Turf and Boards is proud to present the second annual Boards Awards in recognition of excellence in the Major Arena Soccer League. The 2018-19 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, Soccer and The City), Greg “Ponto” Suttie (Suttie on Soccer) and Turf and Boards publisher 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, Soccer and The City

The MASL season is coming to a dramatic close, and our final award is upon us. The Most Valuable Player award doesn’t look at just stats, but importance to their respective team. For this award, you could make an argument for quite a few players, but I am limited to a pool of three players. The three players I’m going to select are Leo Gibson, Ian Bennett, and Franck Tayou. 

Before I get into my votes, I’d like to make a list of “Honorable Mentions”, players that deserve to be in the conversation, but just missed the cut:

-Brandon Escoto of the San Diego Sockers took his game to another level this season, scoring 32 goals and assisting on 23 others, both good for a place in the top 10 league leaders.

-Nick Perera of the Tacoma Stars, led all players with 80 points this season, helping the Tacoma Stars to a berth in the MASL playoffs.

-Boris Pardo and Josh Lemos should also get some consideration as well, after leading their teams deep into the MASL playoffs this season.

Now onto my top three:

Third place would go to Leo Gibson of the Kansas City Comets. Leo put up another MVP caliber season, scoring 33 goals and assisting on 31 more, helping Kansas City to second place in the South Central Division. Here’s how valuable he is to the Comets: Gibson amassed 64 points this season, equaling the point total of John Sosa and Bryan Perez combined. I think without Leo Gibson, Kansas City would not have made the playoffs at all.

The top two players in the league are going to be showcased in the Ron Newman Cup on Sunday, as Ian Bennett’s Wave host Franck Tayou’s Monterrey Flash. This is another very close race in my opinion. Looking at overall stats, Tayou edges out Bennett in all categories, points, goals, and assists. When you look at points against playoff teams, the two are nearly identical, with Tayou edging Bennett 20-19 in this category.

With all of that being said, my vote goes to Franck Tayou of Monterrey, because of one interesting stat: When it comes to game winning goals, Tayou has Bennett beat by a 10-5 margin. They don’t call him “The King” for nothing. 

Sydney Nusinov, Turf and Boards Publisher

I have been busy Making the MVP Case and I have come back down from the mountain without acquiring any divine wisdom. I can narrow it down to four players: San Diego’s Brandon Escoto and Boris Pardo, Monterrey’s Franck Tayou, and Tacoma’s Nick Perera.

These are four peak performers who had great years, but the question I always ask is who is most valuable to their team’s success?

Tayou joined a Flash team that was 20-2 last year. While he scored 50 goals including 10 game-winning goals, and Monterrey had to contend with a much improved Barracudas team, the Flash finished 19-5. Tayou has shown the ability to take over games, but Monterrey never seemed like the best fit for his style of play. Overall the Flash scored three less goals in two more games than last year.

Perera joined a 2-6 Stars offensively starved team last year and led them to an 8-4 record in his 12 games down the stretch. This year, however, despite almost doubling his point production, the Stars had to scrape by just to end the season at .500 and exactly half his points came against the league’s two worst teams.

Escoto joined the Sockers in 2016-17 after their worst season, a still-enviable 13-7 campaign. His ascension has coincided with the Sockers improvement to 14-6, 19-3, and 23-1 this year and he seems poised to accept the torch from Kraig Chiles, but he might not be the Sockers most valuable player yet.

Pardo was no greenhorn when he inherited the starting job after the Sockers traded two-time-defending Goalkeeper of the Year Chris Toth to the Ontario Fury, but it was still a risk to put all their chips on #27. Until the Sockers signed veteran Jesus Molina as a backup late in the season, Pardo spent most of the year working without a net. The durable keeper started 23 games and won a league-record 22, while projecting a calm, steady, swagger on the back line. When the Sockers were struggling with their finishing early in the year it was Pardo who kept the train on the tracks. Only once this year did Pardo allow more than six goals (an 8-7 win on March 31). San Diego’s gamble on Boris Pardo paid off with an MVP performance.

Greg Suttie, Suttie on Soccer

What does “League MVP” mean? My thought has always been a literal reading. i.e. Which player was the most valuable to that team’s success? Not necessarily the best player during the season or top player on the best team, but the player that singularly improved their team the most.

Recently Franck Tayou has been seen as that player. This season he had a huge impact on the success of the Monterrey Flash. The San Diego Sockers had two players this season that stood out on either side of the ball. Brandon Escoto was clutch on the offensive side and Boris Pardo was a rock in front of the goal.

However, my pick for League MVP is a bit unorthodox because he plays and coaches for a team that barely made the postseason. Nick Perera was the single biggest impact player for his team, the Tacoma Stars. Without Nick stepping in as the Head Coach early in the season and commanding the team’s production in both goals and assists, the Stars would not have been a contending side.