As we approach this website’s first anniversary, the Turf and Boards is proud to present the first annual Boards Awards in recognition of excellence in the Major Arena Soccer League. The 2017/18 Boards Awards will include Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year and, finally, Most Valuable Player. Rather than picking one definitive winner in each category, our panel of Matt Huber (aka Merlin, the Knight Writer), Greg “Ponto” Suttie (Sockers Locker, Ponto Off the Wall) and Sydney Nusinov will each weigh in with their own choices for each award. Plus we want to hear from you in our poll.

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Matt Huber, Knight Writer

With defender of the year, there is no contest in my book. My vote goes to Pat Healey of the Baltimore Blast.

Healey was second in the league with 43 blocks in the regular season (and has already logged 13 in the two games against Syracuse this playoff season).

Without Healey in that back line, Baltimore’s playoff season may be a little different.

Greg Ponto Suttie, Sockers Locker

The San Diego Sockers have maintained a tandem goalkeeper policy throughout the season. They completed the regular season with the fewest goals allowed in the league. Both Boris Pardo and Chris Toth have proven themselves beyond question. But if they have been the anchors, John Sosa has been the chain keeping it all together. His dominance on the field, while matching up with the some of the strongest forwards in the league he has been a powerful force holding the line in front of the Sockers goalkeepers. He is more than worthy of Defender or the Year.

Sydney Nusinov, Turf and Boards Publisher

Defense is hard to quantify. In the NBA and NHL it’s not unusual for the top defensive awards to go to players who are major offensive contributors (think Norris Trophy winners like Ray Bourque and Nicklas Lidstrom in the NHL and players like Michael Jordan and Dwight Howard winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year) and arena soccer is no different.

However, while there are some defensive players who get involved in the offense there aren’t any prolific scoring defenders these days on the level of a Sean Bowers or Genoni Martinez, which means voters have to dig deeper and go beyond the stats.

My All-MASL First Team picks were Adriano Dos Santos of the Baltimore Blast and John Sosa of the San Diego Sockers. My Second Team picks were Pat Healey of the Blast and Damian Garcia of the Monterrey Flash.

Healey and Dos Santos are the backbone of the Blast’s world famous defensive corps. The Blast allowed 42% more goals per game this year, due in part to their move to a smaller field at a new arena, but still finished second in the MASL in Team GAA.

The Sockers allowed 15% less goals per game this year from last year’s second best MASL defense. One big factor was my Defender of the Year pick John Sosa.  Sosa has not yet been named a Defender of the Year but was named to the First, Third, and First Teams, the least three years, all with the Kansas City Comets. In his first year with the Sockers, Sosa helped the Sockers dominate possession by controlling the tempo and distribution, and chipped in three goals and 15 assists, while shutting down opposing offenses.