Wednesday, September 30, 2009
TAMPA, FL — United Soccer Leagues announced Wednesday the USL First Division’s 2009 All-League First Team, honoring the top 11 players of the season as voted on by the league’s coaches and general managers. Also announced was the Goalkeeper of the Year honor and finalists for Defender of the Year.
Finalists for the Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player will be announced next week prior to the first leg of the Championship Series. The winner of those honors will be awarded at the championship banquet prior to the second leg of the USL-1 Championship Series.
Leading a list of six players to receive All-League honors again in their career was striker Johnny Menyongar, who was honored for the sixth time in his career. It was his first-ever First Team selection. Defenders Cristian Arrieta, Matt Bobo and David Hayes were also recognized previously, and were joined by veteran professional Nelson Akwari as the four finalists for the Defender of the Year honor.
Four players from the regular season champion Portland Timbers, who went on the amazing league-record 24-game unbeaten streak this season, were among the 11 players honored, joining defender Cameron Knowles, who was announced as a member of the Second Team Tuesday.
Goalkeeper of the Year – Steve Cronin (Portland Timbers)
The former Los Angeles Galaxy netminder had an excellent first season in Portland, finishing third in the league in goals against average at 0.681 for the year. He was also tied for first in the league in wins (15) with Bill Gaudette and tied for third in shutouts (10) with Caleb Patterson, two back of leaders Gaudette and Dusty Hudock. He played the third-most minutes in goal this season behind Jay Nolly and Nicolas Platter en route to helping the Timbers capture the club’s second regular season championship. His efforts led the team on a 24-game unbeaten record that shattered the previous record of 16.
Defender – Nelson Akwari (Charleston Battery)
The Battery had one of the best defenses on the year, finishing third in the league in fewest goals allowed at 21 in 30 games. Akwari played in all 30 games for the Battery on the year, missing only one half of play the entire campaign. He finished with the fourth-most minutes played in the league for the season. Akwari played in Major League Soccer for five years and joined the Battery after a season with the USL-2 Charlotte Eagles.
Defender – Cristian Arrieta (Puerto Rico Islanders)
The 2008 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.
Defender – Matt Bobo (Charleston Battery)
Bobo joined the club from Atlanta, where he was an All-League Second Team selection in 2006. He helped the club balance its run in the US Open Cup with the third-most appearances overall for the team and finished the year with the third-most minutes logged on the team in league play (2,346) over the course of 28 games, scoring twice along the way. He helped guide the team to a 14-5-11 season, the second fewest losses on the year, and the third best defensive record with only 21 goals allowed.
Defender – David Hayes (Portland Timbers)
Earning his third consecutive All-League honor, Hayes was a member of the First Team the past two seasons while playing for Atlanta. He helped lead a turnaround for the club that saw them go from last to first, reducing their goals allowed total from 33 last year to 19 this year, which tied with Carolina for the best in the league. The Timbers posted the best home record on the year at 6-1-8 while setting the league-record 24-game unbeaten streak, and claiming the regular season championship. Hayes finished the year with the second most minutes played in the league behind goalkeeper Jay Nolly, who played every minute. Hayes only missed two minutes of play the entire campaign. He had two goals on the year and finished tied for seventh in assists with five.
Midfielder – Daniel Paladini (Carolina RailHawks)
The former Chivas USA player was an important part of the RailHawks midfield as the club went on to post its best season in its brief franchise history, going 16-7-7 on the year to finish second in the league table. He registered five goals and four assists in 28 games to finish tied for 14th in the league in points, seeing action for the third-most total on the team in minutes played with 2,049.
Midfielder – Ryan Pore (Portland Timbers)
The newcomer from the Kansas City Wizards was a handful for the opposition in the attack, tallying 10 goals and two assists on the year to lead the Timbers to the regular season title with a record of 16-4-10 and the league’s best goal total of 45. He finished the year tied for fifth in points and was tied for fourth in goals, going on a six-game goal scoring streak in the midst of the team’s record 24-game unbeaten streak.
Midfielder – Ricardo Sanchez (Minnesota Thunder)
An All-League Second Team selection last year, Sanchez helped keep Minnesota in the playoff hunt until late in the season, eventually coming up just outside the bubble in eighth. Sanchez finished fifth in the league in points with 22 on seven goals and eight assists, finishing in a tie with Wes Knight for the Assist Leader honor.
Forward – Charles Gbeke (Vancouver Whitecaps)
The championship MVP of a year ago got off to a slow start, but found himself climbing the leader board as the season came to a close, earning All-League honors for the second time after being named to the Second Team in 2007 while with Montreal. Gbeke finished the year tied for second in points (25) with Cristian Arrieta, four back of Mandjou Keita, but won the Goal Scoring Championship with his 12th strike coming in the finale.
Forward – 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.
Forward – Johnny Menyongar (Rochester Rhinos)
The veteran striker/midfielder became just the sixth player in league history to earn All-League honors a league-high six times with his selection, joining Danny Pena, Gabriel Gervais, Mauro Biello, Robin Fraser and former Rhino Scott Schweitzer. The 2009 honor marks the first he has been selected to the First Team in his career, previously receiving Second Team honors with the Rhinos in 2007 and 2008 and with his former Minnesota Thunder 2000, 2002 and 2005. The diminutive Liberian international finished fourth in the league in points (23) on one assist and 11 goals, which tied for second in the league.