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Benny Award 5: The Bobby, For The Most Improved Player On The D.C. United Roster

New this year, we give you the Bobby Award, with five excellent nominees. Should Chris Pontius win upon becoming one of the best overall players in MLS, or is one of United's defenders more deserving?

Every year that we've held the Benny Awards, we've given out ten different superlative awards to players on the D.C. United roster. In years past, the tenth award was called the Benny, and it was given to the player with the highest average player rating from matches over the course of the season. Well since we stopped doing weekly player ratings this season in favor of other bigger things, we need to introduce a new award this season to take the place of the Benny.

That new award will be named the Bobby, and it's based on an idea that was introduced during our voting for the Richie. The Bobby Award is for the most improved player on the United roster, and can actually be viewed as the polar opposite of the Donnety, which is designed to go to the player with the least amount of output when compared to his expected output (which is why Andy Najar was nominated for such an award).

Flip that equation and you get the Bobby. The award should go to the player who contributed the most output relative to his expected output. It's named for former United standout and current Houston Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell, who went from an undrafted rookie to Defender Of The Year in just a two-year stretch.

This year's nominees are:

1. In the 2011 season, Daniel Woolard battled with Marc Burch for a starting job at the left back position, and eventually won, but not convincingly. Left back was seen as United's biggest weakness heading into training camp this year, and yet Woolard emerged as our most consistently solid defender in the first half of the season. No one could have expected Woolard to not only play his preferred left back spot so well, but also play a major role in some early year wins for us when filling in at center back.

2. And then when United lost Woolard to a concussion, we were once again worried that left back would be our biggest weakness, and once again we were proven wrong. Chris Korb went from being deep depth and a virtual afterthought in 12 emergency starts in 2011 to one of our most important players in the undefeated stretch that closed out the regular season. And the injury that kept Korb out of the Houston leg of the Eastern Conference Finals might have been a big reason why United didn't reach the MLS Cup.

3. Joe Willis entered the 2012 season with a 1-2-0 record. As a late round draft pick the year before, Willis had surpassed Steve Cronin on our goalkeeper depth chart, but wasn't exactly setting the world ablaze. And yet Willis was actually starting some matches ahead of a healthy Bill Hamid this season, quietly putting together a nice year that included 10 starts and 2 shutouts. Willis is now considered to be one of the top three backup keepers in MLS, giving us a comfort level that he can fill in for Hamid whenever necessary.

4. Brandon McDonald was brought in last year to help solidify the inconsistent back line, but I'm not sure if he did. McDonald has started all but two games since arriving in D.C., leading the team in minutes and games played this year. His improvement this year helped the team tremendously. McDonald went from being a guy that the San Jose Earthquakes didn't want to legitimately one of the best center backs in all of MLS, and even managed to contribute two goals and four assists as well.

5. Since I've received some criticism in previous weeks for leaving some good candidates off the list of nominees, let's include a fifth player this time too. Because even though it might make the most sense to give this award to a defender, since it was United's defense that improved the most significantly in 2012, we can't leave a guy like Chris Pontius off this list. Pontius took a huge step forward in his career this year, going from merely a top 10 winger in the league to a top 10 PLAYER in the league. Pontius led the team with 12 goals, and also collected an MLS All-Star Game MVP Award and was named to the MLS Best 11.