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Birnbaum, Boswell, Olsen & Hamid earn MLS Awards Nominations

Ahead of MLS gradually rolling out award winners, a look at the finalists for D.C.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer announced its finalists for regular season awards, and D.C. United tied the Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders with four finalist nominations overall. In order of winner announcement, the nominations for D.C. are...

Steve Birnbaum (Rookie of the Year).

The center back and 2014 MLS SuperDraft pick is a finalist next to Tesho Akindele of F.C. Dallas and Harrison Shipp of the Chicago Fire. Obviously, we're fans of Birnbaum for this award, as he stepped into the D.C. backline when Jeff Parke went down due to injury and performed well, giving up more than two goals as part of the defense twice (to Chicago and Los Angeles) in 23 regular season and playoff games which admittedly, is the fewest games played of the three. Akindele played in the most games of the group (26 games, 18 starts, and of his seven goals, 4 came against the San Jose Earthquakes and Chivas USA. Tossing those two games out the window, he had no goals in the last three months of the season (since July 19). Shipp is in a moderately similar boat. While he led the trio in games and minutes, short of a late October goal against D.C., had no goals since a July 2 game against Toronto F.C, and spent more time getting subbed on in the second half of the season.

So, who wins this?

If MLS is going to be consistent (I know, I know), they would give the award to the rookie defender ahead of the midfielder or forward that slumped in the last third of the year. You know, kinda like when they gave the award to Austin Berry over Nick DeLeon. Perhaps Shipp and Akindele offset each other in voting and Birnbaum gets it also, though I have a nagging feeling one of them wins it.

Bobby Boswell (Defender of the Year).

Sure, it was great to have an older, wiser, Bos Bobwell return to D.C. and help provide some guidance to a backline of newly acquired vets and a promising rookie in Birnbaum. But if anyone predicted that a Boswell-led backline would give up the fewest goals in MLS (tied with Los Angeles) while spending virtually separate halves of the season with separate partners then I need to see your sports book. Speaking of L.A., Omar Gonzalez came back after the World Cup and was in back for 7 clean sheets in 17 starts and 9 in 22. On a slightly lesser note, the third finalist also had to anchor a remade backline, and Seattle's Chad Marshall availed himself admirably with a rotation of partners and fullbacks gone to injury and international duty.

So, who wins this?

If you asked me this in June, I would have gone for Marshall with some regrets. From July on, Marshall tended to sag in terms of performance though there was some consistency that remained, and Gonzalez would be essentially winning this award as part of an insane second half, though his first half was also good. But Boswell stayed the course with his defense allowing 1 goal or less in 24 of 34 games. Boswell in a close.

Ben Olsen (Coach of the Year).

We've talked in the past about how Olsen should win this, and you could write turnaround so often that Bonnie Tyler would lose her mind. But to go back to it, if you thought that D.C. would be the Eastern Conference Champions and the Top Seed in the CONCACAF Champions League Knockout Round (after getting into the tournament on a win(g) and a prayer in 2013), then you are in what they call the zone. But there's the matter of you know, getting bounced in the Eastern Conference semifinals, which could hurt him, particularly when compared to Seattle's Sigi Schmid, who had a lesser stated rebuild in the 2013 offseason and into 2014, only took Seattle to the Supporter's Shield and US Open Cup trophies, and an angle on the MLS Cup. Gregg Berhalter for the Columbus Crew is a surprise in the third spot, particularly as Oscar Pareja took F.C. Dallas into the playoffs, assuming the reins after leaving the Colorado Rapids.

So, who wins this?

All three teams saw increases in total points and some saw some regular season accomplishments, but I mean, I don't see how Olsen doesn't, unless he sent all three blocs of voters Gwyneth Paltrow's head or something.

Bill Hamid (Goalkeeper of the Year).

Second in clean sheets behind David Ousted of the Vancouver Whitecaps, fourth in saves (2nd and 3rd place were only one ahead of him). Third in Goals Against Average. First in save percentage. As breakout a year as you could get. Speaking of 2nd place in saves, Steve Clark from Columbus was sixth in Goals Against and tied for second in save percentage. On the latter, he was tied with the other finalist, Nick Rimando from Real Salt Lake. Rimando's goals against average and win percentage was the best among the three, plus he did set the All-Time record for clean sheets in a career. He also had a better % of shutouts to starts than the three.

So, who wins this?

For as close as a vote between Boswell and Gonzalez could be, I would presume a vote between Hamid and Rimando would be even closer, and honestly I would have no qualms with either. I am going to lean towards Rimando for the award because I think there will be a cut and dry margin of victory in at least two of the three voting blocs of voters.

So what do you think? Any surprises in the nominees stand out to you? What have we got wrong?