The All-Star Game is about the closest thing that MLS has to a natural half way point, so as a staff we wanted to recognize some of the players who have earned their rightful awards up until this point. This doesn't necessarily reflect who we think will win the award at the end of the season, but it reflects who we think would win these awards if the season ended today.
Mark Kastner: Sacha Kjlestan. The Red Bulls season has been up and down all year, but Kjlestan has been their consistent shinning star. Already at 12 assists, he has a legitimate shot at 20 assists. If only the US could produce a No. 10 like him....
Ian L: Nacho Piatti. Statistics plus style. Piatti is getting it done for the Impact. He's one of the league's leading scorers as a midfielder, and he's providing assists for his teammates as well. I can't think of a player I'd rather have on my team this season.
Dustyn Richardson: Sebastian Giovinco. Toronto may be the worst team in MLS without Giovinco. Altidore has been injured and Bradley has been away, leaving Giovinco to carry the Reds. Toronto probably need to improve for Giovinco to win a second consecutive MVP but he's my pick at this point.
Rob Ditta: Sebastian Giovinco. Seba continues to do Seba things. He's an absolute scoring machine and is on pace replicate his MVP performance from just a season ago. Even after going an unprecedented 9 league matches without a single goal, he sits just 2 goals off the Golden Boot pace. In just his second season he has already broken several records and is now TFC's all-time leading goal scorer. He's the definition of what the Most Valuable Player award represents.
Cory Jensen: Nacho Piatti. He's by far the best offensive weapon they've got, and that's palatable even after Drogba netted a hat trick this past weekend. Plus, Montreal is a shambles without him.
Mike Crosky: Sacha Kjlestan. Kjlestan is the engine that makes the RBNY midfield run. After the teams rough start to the season, Red Bull is firing on all cylinders, with Kjlestan being the main culprit.
Steven Clark: Nacho Piatti. Picking Giovinco would be an easy choice, as he has netted 11 goals and 7 assists. However, Piatti's 12 goals and five assists come in fewer minutes, and the Argentine has accomplished this feat in fewer attempts...AS A MIDFIELDER. Giovinco has simply been firing away whenever he gets remotely close to goal.
Defender of the Half-Year
Mark Kastner: Walker Zimmerman. Matt Hedges is the better all around defender, but Zimmerman is key to Dallas's success. Without him, they're just not the same. He also leads the lead in some key defensive stats.
Ian L: Jelle Van Damme. Van Damme has been of the season's best signings. He's a prototypical bullish MLS CB with the added value of being tidy in possession and a possessing a decent passing range. He keeps things tight at the back and gets attacks started as well.
Dustyn Richardson: Axel Sjoberg. With Drew Moor off to Toronto, Axel Sjoberg has stepped in to the Rapids backline and been a stud. The Rapids have been a revelation in 2016 and Sjoberg has been at the forefront of that.
Rob Ditta: Jelle Van Damme. Jelle Van Damme is an old school CB. He's rough, he's big and he gets the job done. He's exactly what the Galaxy needed. Although he may not be the cleanest defender we've ever seen, his abilities are there and he's been able to get into the heads of his opponents.
Cory Jensen: Axel Sjoberg. He's replaced Drew Moor and has earned the trust of Mastroeni, a man who prides himself on defensive organization. Add in a defense with one of the best shutout records in the league. His feet, as noted in person at COL-FCD this past game week, are no less than 17 feet long. It's impossible to get around this man.
Mike Crosky: Jelle Van Damme. He has filled the shoes of longtime LA Galaxy centerback, Omar Gonzalez, well. Brings a more physical presence and ability to build out of the back.
Steven Clark: Drew Moor. TFC have only allowed multiple goals in six of their twenty matches so far. A major cause of this defensive capabilities of Moor. This is a far cry from Toronto's past mentality of "a good defense is a lot more offense."
Rookie of the Half-Year
Mark Kastner: Jordan Morris. Came in with huge expectations, and is the only bright spot for a terrible team. Has handled the pressure very well.
Ian L: Jordan Morris. Expectations were high for the Sounders Homegrown player. Despite his team's poor form, Morris has already scored seven of his teams 20 goals and looks to have a bright future in the league.
Dustyn Richardson: Jordan Morris. Morris came in to MLS with the weight of the world on his shoulders and he has reacted well. With Seattle's struggles this year, it has been Morris that has been the Sounders lone bright spot in 2016.
Rob Ditta: Jordan Morris. To say that Jordan Morris has a bright future ahead of him in MLS is an understatement. The kid has managed to step into Seattle's first team in his rookie season and contribute at a very high rate, essentially carrying the rest of his struggling team. With 7 goals at the mid point of the season, I'm sure he will continue to up his game to try and push Seattle into the playoff picture.
Cory Jensen: Jordan Morris. No other rookie, aside from Jack Harrison, is making the kind of waves Morris has already this season. If he nets 15 this season he's a lock for ROTY.
Mike Crosky: Jordan Morris. So far, Morris is living up to the hype. While Seattle is struggling as a team, it isn't because Morris isn't holding up his end of the bargain. The kid is scoring goals!
Steven Clark: Keegan Rosenberry. The PA native instantly became a fan favorite after helping solidify a backline that conceded nearly the most goals in MLS last year. Now, the Union are in a position to grasp a playoff spot for the second time in their history thank to the efforts of their young talent.
Goalkeeper of the Half-Year
Mark Kastner: Brian Rowe. Came into the season as a backup, and earned the job after putting in stellar performance after performance. Currently leads the league in goals against and goals per 90.
Ian L: Andre Blake. Andre is the most exciting goalkeeper fans have seen in Major League Soccer in years. He's been nothing short of heroic in between the sticks. He's a huge reason why Philadelphia are so high in the standings. A deserving all star that's beloved by Union fans, and grudgingly admired by even the most partisan of MLS supporters.
Dustyn Richardson: Andre Blake. Blake makes at least 2 saves a week that make you shake your head in disbelief. The Union have a good defense in front of him but Blake is the anchor that has kept the Union at the top of the East.
Rod Ditta: David Ousted. David Ousted has been one of the most consistent and skilled goalkeepers in MLS since joining, this season is no different. He currently leads all other keepers in clean sheets and saves.
Cory Jensen: Andre Blake. Blake is without question the best GK to watch in MLS, and he's a crucial part in Philadelphia's revival this year.
Mike Crosky: Brian Rowe. Unseating MLS veteran Dan Kennedy and gaining the confidence of Bruce Arena is a daunting task alone. In addition, Rowe has the highest save percentage for 'keepers with 12 or more starts this season. He is also 3rd in overall saves. It isn't a coincidence since taking over the starting GK spot, the Galaxy have been one of the top teams in the league.
Steven Clark: Brian Rowe. Rowe sits in third with the most saves this year, but his astounding 81.1% save percentage and only 16 goals allowed is what sets him above the rest.
Newcomer of the Half-Year
Mark Kastner: Ola Kamara. Forced out of the nest a little bit sooner than most were anticipating, after Kei Kamara forced his trade. Ola has responded above and beyond what anyone could expect. In a year that had lots of lack luster outside-the-league signings, Ola stands out.
Ian L: Ola Kamara. Much was made of Kei Kamara's departure this season. It seemed too good to be true that Columbus might have another ready made Kamara replacement waiting in the wings. Ola has taken on his new starting role like a house on fire. 10 goals in just under 1000 minutes is a phenomenal strike rate for a first year player. Columbus have a very good player.
Dustyn Richardson: Jelle Van Damme. When LA lost Omar Gonzalez there were question marks about how good their defense would be. Van Damme has answered those questions. The Galaxy are once again a contender and their All Star center back has helped lead them there.
Rob Ditta: Ola Kamara. Ola Kamara has been a fantastic addition not just to MLS but to the Crew. After trading away Kei Kamara early in the season, Ola has scored an incredible rate, carrying the torch for Kei in Columbus.
Cory Jensen: Ola Kamara. His goals per appearance production is second to none in the league. If Columbus was really smart they would've made little of the Kei Kamara transfer and just pretended Kei was really Ola this entire time. He's the biggest chance Columbus have at reviving their season.
Mike Crosky: Ola Kamara. Kei Kamara who?? The Crew aren't missing their former starting forward with the last name Kamara. Ola Kamara has come in and scored 10 goals in just 14 games. Imagine what he will be able to do once him and Federico Higuian get on the same page.
Steven Clark: Ola Kamara. Ten goals in fourteen games (ten starting), and he already sits eighth behind players that have played nearly double the number of games. Filling the other Kamara's shoes was tough, but Ola was a great fit for an otherwise disappointing team.