IMS 2012 NASL Mid-Season MVPs
The 2012 North American Soccer League season is reaching its halfway point. So far, the league has seen strong play from NASL newcomer the San Antonio Scorpions. The Puerto Rico Islanders picked up where they left off last year and have enjoyed success despite not playing a home match at Juan Ramón Loubriel. Instead, they have been playing at Bayamón Soccer Complex, while Juan Ramón Loubriel undergoes renovations.
On the other hand, regular season winners from 2011, the Carolina RailHawks, have struggled to find their winning form, but have now moved into the middle of the NASL standings with a midseason record of 5-5-5. The reigning champions, the Minnesota Stars FC, have also run into mid-season issues. While the backline proved to be impenetrable in the first several league matches, injuries and inconsistent play have plagued the team as they seek to defend the NASL Soccer Bowl trophy.
Several players have had strong performances that are worthy of consideration for the NASL MVP through the first half of the 2012 season. Players are listed in no particular order.
IMS 2012 Mid-Season MVP nominees
Mark Anderson (F)/Ft. Lauderdale Strikers Mark Anderson is in his rookie season in the NASL and came to the Strikers from the Baton Rouge Capitals, where he played during the 2010 season. Anderson has made his impact on the league with several impressive goals off of set pieces. In just over 700 minutes on the pitch, Anderson has scored seven goals and had 36 shots on net. He has also been named as the NASL Offensive Player of the Week for Week #13, and deserves recognition for his drive to keep the Strikers in play-off contention. If Anderson keeps up his dominant play and goal-scoring prowess, he should be a contender for the NASL Rookie of the Year.
Shaun Saiko (M)/FC Edmonton Shaun Saiko made his mark on NASL soccer last season when he stated playing for FC Edmonton and recorded 13 goals in 31 appearances for the Eddies. A native of Alberta, Canada, Saiko shows great promise for Canadian soccer and has also played for the Canadian National Team. In the 2012 season, Saiko has become a feared player off of set pieces and is also instrumental in setting up his teammates with goals and scoring opportunities from the outside. During Week #4, Saiko scored a hat trick in the Eddies’ 3-0 win over the Carolina RailHawks. His scoring ability has also led to several nominations for NASL Play of the Week, twice being named NASL Offensive Player of the Week, and also earning NASL Player of the Month honors in May. Through the midway point of the season, he has played 1169 minutes, with five goals and four assists. He also leads the league in shots with 43.
Pablo Campos (F)/San Antonio Scorpions For their inaugural season, the San Antonio Scorpions acquired high profile names, and one of those was Pablo Campos. This Brazilian native has playing experience in the MLS and was a standout last season with the Carolina RailHawks with 12 goals. Through the mid-point in the NASL season, Campos has picked up where he left off and netted eight goals and two assists in roughly 1100 minutes. His ability to recognize 1 v. 1 opportunities and exploit the weaknesses of the defenders has allowed him to demonstrate his samba flair on numerous occasions. One example of this was against the Atlanta Silverbacks in Week #13, when he received a though ball near midfield and stepped over the ball several times before making a quick inside/outside cut and drilling the ball past Silverbacks goalkeeper Daniel Illyes. The shirt he displayed after the goal probably best sums up his feelings about his new home, “I love (heart) S. A. Scorpions Fans.”
Nick Zimmerman (F)/Carolina RailHawks After winning the regular season points total in the inaugural NASL season, there have been few bright spots for RailHawks fans after finishing the first half of this season. However, their rise up the table has largely been due to the physical play and scoring ability of Nick Zimmerman. Zimmerman came to the RailHawks in 2010 after spending time in the MLS and on loan with Crystal Palace Baltimore and the Harrisburg City Islanders. While he has yet to be honored as a Player of the Week by the NASL, Zimmerman has played in nearly every minute of every game (1342 out of 1350 minutes), and leads the league in scoring with nine goals. He also has one assist and 39 shots. Zimmerman’s strength comes from his ability to play well with his teammates and adapt to the various playing surfaces throughout the NASL.
Jeff Attinella (G)/Tampa Bay Rowdies Florida native Jeff Attinella was thrown into nets last season for the Rowdies when starting goalkeeper Daryl Sattler suffered a season-ending knee injury. Since that time, Attinella has played consistent soccer and had his contract option picked up at the end of last season. During the 2012 year, Attinella has helped the Rowdies stay in the playoff hunt with strong performances. With 1260 minutes under his belt, he has a 1.29 GAA, and leads the NASL with 62 saves. His efforts have not gone unnoticed and he was selected as the NASL Defensive Player of the Week in Week #5, after a 3-1 victory over previously unbeaten, arch rival Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. In Week #13, he was again recognized after keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Stars FC.
IMS 2012 Mid-Season MVP Honorable Mentions
Richard Martin (GK)/Puerto Rico Islanders Richard Martin was named NASL Defensive Player of the Week in Week #2. His consistent play has kept the Islanders near the top of the NASL standings for a majority of the season and currently has a 0.75 GAA with 43 saves.
Jonathan Faña (F)/Puerto Rico Islanders Anytime you talk about a MVP, Jonathan Faña has to be near the top of the list. Faña has played 1031 minutes for the Islanders in 2012 and has three goals and five assists.
Tsuyoshi Yoshitake (F)/Tampa Bay Rowdies Tsuyoshi Yoshitake struggled to find his form early on in 2012 and missed a match due to a hospitalization while the team was in Atlanta. Notwithstanding these early setbacks, Yoshitake has contributed five goals and two assists in the Rowdies campaign, and was named NASL Offensive Player of the Week in weeks #12 and #13.
Amani Walker (F)/Minnesota Stars FC Amani Walker is in his second year with the Stars and first year as a full-time starter. Walker has three goals and three assists in just over 600 minutes of playing time. However, an ankle injury in the US Open Cup match against Real Salt Lake has left Walker sidelined for over a month.