Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Award 2: The Nelly

By definition, the Nelly Award goes to the player who is new to the team this year and has made the most significant positive impact. The award's namesake Ryan Nelsen emerged as a star defender in the MLS shortly after joining the team, and served as United's captain during the 2004 championship run. The United backline has never been the same since Nelsen's departure to Blackburn.

Going into the season, you'd have to think the frontrunner for this award would be Marcelo Gallardo, but he has not necessarily made as significant an impact on the club as many had hoped. When healthy, Gallardo is often the team's catalyst in the attack. Although he's still adjusting to the MLS style of play, Gallardo was brought to the team to give them a shot in international competitions. The level of success though has varied.

Though no other acquisitions have made quite the splash that Gallardo's did, another new contributor for United this year has been Gonzalo Martinez. Martinez is a versatile back, playing mostly on the left, but also sometimes in the center or on the right. Though his passing occasionally lacks consistency, Martinez is our fastest defender and has had the heart to play through a couple minor injuries.

There's another defender with the same name who we should mention, and that's Gonzalo Peralta. During the limited amount of time he's been healthy this year, Peralta has displayed skill, height, and leadership traits that the team sorely misses when he is absent. However, Peralta can also be prone to injuries, and mistakes (see Real Salt Lake, road match). Not entirely unlike our last Argentine defender.

Making a late entry into the competition is our newly acquired goalkeeper Louis Crayton. With 3 shutouts in 5 league appearances (as opposed to Wells' 1 shutout in 17 appearances), Crayton has clearly established himself as the immediate starter. This Liberian international is quickly becoming one of the top goalies in the league.

(the 2008 Benny awards)

Feel free to argue in favor of your choice in the comments section.


Catherine Lucia said...

Crayton's TOO new, otherwise I'd have voted for him. I love the guy.

Martinez gets my vote. Peralta and Gallardo haven't had enough [televised ;) ] playing time for me to get super duper impressed. Martinez, however, is BEAST.

Jeremy said...

I agree with Catherine about Peralta and Gallardo. My blue collar dislike of Gallardo is well known, but I still find it rather convenient that he seems to get injured right before every tournament.

I like Martinez, but he has been very erratic lately.

Crayton though is just one awesome specimen of a goaltender. The way that he controls the box AND the defense is amazing. I am not quite ready to say "Troy Who?", but it is close. I guarantee if we had had Crayton in goal for the entire season, we would be in a MUCH better place on the table.

He gets my vote.

Fullback said...

Hmmm. If the context is quality of impact, I'd go with Gallardo. If it's quantity of impact, Martinez gets the nod. But if it's the ratio of impact per minute played, then Crayton gets my vote. And I think that that's where I'd put my money right now.

Gallardo is a good player who can change a game, but he hasn't done it often enough to justify the money we're paying him. I really like Martinez, but he's a defender playing for a team that struggled to a solitary shutout before Crayton arrived.

Crayton has been the big difference maker, making the big saves and quick decisions that preserve points and keep us in games that Wells would have guaranteed that we were done and dusted in. Besides, he's the only one with the requisite number of syllables to match Ry-an Nel-son.

Catherine Lucia said...

hmmm...quality, quantity, or per capita of impact?...

I'm sticking with Martinez. Our defense obviously still isn't the best, but if it weren't for him it would be certainly a whole lot worse. Crayton is pretty awesome though...I can see why many might pick him, but seeing as Martinez was the only one of our five "big signings" over the summer (Niell-NO, Carvallo, NO, Gallardo-Peralta-Martinez left over) that has made a big impact, I'm staying with him...

Chest Rockwell said...

I think it's Gallardo, hands down. I know he's viewed as overpaid and he hasn't met what were unrealistic expectations, but we MLS fans seem to think that ability and pay rate scale at the same level. This is probably a symptom of trying to squeeze every last cent out of the salary cap. If this is based on what's happened on the field, ignoring money, it's Gallardo.

I really like Martinez, but I think he's got a lot of the cool factor going for him that has nothing to do with his play on the field. Martinez is fast, he's powerful, he occasionally has crazy hair. There's some kind of aura about him that makes him seem awesome. I think most United fans know what I mean. All that said, he hasn't actually been that great lately, and had the occasional off-game in the first portion of the season.

Crayton is only really hurt by the fact that he's played too few games for us. If not for that, I'd actually have to stop and consider him in place of Gallardo.

Peralta looks better and better every time we see Burch or (shudder) Pat Carroll, but he has been a bit inconsistent. Not Erpen-level inconsistency, but he's a safe 4th out of this list.

The main reason I'm posting, though, is because you've left off a player that wasn't here last year and deserves quite a bit of consideration (especially based on recent play): Santino Quaranta.

Sure, he played here before, but the Quaranta that originally played for DC and the one we have now are two entirely different people.

Jeremy said...

Totally agree about Quaranta. I'm not sure that he really meets the criteria of the award. But, if Jethro Tull can win "Best Metal Band" than Quaranta can be considered an acquisition.

He would have gotten my vote over any of the others.

Although, I have to argue against Gallardo having any impact on the game. 21 goals have been scored while he was on the field, 16 while he was off. The team has never suffered when he leaves the field, but on two occaisions, 6/7 Chicago and last weekend, the attack improved as soon as he left the turf. Chicago went from loss to win and San Jose nearly went from loss to tie.

His play is pretty, but that is all.

Catherine Lucia said...

Oh wow. I didn't even THINK of Tino. I feel like an idiot.

I'm re-voting. Quaranta is my pick.

Shatz... said...

As I often do on the SI, I'm siding with Chest. My vote was for Gallardo. When he's on the field, he dictates the entire offense. The team is different when he's playing from when he's not playing, and you could argue that that's not 100% positive, but it is definitely impactful.

Good points on Tino. He's certainly made a big impression since returning home to DC. I didn't include him on the list because although he is "new to the team this year" (and thats how I wrote the description), he's not really new to us. He's been here before, and this category was more designed to be players that are new to the league.

Lesson learned though. I'll make it a point to consult with you guys next year and take nominations for each award.

Catherine Lucia said...

my goodness. crayton really is incredible.

guerrero hasn't been too shabby either, especially vs dallas tonight, wow!!