Thursday, October 8, 2009
TAMPA, FL – United Soccer Leagues announced the Finalists for the 2009 USL First Division Most Valuable Player award Thursday, unveiling Puerto Rico’s Cristian Arrieta and Portland’s Mandjou Keita as the candidates for the honor as voted on by the leagues coaches and general managers.
For the second consecutive year, a member of the Islanders was voted as one of the league’s top players. Last year midfielder Jonathan Steele won the honor after also finishing as the USL-1 Assist Leader.
Keita is the first Timber to be in the running for the league’s top honor since striker Alan Gordon was among the list in 2004, the first time finalists were announced for the league awards. Gordon had won a share of the Goal Scoring Championship that year with Dante Washington, and was also honored as the Rookie of the Year. Greg Sutton won the MVP award, however.
It is only the second time since 2004 in which only two players were announced as finalists for USL-1 MVP with the previous occurrence coming in 2007 when strikers Sebastien Le Toux and Dan Antoniuk were up for the honor. Le Toux won the award.
The Rookie of the Year will be announced Friday in Vancouver at the USL-1 Championship Series kick-off media conference. The winners of the USL-1 Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year and Defender of the Year honors will be announced Friday, October 16 in Montreal at the USL-1 Championship Series banquet.
Cristian Arrieta (Puerto Rico Islanders)
The 2008 All-League selection and Defender of the Year left quite an impression last season to earn honors, and made an even bigger splash this year as the runner-up in the points table with 25, finishing tied with Charles Gbeke four back of Scoring Champion Mandjou Keita. Arrieta tallied 10 goals, tied for fourth, and had five assists, tied for seventh, on the season coming forward. He helped lead the club back to the playoffs with a third-place record of 15-7-8 while balancing Champions League competition.
Puerto Rico came into the season after a run in the CONCACAF Champions League that reached penalty kicks in the semifinal series against Mexican power Cruz Azul, whom they defeated in Puerto Rico as well as fellow Mexican side Santos Laguna. In the second edition of the tournament, the Islanders shut out Toronto FC of Major League Soccer in the Preliminary Round during the midst of the 2009 campaign and went on to record draws at home in league play against Cruz Azul and Costa Rican power Saprissa.
Mandjou Keita (Portland Timbers)
The former Guinea youth international joined the club from Brunei and quickly showed the form that made him the Malaysian Super League Golden Boot winner in 2006, winning the USL-1 Scoring Championship with 29 points on the year. He finished tied for second in the league with Johnny Menyongar at 11 goals, one back of Charles Gbeke, and was third in the league in assists with seven. He helped lead the Timbers to the regular season championship while also breaking the league record unbeaten streak with a run of 24 games. Portland also finished first in the league in scoring with 45.
Since being named All-League, the striker has since been honored by the Timbers fans as the team’s Most Valuable Player. He was a five-time selection to the USL First Division Team of the Week in 2009, and was named Player of the Week on three occasions.
Keita also scored three goals in the 2009 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament, including a strike against Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer in the third-round matchup before a sold-out crowd at PGE Park on July 1.