Election season is upon us. Those of us registered to vote in Oregon have our ballots. All we have left to do is read over the endless initiative language and try to suss out which choices actually reflect our opinions. It's hard.
Just as difficult a task as state/local non-candidate electioneering is choosing which member of the Portland Timbers deserves this year's Supporters' Player of the Year award.
There will only be one ballot this year, hosted on the Timbers Army website, and voting ends today, Wednesday, October 24, at midnight.
In the long American tradition of news sources offering their endorsements to help voters decide in upcoming elections, we here at Stumptown Footy are offering our endorsements for Player of the Year. It's a tough one, at the end of such a disappointing season, and not surprisingly, our picks are all over the map.
Let us know who your picks are, and exactly where we can shove our endorsements, in the comments, but most importantly, remember to vote!
Geoff Gibson: Diego Chara
There was one guy this season who refused to give up, give in or go home... that was DIego Chara. It didn't matter if the team was narrowly hanging on to a lead or was down by 4 goals, he simply refused to give up. I'll mostly remember his time this season during the first Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders match where he successfully shut down Osvaldo Alonso, one of the most difficult midfielders to contain in the league. I think without him this season, the Timbers season would have gone far worse.
Ryan Gates: Steven Smith
This was a really difficult decision to make, but it came down to who improved the Timbers the most and played at a consistent level. With those two criteria in mind Steven Smith is my Timber of the Year. It can be a difficult transition for foreign players who join MLS, and for those who join mid-year it can be an even bigger challenge. Smith transitioned quicker than most and shored up a position which had plagued the Timbers for most of their MLS existence. If you go look at the goals Portland scored in big games you will see Smith contributed in some way to that goal, and he even had a goal line save which preserved points for the Timbers. All of these things combined have me leaning to Smith as my player of the year.
Stacey Neve: David Horst
I can hear people yelling at me already, but hear me out. After such a dismal season, it's difficult for me to pick someone who always gave their all and consistently played well, so my vote is sort of for the most improved player. I had an interesting relationship with David Horst this year. Back in May, I was excited to see him return to the field for the first time since his surgery. Later that same game, I was furious with him for taking a nap while Darren Mattocks scored the equalizer. And so went the next few months, with Horst often making costly mistakes on defense.
Then, sometime in August perhaps, the mistakes mostly stopped, and Horst was often the most dependable guy on the backline. On Sunday, I swear he dispossessed the Vancouver forwards before they even knew they had the ball. Horst always played hard and I can still picture a few occasions where he raced up the field with the ball as if he had decided he would win this game himself, with or without his teammates' help. I think this is the real David Horst and if I'm right, I look forward to seeing more of him next year.
William Conwell: Diego Chara
He hasn't always been perfect this season, but Chara never gave less than one hundred percent on the pitch for the Timbers and he did it all with a big smile. For me the player of the year is not just about the best player or the best teammate, but about the player that makes me want to come back to the stadium again and again to root for them. Chara's seemingly boundless enthusiasm for the game, and the cheekiness that he shows from time to time, puts me firmly in his corner.
Andrew Wheeler: Sal Zizzo
He's maddening to watch at times. At other times he looks like he's good for nothing more than a fast streak down the flank, ending in a goal kick. He can completely fall apart on defense.
But let that Timbers player who is without similar sin cast the first stone. Before Zizzo joined the regular starting XI there wasn't a Timbers player whom an opposing team could truly fear. With Zizzo in the game, the Timbers have a player who can blow past just about any fullback in the league and put a pinpoint cross into the center for a target forward to smash goalward. Sometimes even a double-team can't stop him.
He's far from perfect and in fact far from the apex of his own ability, and he could stand to mature quite a bit. But to me he earned a lot of respect this year, and I look forward to seeing more of him next year.