My Canadian Soccer Association Awards Ballot

By Benjamin Massey

November 29th, 2012 · 5 comments

With Canada’s legendary bronze medal victory, is this finally the year you can honestly say the player of the year isn’t Christine Sinclair? (Of course not.)

Christine Sinclair in Châtel-Saint-Denis, SUI on July 14, 2012 against New Zealand. Image by the Canadian Soccer Association.

Canadian Soccer Association

Every year around this time, the Canadian Soccer Association come searching for votes on its annual awards. Media members, such as myself theoretically, as well as Canadian soccer coaches are eligible to vote for the men’s and women’s senior players of the year. Youth players of the year are also given awards but only coaches may vote on these[1].

It is my principle that those who cast ballots for major sporting awards should make their votes known publicly. It’s a good way to get a reporter or a coach’s view of the big picture, and it promotes accountability and the public shaming of those whose biases or lack of knowledge so often bring these awards into disrepute. I’m sure people think my ballots are stupid but now you can prove I’m a moron instead of wondering who the anonymous idiot determining an insane award is.

Take the recent burst of world-wide idiocy that put Marta, fresh off the worst season of her (considerable) career, ahead of Christine Sinclair on the FIFA Ballon d’Or balloting as well as leaving John Herdman out for coach of the year in favour of the likes of Pia Sundhage[2]. The Ballon d’Or is not a serious award, of course; it amounts to “which goalscorer got the most TV time this year”, and the reason for its complete lack of meaning is the low calibre of the voting. The soccer world would be a better place if we knew which national team captains and journalists selected by the French soccer federation had forfeited their right to be considered serious analysts.

EDIT, November 29 09:56 PST: I recalled that captain votes had been made public for the Ballon d’Or but media votes had not. I recalled incorrectly; the 2011 voting for women’s Ballon d’Or was made public here; it wasn’t linked on FIFA’s Ballon d’Or website and I only found it from a Wikipedia citation. I could find no list of public votes for FIFA Coach of the Year 2011.

So if I made any Marta-over-Sinclair-level mistakes in the CSA awards, now you and everybody else knows. In addition, I gave my opinion on the youth awards, for which I was not eligible to cast a vote but on which I regardless have hopefully interesting opinions.

Women’s Player of the Year

Of course Christine Sinclair is in first place. Anybody who votes for anybody else for any reason is taking contrarianism to an unhealthy conclusion. She is the only possible choice, as by far the best player in Canada who had by far the best season out of any Canadian.

You could say that Diana Matheson had the biggest moment of the year, scoring the nearly-golden-goal against France to give Canada the bronze medal in London (hell, let’s watch that again)[3], but frankly that goal would have meant a lot less to the country if Sinclair hadn’t scored a hat trick against the Americans and almost single-handedly earned Canada a win against the top-ranked country in the world that was denied by incompetent refereeing. Matheson also had an excellent tournament, but not as good as Sinclair’s, and she also missed the Olympic qualifying campaign with a knee injury. So no, even though I know some knee-jerk contararian might try to make the point: Matheson is not an acceptable answer to this question, tremendous though she is.

Second place behind Sinclair must be Desiree Scott. Though a Canadian international off and on under Carolina Morace, I don’t think I’m alone when I say Scott came to life for me during Olympic qualifying. Canada’s had plenty of gritty get-stuck-in take-no-prisoners players; indeed, if anything we’ve had too many. Scott is unusual in that, firstly, she keeps her aggressiveness on the right side of the referee’s book, and second she combines it with positioning, athleticism, and the ability to play the ball out of trouble with the result that she’s become a shockingly valuable shutdown central midfielder. She held her own against attacks from the likes of the United States and France and was the best part of Canada’s defense despite being a midfielder. What a season from her.

Third place is the highest I could see Matheson climbing in. She had an excellent year when she was healthy and, well, there was that goal that everyone remembers. The only question is whether Matheson’s injury, which ruled her out until May, moves her ahead of another Canadian who also had a very good year like Sophie Schmidt. Schmidt was as usual a playmaking maestro, set up Matheson’s legendary goal, adjusted reasonably well to playing on the outside under Herdman, and certainly earned some sort of honour even in the big shadows of Sinclair and Scott.

In the end, I am writing Matheson’s name down: her Olympic tournament was excellent even apart from that goal and those were by far the biggest games of the season. But I’ll dwell on it. Choosing between Matheson and Schmidt was the hardest part of filling out my ballot. 1. Christine Sinclair 2. Desiree Scott 3. Diana Matheson.

Men’s Player of the Year

This is one of the more underwhelming years for Men’s Player of the Year I can remember. Atiba Hutchinson had a good season with both club and country but also struggled with injury. Olivier Occean underachieved for Canada but at age 31 continued a late-career renaissance by fitting in nicely at 1.Bundesliga Eintracht Frankfurt. Patrice Bernier scored a lot of penalties for the Montreal Impact, Andre Hainault was useful for the Houston Dynamo, and Lars Hirschfeld, one misadventure outside his box in Cuba aside, was consistently good enough. I am now out of players I can say nice things about. David Edgar and, surprisingly, Simeon Jackson are not nominated, but deserve it more than a few of the players who did make the cut.

Even with his injury Hutchinson has to be in first place; when healthy he’s simply the best men’s player in the country and proved it both for club and Canada. The difference between Canada without Hutchinson and Canada with him is the difference between home draws and home wins: it’s no exaggeration to say Atiba was the sole reason that last game in Honduras even mattered. Beyond that I’ll give the nods to Hainault and Hirschfeld, in light of continuing club performances at a good level and a national team campaign that, on a team of underachievers, generally met expectations. Hainault had one of the very worst games in Canadian history in Honduras 8 – 1 Canada, but if we start docking too many points for that travesty we’ll never give anyone a vote again. 1. Atiba Hutchinson 2. Andre Hainault 3. Lars Hirschfeld.

Awards I’m Not Eligible to Vote For

As a media member rather than a coach I’m not allowed to cast a ballot for the youth awards but I try to keep my finger on the pulse at these levels, so I feel qualified to offer my opinion in a non-binding crap-ass amateur blogger capacity.

No points for guessing the probable winner for men’s U-20 player of the year; if you’re asking which of the listed players had the best 2012 season the only answer is Doneil Henry. But he probably isn’t the most promising player in this group and a youth award like this is fraught with uncertainty. Were I to vote on potential, on guys who showed they were capable of taking a big stride forward, my ballot would be something like Alderson, Piette, Aleman. (Seriously, Alderson is excellent; don’t be fooled by his lack of MLS minutes, he has the poise on the ball from the back of midfield and control with his left foot I haven’t seen from a Canadian player his age in my time as a soccer fan.)

The other interesting thing is that it’s possible that, by the time the awards are announced, Kevan Aleman won’t be Canadian. If you believe the Costa Rican press Aleman will be on the Costa Rica roster for the Copa Centroamericana in January[4] (NOTE: I AM NOT SAYING YOU SHOULD BELIEVE THE COSTA RICAN PRESS. They have printed nonsense on this file before.) So that would be funny. Asmir Begovic was Canadian men’s U-20 player of the year in 2007[5]; it’s a queer ol’ world sometimes.

Anyway, we do need to hand this award out based on performance rather than mere potential, so my ballot goes 1. Doneil Henry 2. Bryce Alderson (he did have an excellent year with the Whitecaps U-18s despite being a year younger than the competition, including USSDA Conference Team of the Year honours[6]) 3. Samuel Piette (pure reputation vote there; I’ve seen little of him but people seem to love him.)

The women’s U-20 category is weird. Last year’s winner, Amelia Pietrangelo of Laval, and runner-up, Jaclyn Sawicki of Coquitlam[7], are both eligible to repeat. But Pietrangelo fell off the face of the earth, Sawicki was underused in the U-20 Women’s World Cup, and neither is on the list of nominees (although voters may write them in if they want).

First off, Sawicki is quality. She didn’t play every day for the Whitecaps in the W-League this past summer but was one of the Whitecaps’ better midfielders when she did, her time for Canada U-20s in the World Cup was excellent, and her underuse by rookie coach Andrew Olivieri when the games mattered most was a cardinal sin. She has skill, poise, and confidence; it stands out compared to some of our prospects with the old strength-athleticism-and-damn-the-rest skillset which has gotten Canada into trouble in the past. I would be seriously tempted to write Sawicki in at number one if Jenna Richardson, a first-rate young forward who was a USL W-League Western Conference All-Star[8], wasn’t around. I’m also a big fan of Danica Wu, a poised central midfielder who plays sensible soccer, was first-team all-star in her college conference[9], and was my 2012 pick for “Canadian prospect most likely to be forgotten about until she suddenly has a hell of an international career and becomes indispensable” (or the Desiree Scott award). Sawicki will come in third place; a bit of a spit in the eye to Olivieri given that Adriana Leon out of the Toronto Lynx is an equally exceptional candidate but there we are. So let’s call it 1. Jenna Richardson 2. Danica Wu 3. Jaclyn Sawicki (write-in).

As there are three Whitecaps and one FC Edmonton player up for U-17 Player of the Year I can happily indulge my biases and speak from a position of unusual authority. This is, to my knowledge, the first time any FC Edmonton player has been up for a Canadian Soccer Association year-end award, although I suspect not the last, and while Hanson Boakai is pretty much an also-ran in this category his mere nomination is a proud moment for him and his club. (It may interest you that Boakai is a former member of the Whitecaps Residency and got 26 minutes with the Residency U-16 team in the first game of 2011-12 before returning home.)

Of the Whitecaps listed I would rank Kianz Froese first. It’s frankly hard to believe Froese is 16 years old; he joined Vancouver in the summer with the Whitecaps U-23s and made USL PDL look like a good level for him, bagging a goal in Victoria from midfield. He also played 161 Whitecaps Reserves minutes, scoring again, and was the youngest player to see action on either team. Froese probably would have made FC Edmonton if he hadn’t gotten an opportunity with Mainz 05[10]. Froese has played for Cuba at the youth level but lately has mostly turned out for Canada; a damned good thing, too.

The two Marcos, Bustos and Carducci, are both very good. It’s hard to rank goalkeepers in comparison to outfield players but Carducci is strong in my books; he played more minutes than the year-older Nolan Wirth with the USSDA U-16s last year and earned every one of them (and that’s no slight on Wirth, who held up when injuries forced him into the Whitecaps U-23 goal late in the summer). Bustos has been a discussed name in Canadian soccer for some time, and his fine free kicks and nifty playmaking have drawn comparisons to Davide Chiumiento. Every Whitecaps nominee, I’m saying, is legit.

Forward Jordan Hamilton enjoys an enormous reputation in Toronto, particularly after seeing time as a 14-year-old with Sean Fleming’s Canadian U-17 team . He was among the leading scorers in the “Canadian” Soccer League Second Division, notching 9 goals in 12 appearances with Toronto FC Academy II[11]. While Hamilton is best known for being called up to the U-17 World Cup qualifying at the shocking age of 14[12], he’s tracking at about the same level as his peer group (Hamilton, a March ’96 player, is actually a month older than Froese). This isn’t to bash Hamilton’s accomplishments, which for a player of his age are considerable: they just don’t match up with his reputation in some quarters. He succeeded against men in the CSL Second Division, which is good work from a 16-year-old, but at a lower level than Froese. My hypothetical ballot would go 1. Kianz Froese 2. Jordan Hamilton 3. Marco Carducci.

U-17 Women’s Player of the Year is always a tough award to vote for and I don’t know that most coaches casting ballots have it much easier. These women are virtually always untelevised, even for the national team, except when they’re actually in the U-17 World Cup. U-17 men draw media coverage and play in leagues with good statistics keeping, while regular national camps against opponents who are known quantity help us draw conclusions. U-20 women get more national team duty as well as games in college, university and the USL W-League which let us fill in the gaps. U-17 women are generally in obscurity. How many goals did Summer Clarke score this year? Your guess is as good as mine. Unless you actually travel the country scouting these women I think most people run into the same problem: scuttlebutt from fellow coaches about who’s really promising can help provide an informed decision, but can also be highly misleading.

So rather than cast an imaginary ballot I’ll provide some general impressions. The one girl from my area, Summer Clarke, has an extremely high reputation in local schools. She was with the Whitecaps Girls Elite this year under Jesse Symons[13] and, like her brother Caleb, is known as a hard-working natural goal scorer who just finds different ways to put the ball in the back of the net. She’s the sort of player who would be a good choice for U-17 Women’s Player of the Year, although without knowing the other candidates too well I can’t say I’d vote for her. I liked the look of Pickering’s Nichelle Prince in the U-17 World Cup (she made Clarke’s goal against Colombia[14]). Midfielder Ashley Lawrence, who captained the U-17 team, also struck me the right way. She looked a little overwhelmed at time against North Korea but, then, the whole team did.

Gee, I can’t imagine why they don’t let the likes of me vote for these.

[1] — Canadian Soccer Association. “Nominees announced for 2012 Canada Soccer player awards.”, November 26, 2012. Accessed November 27, 2012.

[2] — Squizzato, Daniel. “Sinclair, Herdman left off shortlists for FIFA year-end awards.” Some Canadian Guys Writing About Soccer, November 29, 2012. Accessed November 29, 2012.

[3] — “Soccer: Diana Matheson scores Bronze Medal winning goal for Canada.” via YouTube, August 9, 2012. Accessed November 27, 2012.

[4] — Hernández, Oscar Mario. “Diego Estrada, Keven Alemán y Diego Calvo serán probados en la Copa Centroamericana.”, October 17, 2012. Accessed November 27, 2012.

[5] — Canadian Soccer Association. “Morgan, Pietrangelo named Canadian U-20 Players of the Year.”, December 13, 2011. Accessed November 27, 2012.

[6] — Massey, Benjamin. “Alderson, Clarke Make USSDA U-18 Conference Team of the Year.” Eighty Six Forever, July 16, 2012. Accessed November 27, 2012.

[7] — Canadian Soccer Association. “Morgan, Pietrangelo named Canadian U-20 Players of the Year.”, December 13, 2011. Accessed November 27, 2012.

[8] — Vancouver Whitecaps FC. “Jenna Richardson named to W-League All-Western Conference Team.”, July 23, 2012. Accessed November 27, 2012.

[9] — Ohio State University. “Tiffany Cameron, Danica Wu Named First Team All-Big Ten.”, October 31, 2012. Accessed November 27, 2012.

[10] — Sandor, Steve. “Jalali, Froese Gonzalez speak about their unique FC Edmonton deals.”, November 3, 2011. Accessed November 27, 2012.

[11] — Canadian Soccer League. “CSL Leading Goalscorers 2012 Season Second Division.” Accessed November 27, 2012.

[12] — The Associated Press. “Young Canadians look to qualify for U-17 World Cup.”, February 15, 2011. Accessed November 27, 2012.

[13] — Vancouver Whitecaps FC. “2012 Girls Elite Roster.” Accessed November 27, 2012.

[14] — Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “Summer Clarke scores in the 51st minute (video).”, September 15, 2012. Accessed November 27, 2012.

Comments are closed.

5 responses to “My Canadian Soccer Association Awards Ballot”

  1. Vic says:

    I’m not qualified to vote for the youth awards, I admit I don’t know them that well.

    But I can’t argue with your choices with female and male players of the year.

    Female – Christine Sinclair

    Male – Atiba Hutchinson

  2. Benjamin Massey says:

    Please note the following edit:

    “I recalled that captain votes had been made public for the Ballon d’Or but media votes had not. I recalled incorrectly; the 2011 voting for women’s Ballon d’Or was made public here; it wasn’t linked on FIFA’s Ballon d’Or website and I only found it from a Wikipedia citation. I could find no list of public votes for FIFA Coach of the Year 2011.”

  3. The real Vic says:

    Not qualified to vote on the male.

    Christine Sinclair and Desiree Scott are both great candidates and their selection by the BBC to the Olympic Best 11 is proof enough.

    Under normal circumstances what Scott did would clean up and win Canadian POTY, especially considering she was strong the entire tournament. But what Sinclair did that night was ethereal. We may never see that again.

    • Benjamin Massey says:

      I’m curious if you have any opinion on the women’s youth awards. You seem like someone who could provide an informed perspective for the nine people who read this site!

  4. Rollie says:

    Hainault’s club performances weren’t that great. He lost his starting place in the Houston back line for the second half of the season, though he put in an inspired performance vs SKC in the second playoff leg. The fans I talked to do there said he was no where close to being as good as last year, where he was the defender of the year for the club. His play carried over with the NT, his marking vs Honduras was abysmal.

    If he got votes for player of the year then the barrel’s pretty bare.