Just because the Bronx Blues didn't win any trophies this year -- you haven't seen the last of us, Carolina Challenge Cup!!! -- doesn't mean we can't hand out some hardware of our own.
Lucky for us, there is no shortage of personages, performances, pomp, and prattle to recognize in these twelve massive months.
So, we're going to have fun with this. Consequently, this year's honorees have been determined in a manner unfettered by sophisticated methodologies, quantitative data, or democratic ideals. They have not been subject to tabulation procedures burdened by such pesky things as taste.
There is one single flaw in today's exercise: we wanted desperately to call our award show "The HRBies," pronounced like the adorable little Volkswagen. But we can't. Not only has that name already been taken; it's been taken by that handsomest television Buckeye named Kirk Herbstreit.
(Yes, he's more handsome even than Chris Spielman. I mean, CHRIS SPIELMAN, people! This is what we're up against.)
Bollocks to that! Instead, we're naming our annual honors after the Hudson River straight away.
I just hope the term "Huddies" doesn't cause the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to summon a plague of lawyers. That would be the absolute worst way to start 2016, short of a rush of jeering reader tweets making jokes about "Hud-deez Nuts."
With that in mind, let's give out the first annual Huddies! First, the easy ones:
BRONX BLUES PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
STAN VAN GUNDY "FORM A F------ WALL" AWARD:
OK, good. Moving on:
JUDGE DREDD PRIZE -- OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENFORCER:
- Why A.J. wins: There's really no other choice. Kwadwo Poku is a menace on the ball, but Andrew "The 4 Train" Jacobson doesn't need the rock at his feet to raise untold visceral hell. The team's midfield leader in combined clearances + blocks + interceptions, the box-to-box Jacobson was tasked with a herculean defensive effort at the base of the midfield. His custodial duties grew even more difficult when Pirlo and Lampard arrived, but The 4 Train never wilted. He's been prowling from the very beginning of the season, and figures to be a major contributor again in 2016. Hey, Brek Shea is still pooping a little, totally involuntarily.
RUDY AWARD -- MOST UNLIKELY HIGHLIGHT:
Lord Kwame Watson-Siriboe
- Why Lord Kwame wins: Andoni Iraola didn't score. Angelino didn't score. But of all the defenders on the roster, the Notorious KWS did? Schnikes. This is soccer? ... This IS soccer!
PAUL "INVISIBLE MAN" LAKE TROPHY -- EXCELLENCE IN ABSENTEEISM:
- Why Dank Frank wins: Once again, there's no other choice. Lamps did bag a couple goals late in the season with almost nothing to play for, but that made him kinda like the absent father that shows up twice a year to take you to LegoLand or whatever. We're bullish for Frank in 2016 as long as he avoids extended injuries, but we'll remember his first year in MLS for everything that it could have been, but wasn't.
PHANTOM PAIN AWARD -- BEST NYCFC PLAYER NEVER SIGNED BY NYCFC:
- Why George wins: It's plain to see that this organization did right by George John at a personal level, making their full range of resources available to aid in his long recovery from a devastating string of leg injuries. Unfortunately, he was passed off throughout the season as an under-contract NYCFC player, kit number and all, when in fact the team owned his rights but never gave him a player contract. Why pass him off as an under-contract player, as if this was some kind of bizarre cosplay scenario? All the way through, we felt the phantom pain every time the defense impersonated a row of turnsitiles. In other words, often! Get well, Georgie.
THE JASON "WHITE CHOCOLATE" WILLIAMS ASSIST OF THE YEAR:
Andrea Pirlo vs. D.C. United
- Why the Maestro wins: This was a hotly-contested category. Angelino's pin-point lob to David Villa in July against Orlando and R.J. Allen's swooping assist to Frank Lampard against Toronto in September finished not far behind. But Pirlo's bouncing Betty proved explosive for the Bronx Blues at home against D.C. in August.
THE XHERDAN SHAQIRI GOAL OF THE YEAR:
Kwadwo Poku vs. New York Cosmos
- Why the Punisher wins: With all due respect to David Villa's multiple free kick beauties and Tommy McNamara's smasher against Philadelphia, we have to give it up to Poku the Punisher's half-bike stunner in the U.S. Open Cup against the Cosmos. There's just no escaping it, just like there's no escaping Poku, who knows what you did.
F.O. O.G. GOLD STAR -- SMARTEST MLS SIGNING:
- Why T-Mac wins: Among all NYCFC players with previous MLS experience, Mac the Knife is top-of-the-pops. We could have given this one to Josh Saunders and not lost a wink of sleep, but McNamara has to reign given that nobody was quite sure what he would be able to contribute after going down hard with an ACL injury just weeks into his pro career with Chivas USA a year ago. Five goals and three assists in limited minutes, broad positional flexibility, and a sweet defensive work rate? I'll take it, thank ya.
TY LAWSON PRIZE -- MOST OVER-HYPED PRESEASON SIGNING:
- Why Mix wins: One reason only-- his wickedly high salary, about triple that of Sacha Kljestan's. His performances, while full of undying hustle, did not add much of anything special to this club. We're hopeful about Mix's future with this team and recognize his popularity on a personal level with the fans, but judging his play solely on the merits yields unexciting conclusions. After all, his finest moment -- a picture-perfect curler that marked NYCFC's first-ever MLS goal -- came in the very first game of the season. We could have given Lampard this honor as well, but his effective cap number is in the same neighborhood as Mix's, and Frank really started to get going by the latter part of the season.
DAVID PRICE AWARD -- MOST OVER-HYPED MIDEASON SIGNING:
- Why Andoni wins: This is a major bummer, and we have no reason to believe 2016 will be a repeat, but the former Athletic Bilbao man wasn't able to answer any of NYCFC's serious questions at fullback. A high-profile midseason signing, the attack-minded Iraola just never got himself together in the sky-blue shirt on or off the ball. Andrea Pirlo, who occasionally looked disinterested in EtihadLand, isn't the worst choice for this award either. We're deciding on Iraola due to the team's more urgent needs in the back four, which remain a top priority.
KAWHI LEONARD MEDAL -- MOST PLEASANTLY SURPRISING SIGNING:
- Why R.J. wins: Angelino is a tempting choice. He played very well up against the tough task of arriving mid-season. But the Manchester City teenager is widely recognized in European circles as a legitimately elite talent, while Allen was pulled off the street to somehow, some way address NYCFC's dire plague of injuries, especially in the defense, that had reached a level of sheer absurdity by May. Allen was basically thrown to the dogs, and Lloyd Sam & Co. carved him like a turkey in the first away match against the Red Bulls. But over time, Allen acquitted himself nicely, most certainly exceeding any and all expectations with his lively runs up the right wing and surprising confidence on the ball. He'll figure into Patrick Vieira's plans this year-- we saw him rep at left back for the first time down in Puerto Rico on December 11th.
THE 2004 ALCS COMMENDATION -- MOST EXCITING WIN:
5-3 over Orlando City, July 26th
- Why this one wins: This was New York City's first true blue barn-burner. 5-3 is a thrilling scoreline in general: remember Leicester over United and Spurs over Chelsea last year? This particular iteration had a little of everything, including a Cyle Larin hat trick in a losing effort, superb playmaking from Kwadwo Poku, a rare Diskerud goal, and a thirty-minute master class of ball control and outlet passing by Andrea Pirlo in the latter stages of the game. Just for kicks, it happened to be against a fellow expansion team, the same one with the fan base desperate to cast New York City as a rival. If you went to this one, you just knew it. If you didn't attend, you probably told a few out-of-town friends that you did.