The Commissioner's Cup winning Richmond Kickers continues to gather accolades today as the finalists for the USL Pro year end awards were announced. The Kickers have a nominee in each of the categories, which include Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year, and Coach of the Year.
Joseph Ngwenya is the Kickers' nominee for the league's Most Valuable Player, which is a fitting nomination. The Kickers' attack ran through Ngwenya all year, and if he was not having a good game then the Kickers' offense would sputter. Though his top line numbers (9 goals, 5 assists) aren't mind-blowing, he would often have the pass or the move that would spring the attack. I don't expect Ngwenya to win the award, but he was the key offensive piece for the top team in the league. The other nominees are Pittsburgh's Jose Angulo and Orlando City's Jamie Watson.
Nate Robinson is the Kickers' nominee for Rookie of the Year, and I think that this is an award that he should definitely win. Robinson was signed to a contract days before the season started, after his parents had moved to Richmond from Michigan and he decided to give it a shot. His nine assists from the right wing were good for third in the league, and he added four goals to go along with them. The other nominees are Wilmington's Daniel Steres and Phoenix's Donald Toia.
William Yomby was the best defender on the Kickers this year and is a rightful nominee for Defender of the Year. Yomby is a physical presence who will head away everything that comes his way, but is also skillful enough to intercept balls with his feet and play passes out of the back. The other nominees are Charleston's Colin Falvey and Orlando City's Rob Valentino.
And if Yomby is one reason that the Kickers had the best defense all year, another is Andrew Dykstra, nominee for Goalkeeper of the Year. There really isn't anything more to say than he had the best defense in the league, the best goals against average, and was the first team all-league goalkeeper. Anything but a win for Dykstra would be shocking. The other nominees are Harrisburg's Nick Noble and Charlotte's Eric Reed.
And finally, Leigh Cowlishaw is a nominee for Coach of the Year and should be another candidate who walks away with his award. After a couple of years of declining fortunes, Cowlishaw brought silverware back to the River City for the first time since 2009 and did so while juggling a massive amount of roster turnover. At the beginning of the season, Casey Townsend and Taylor Kemp were expected to be key players for the Kickers, and they only played nine combined games before being recalled. And out of the 16 players who saw time in their semifinal loss, 7 of them were not on the team last year. I think that Cowlishaw did a great job assembling and then coaching this team through a one loss regular season and deserves to be named coach of the year. The other nominees are Dayton's Patrick Bal and Charlotte's Mark Steffens.
What do you think of the potential haul for the Kickers in these postseason awards? The winners will be announced on Friday at 2 pm.