Wednesday, September 23, 2009
TAMPA, FL – United Soccer Leagues announced the statistical awards for the 2009 USL First Division season, recognizing the leaders in the categories for Scoring Champion, Goal Scoring Champion, Assist Leader and GAA Champion.
Scoring Champion – Mandjou Keita (Portland Timbers)
The newcomer to the Portland Timbers was one of the key contributors in the club leading the league in scoring, finishing the year with 29 points on 11 goals and seven assists. Behind Keita’s attack, the Timbers were able to shatter the all-time league record for consecutive games unbeaten, breaking the mark of 16 and setting it at 24. His balanced style allowed him to finish just shy of the top spot in both goals and assists, finishing one short of a share of honors in both of those categories. Had he done so, he would have been the third person to receive recognition for all three categories with Peter Hattrup (1994) and Jean Harbor (1991) having previously accomplished the feat.
Goal Scoring Champion – Charles Gbeke (Vancouver Whitecaps)
The 2008 Championship Most Valuable Player got off to a slow start but finished with a bang, scoring his 12th of the year in the final game of the season to break a three-way tie for the league lead in goals scored. It is the first scoring honor for the striker, who is a seven-year veteran of the league. He reached the double-digit plateau for the second time in three years having previously tallied 10 in 2007 in Montreal.
Assist Leaders – Ricardo Sanchez (Minnesota Thunder) & Wes Knight (Vancouver Whitecaps)
In an unusual duo comprised of a player from a team that did not advance to the postseason and a rookie defender, Sanchez and Knight finished the year with eight assists. In his third season in the league, Sanchez previously tied for the team lead in goals last year with 10, finishing five back of the league leader. He eclipsed his assist total of seven over the past two years. Fresh out of the College of Charleston, Knight finished the season having played in all but one game on the campaign, accumulating the third most minutes played on the team.
GAA Champion – Dusty Hudock (Charleston Battery)
The two-time Goalkeeper of the Year (2002, 1997) had another banner year for the Battery, finishing as the league leader in goals against average at 0.279 (minimum 1200 minutes played) for the year with only five goals allowed. The 14-year veteran was poised to challenge for personal bests and league records with an incredible start to the season that eventually gave way to a congested schedule with a US Open Cup run, and ultimately ended with injury. He also finished the year tied for first along with Puerto Rico’s Bill Gaudette for 12 shutouts and was fourth in wins (10). He played the majority of his 18 games prior to suffering a midseason knee injury that eventually sidelined him for the year as he elected for surgery on his ACL. It is the third time he has won the equivalent of the award with the Goalkeeper of the Year honor prior to 2007 being automatically awarded to the netminder with the best GAA with the exception of 2001.