The Philadelphia Union (finally) return to MLS play after a long lay-off against the New England Revolution tonight in a game that kicks off a three-game road trip, four games in 11 days and the start of the second half of the season.
If you’re looking for a good review of the first half of the season and how the team we thought would be at best a fourth or fifth place team made its way to the top of the Eastern conference standings, check out Phil Moore’s piece from yesterday.
A lot can happen in the next 17 games so we aren’t celebrating anything quite yet, but since we’re still at the halfway point of the season for another few hours there’s still time to hand out some awards. These are based on a survey of the Brotherly Game staff.
Ilsinho. This felt like the most straightforward question of all, but maybe it would have been 100 percent if I used the term super sub instead of reserve. Calling Ilsinho a reserve doesn’t really do justice to how ridiculous he has been off the bench for the Union this season. Not to mention the credit he gets for going all 120 minutes in that Open Cup loss in D.C. The Brazilian has been simply dynamite this season. Honorable mentions go to Aurelien Collin, Matt Freese and Carlos Coronel.
Best Defensive Player
Jack Elliott was the consensus pick but a couple people went with Auston Trusty. Elliott wasn’t even expected to start this season — many felt it would be Mark McKenzie and Trusty anchoring the back line — but he’s just kept doing what he’s been doing best since arriving in Chester, proving people wrong.
Best Offensive Player
It’s Ilsinho again, which is again pretty remarkable considering his role as a super sub. His four goals and five assists both lead the team and his highlight reels have kept the digital team busy. Anyone who was on the fence about him in the past has surely given up that ghost by now.
This was a close one between Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin, but the captain finished with a slight edge. Bedoya had his moment in the sun this season when he scored an incredible winner (set up by a filthy pass from Ilsinho) to beat FC Dallas, but much of his work (particularly when he’s played right back late in games) both on and off the field continues to go somewhat under the radar.
Jack Elliott was nearly the consensus pick here too. Though he mostly avoided the dreaded sophomore slump last year while splitting time with McKenzie, he has risen to a completely new level in his game this season to become the clear leader of the team on the back line. The considerable raise he received in a new contract that was announced earlier this season is evidence of just how much he means to the team and how far his improvement as a player has taken him and the team.
Best Young Player
Brenden Aaronson was nearly a consensus pick (Auston Trusty picked up one vote). Seeing his progression from Bethlehem Steel has been a thrill for those of us who follow the academy and Steel closely. While he’s not the first to play consistent minutes for the team as a teenager the fact that he is performing so well playing as an attacking midfielder has taken him into a bit of unchartered territory. It’s been a welcome sign.
When Kai Wagner was brought into the team from the third tier in Germany, the fact that there was a small transfer fee involved — and the fact that Ernst Tanner knows the market well — hinted that he was being looked at as more than a backup. But even the most optimistic folks in the fanbase were not expecting Wagner to be the juggernaut that he has been at left back.
Newcomer of the Year
Jamiro Monteiro garnered most of the votes but Wagner and Aaronson each get mentions here as well. Monteiro has been an absolute beast in the midfield for the Union. The only question mark with him is whether the Union can keep him beyond this season.
This was the most contested category and actually ended in a tie between Bedoya and Monteiro. Elliott also received a couple votes and Haris Medunjanin and Ilsinho each earned honorable mentions.
We made our picks. Now it’s time for you to make yours in the comments.