win over Atlanta United

Why it should win: The first ever multi-goal game in club history and first ever win over Nashville’s southeast rival. It may have been played without fans, but to come out and go ahead in the first minute was such a great feeling. – Slape

The nominee: Jhonder Cádiz’s 93rd minute winner over Orlando City

Why it should win: First come-from-behind win, on the road, against one of the league’s best sides who were previously undefeated at home… what isn’t there to love about this win? We’ll see what happens in the playoffs, but it should be a strong momentum builder going forward. – Ben

You can make your picks in our awards voting here. Voting will close at 5 PM central on Sunday, November 15. Fans are not limited in the number of times they can vote.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

Leave a Reply