Turf and Boards is proud to present the third annual Boards Awards in recognition of excellence in the Major Arena Soccer League. The 2019-20 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 esteemed panel of Craig Elsten, Art Kramer, Nathan Dunn, 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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Sydney Nusinov (Turf and Boards Publisher)

The combination of a shortened season and a greater usage of backup goalkeepers has played havoc with the Goalkeeper of the Year category. Last year eight goalkeepers played at least 1,200 minutes, while this year only William Vanzela hit that milestone. Hugo Silva’s 4.14 GAA was the highest to lead the league since Riley Swift’s 4.94 mark in 2010-11. Vanzela’s league-leading 15 wins were seven fewer than Boris Pardo’s MASL record 22 wins last year.

Chris Toth overcame a poor start to finish 11-7 with a 4.79 GAA and one shutout. In his last 10 appearances, though, he had a 3.60 GAA.

Vanzela has often been underrated and his appointment to the MASL’s Honorable Mention list is another slight that is going to push him to be even better next year. His career-worst 4.48 GAA (3rd in MASL this year) and career-high seven losses are numbers that other goalies dream of. His 10th career shutout broke a tie with Jamie Swanner and Victor Nogueira for the most all-time and he added one more before the season ended. Vanzela had the luxury of going 9-0 against Orlando and Rochester, but he also had to play in the high-scoring cozy confines of SECU Arena. It’s that strength (or lack thereof) of schedule, however, that tipped me to making Vanzela my runner-up.

Silva flipped the script on his worst season (6-17 6.86 GAA) and responded with a career year. Silva went 13-1 and led the league in GAA, while playing in 14 of the 18 games in which he was able to dress. A December injury prompted Florida to bring in Brett Petricek who ably went 5-2 with a 3.83 GAA, with his only two losses coming against Milwaukee, but Silva played most of the big games and won all of them except the second game of a back-to-back 3,000 miles away in Washington. Hugo Silva is my pick for MASL Goalkeeper of the Year.

Art Kramer (Longtime player, coach, and broadcaster)

The abrupt ending of the MASL season made the Goalkeeper of the Year selection very difficult, and in my opinion this award was still very much up for grabs, with a host of deserving keepers in contention.

My honorable mentions go to Rafael Dias of the Milwaukee Wave, Andrew Coughlin of Utica City FC, and Boris Pardo of the San Diego Sockers. All three played very well and may well have emerged as this year’s winner had the season carried on. 

With the body of work at hand, my decision came down to the following three players. 

Chris Toth, Ontario Fury –  The past four years Toth has proven to be one of the league’s top goalkeepers. His stats this season were very similar to his former San Diego running mate Boris Pardo. Both played just over 1,000 minutes and each had 11 wins. I gave the edge to Toth here due to his nearly 50 save advantage over Pardo. But as we’ve all known for quite some time, Toth or Pardo, you can’t go wrong with either guy.

William Vanzela, Baltimore Blast – Vanzela once again did what he always does.  He led the league in games played (22), minutes played (1,299) and wins (15).  His goals against average was 4.48 playing on a miniature pitch. I’m not sure there is any other keeper in the league that could pull this off, and thankfully with only Sonora having a pitch similar in size, hopefully we will never know. 

Hugo Silva, Florida Tropics – In my opinion, Silva was on his way to winning this award prior to the stoppage. He led the league in winning percentage with a 13-1 record, yielding only 55 goals against and compiling a league best 4.14 goals against average, which led me to a coin flip on this one to determine my selection. 

Down to the field with former NFL referee Phil Luckett and the coin flip. “OK Turf and Boards fans, Jerome Bettis, former running back of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is going to make the call in the air. If he calls the toss correctly, Hugo Silva of the Florida Tropics will gain Kramer’s GOTY selection. If he calls the toss incorrectly, William Vanzela of the Baltimore Blast receives the selection. Jerome calls tails, (I mean I think he did), it is indeed tails and Hugo Silva gets Kramer’s pick”. Wait, what just happened!                    

Craig Elsten (San Diego Sockers Chief Marketing Officer and Play-by-Play)

Honorable Mention • Berna Valdovinos, Monterrey Flash: While the Flash employed the most unusual goalie tandem in MASL history, alternating their keepers by half instead of by game, Valdovinos was the “closer” and the keeper most often entrusted to money time, and finished one off the MASL lead with 14 wins. Much like with the WMF champion Mexican National Team, Valdovinos emerged as a leader, adept communicator, and tremendous distributor of the ball • Boris Pardo, San Diego Sockers: Last year’s MASL Keeper of the Year faced the toughest schedule in league history and came out of it with top-six stats in GAA and save %, and top-5 in wins, while adding a goal and four assists on offense. Edges out William Vanzela of Baltimore, who produced marginally better stats but did so largely thanks to his repeated efforts against bottom-feeders Rochester and Orlando (9-0, 2.62, .755 vs ROC/ORL; 6-7, 5.74, .687 vs others).

Third • Chris Toth, Ontario Fury: Toth, like the team he backstops, overcame a shaky and slow start, and came on like gangbusters at the end of the season, including a home shutout against Mesquite. Finished second in save percentage (.744) and fourth in GAA (4.74). By shot volume he was one of the keepers with the most tests, and did well to pass them.

Second • Rafa Dias, Milwaukee Wave: Before taking an injury, Dias looked like the favorite to win this award, and he led the league in save percentage (a sparkling .758) while finishing second in GAA (4.15). The Wave’s keeper position transitioned post-injury to Joey Kapinos, and Dias was unable/not healthy enough to win it back, which leaves him one slot short of the top.

Winner • Hugo Silva, Florida Tropics: To the victors go the spoils. Silva was the last line for the best defense in the MASL, added five assists to his league-leading 4.14 GAA, and was third in save percentage (.712) and tied for third in wins (13-1 record). While a lot of credit has to go to the guys in front of him (Silva improved from 6-17, 6.86, .652 to 13-1, 4.14, .712 year-over-year with Florida), the veteran had his best year for the top team in the East, and deserves the attendant plaudits.

Nathan Dunn (Turf and Boards, The Blue Testament)

While MASL veteran goalkeepers like William Vanzela, Boris Pardo, and Andrew Coughlin all had decent seasons for their respective teams, a couple lesser known keepers also stepped up for their sides along with another veteran to make the three most impressive goalkeepers in the league. My three candidates for Goalkeeper of the Year are Chris Toth of the Ontario Fury, Hugo Silva of the Florida Tropics, and Rafa Dias of the Milwaukee Wave. 

Ontario’s Chris Toth had another impressive season for the Fury, as he was among the league leaders in save percentage and goals against average. Toth was also a big part of helping the Fury to win eight of their last nine games, pushing them to finish third in the Western Conference. The former San Diego Socker also joined Baltimore’s William Vanzela and Florida’s Brett Petricek as the only three keepers to record a shutout this season.

The second candidate for my Goalkeeper of the Year is Hugo Silva of the Florida Tropics. While only featuring in 14 games, Silva posted 13 wins, picking up just one loss while also posting a league-leading 4.14 goals against average. The former Harrisburg Heat keeper was a key figure in leading the league’s best defense, as the Tropics allowed just 86 goals in 21 games with Silva in goal for 55 of those goals. Silva led the Tropics to their first ever Eastern Conference division title, as Brett Petricek came to aid Silva in goalkeeping duties.

Milwaukee’s Rafa Dias was phenomenal for the Wave for the majority of his 15 games. While injuries held him out of a few games, he was able to supply some big saves for the Wave after becoming the starter just days before the season opener after Josh Lemos’s season ending injury. Dias had a final record of just 9-4, but had a league-leading .758 save percentage and was second with 4.15 goals against average. Dias certainly had some jaw-dropping performances, but his 9-4 record doesn’t do him much justice.

My pick for Goalkeeper of the Year goes to Hugo Silva of the Florida Tropics. In his second season with the Tropics, the Brazilian keeper had a huge breakout season for the Tropics. In 2018-19, Silva gave us little glimpse of his talent with a 6.86 goals against average and .652 save percentage, but those stats turned around to career highs in 2019-20. In a goalkeeper pool mixed with established veterans and some rising stars, Hugo Silva proved to be the best of the talented bunch.