With the 2012 campaign nearing its halfway mark, a look at the best (and worst) of the season's first half.Major League Soccer has an odd schedule, so it's tough to really know when “midseason” is. Some teams have played 18 out of 34 games on the season, while the Union have only played 14 matches. With nearly half of the league through half of their schedule, there's no time like the present to dole out some halfway awards.
Newcomer of the Year: Saer Sene, New England Revolution
Sene was a real unknown quantity when the Revs snapped him up prior to the season, with experience only in the lower leagues in Germany with SG Sonnenhof Großaspach and the Bayern Munich reserves. The Frenchman has been a hit in MLS though, using his 6-foot-3 frame to terrorize defenses in the air, and his cultured left foot to do the same on the ground. With eight goals, Sene is tied for sixth in the league and the total is good for the most amongst all newcomers.
Honorable mention: Felipe, Montreal Impact. Blas Perez, FC Dallas.
Defender of the Year: Jamison Olave, Real Salt Lake
The 31 year-old continues to be a pillar in RSL's backline, leading his team to a second-place spot in the Western Conference. This award is more wide open than it's been in a while however, as usual suspects like Chad Marshall, George John, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Nat Borchers, and Omar Gonzalez have dealt with injuries.
Honorable mention: Drew Moor, Colorado Rapids. Aurélien Collin, Sporting Kansas City
Goalkeeper of the Year: Dan Kennedy, Chivas USA
In just a year-and-a-half as Chivas USA's starting goalkeeper, Kennedy has established himself as one of the league's best, and has shown no signs of slowing down in 2012. The 29 year-old is amongst the league leaders in saves, goals-against average and save percentage, and rarely makes the mistakes which plague so many MLS goalkeepers.
Honorable mention: Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting Kansas City. Matt Pickens, Colorado Rapids
Breakthrough Player: Will Bruin, Houston Dynamo
Bruin showed flashes in his rookie year, most notably a hat trick against D.C. United, but the 11th overall pick in the 2011 SuperDraft scored just two times outside of that game. In 2012, Bruin has added an extra bit of confidence and composure to his game, and the results have quickly followed. The former Indiana Hoosier has already scored nine times in just 16 games, and has rapidly developed into one of the best strikers in MLS.
Honorable mention: Chris Pontius, D.C. United. Steven Beitashour, San Jose Earthquakes
Rookie of the Year: Ryan Meara, New York Red Bulls
Many (including, ahem, me) thought the Red Bulls were crazy when they handed their starting goalkeeper job to an unproven second-round pick out of Fordham University. Halfway into the season, and questions still remain, only now they're more along the lines of: how did every other team miss on this guy? Meara plays the position with a composure belying his 21 years, and has helped the Red Bulls to near the top of the Eastern Conference.
Honorable mention: Nick DeLeon, D.C. United, Austin Berry, Chicago Fire
Surprise Team: San Jose Earthquakes
The Earthquakes finished the 2011 season out of the playoffs, and with the 14th most points in the 18-team MLS. Halfway through the 2012 season, and San Jose is on top of the league. It's not just the amount of wins that's striking, it's how they're winning. The Quakes have become the cardiac kids of MLS, embodying their new favored slogan “Goonies never say die”. The team leads the league with 20 goals after the 60th minute, and has scored six goals in stoppage time. San Jose's fighting spirit was fully on display this weekend, as it turned a 3-1 deficit against the Galaxy into a 4-3 win
Honorable mention: D.C. United, Vancouver Whitecaps
Underachieving Team: Los Angeles Galaxy
With respect to all other underachievers, no team this season has experienced such a disparity between expectations and reality as the defending champs. Heading into the season, the retention of David Beckham and Juninho, along with the addition of Edson Buddle had many predicting the Galaxy could achieve the most points in league history. Instead, Buddle has been a bust, and an injury to Omar Gonzalez has decimated the Galaxy back line in a way that no single player's absence should. In a scenario that seemed unthinkable at season's start, the Galaxy sits in sixth place in the Western Conference at the midpoint of the season, out of a playoff spot.
Honorable mention: Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers
Coach of the Year: Frank Yallop, San Jose Earthquakes
With a few shrewd signings and a healthy injection of belief in his squad, Yallop has his side atop MLS after a disappointing 2011 campaign. Yallop and general manager Mark Doyle deserve credit for offseason acquisitions like Victor Bernardez, Shea Salinas and Marvin Chavez, all of whom have been big contributors. All of Yallop's management decisions have come up aces thus far, such as trusting the unheralded Justin Morrow with a starting spot, or inserting Alan Gordon late into games to score his inevitable last-second goal. If he keeps it up, the Canadian will win his second Manager of the Year award going away.
Honorable mention: Ben Olsen, D.C. United. Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire.
Most Valuable Player: Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes
The MVP can be an ambiguous award at times, as the defining criteria will often vary, depending on who's voting. Some could favor the best player on the league's best team, others the best player overall, the most clutch player, or the player with the best statistics. There's little controversy here though, because halfway through 2012, the same player checks all four of the aforementioned boxes. Wondo leads the Golden Boot race with 14 goals, seven of which have been game-winners (the all-time single-season MLS record is nine). He's even chipped in three assists to boot. The Earthquakes have the most points in MLS, and Wondo is the biggest reason why. This award is his to lose.
Honorable mention: Dwayne De Rosario, D.C. United. Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake
Follow SETH VERTELNEY on or shoot him an email.