Missouri Comets forward Leo Gibson is the Most Valuable Player of the inaugural season of the Major Arena Soccer League.
And the Comets’ Vlatko Andonovski is the league’s Coach of the Year in the honors announced by the league Thursday.
The MASL announced the winners of its five major individual awards for the 2014-15 season prior to the Ron Newman Cup Championship series, which starts today with the Monterrey Flash visiting the Baltimore Blast in a best-of-three series.
Voting was conducted at the end of the regular season by the league’s front office as well as each team’s coaching staff.
Gibson was the overwhelming selection for Most Valuable Player. The Monrovia, Liberia, native and U.S. national indoor team player set league records for points (93), goals (48), assists (45), points in a game (12) and power play goals (15) to lead the Comets to a perfect 20-0 regular season.
“It is a great honor,” said Gibson, who had just found out about the award via a text Thursday afternoon, “but it is a team honor for me because I could not have won the MVP Award without the help of my teammates.
“I just thank God that I was on such a great team with a great coach and that I was able to stay healthy this season. I wanted another team championship, but getting this award helps me smile when I think about soccer again.”
The Comets defeated Milwaukee in the playoffs but fell 2-0 to Baltimore in the Eastern Conference Championship Series.
Andonovski won the league’s Coach of the Year award with little opposition. His team not only finished the regular season undefeated but also won the Central Division championship.
Throughout the season, the Comets won their games by an average margin of more than seven goals per game. In addition, Missouri has won its last 25 regular-season games, dating back to its days in the MISL.
“This is a great honor for me, but you know coaches do not win these honors,” Andonovski said Thursday. “Players help coaches win these awards, and we had great, great players on our team this season.
“Last year, we won the last MISL championship and we were hoping to win the MASL title this year and that did not happen. I am sure that both Leo and I would gladly trade the coach and MVP awards for another team championship.”
Longtime Comets goalkeeper Danny Waltman, who set a record for most regular-season wins with 17, fell short against Baltimore’s William Vanzela in the vote for Goalkeeper of the Year. The Brazilian goalie set a league record with four shutouts and recorded a 2.83 goals against average.
Comets defenders John Sosa and Brian Harris lost a close race for the Defender of the Year prize to Baltimore’s Pat Healey, who led the MASL with 53 blocks while scoring seven goals and adding a team-high 22 assists. All three finalists were called up by U.S. head coach Phil Salvagio for the WMF World Cup, along with Waltman and Gibson.
St. Louis Ambush forward Gordy Gurson won the league’s first Rookie of the Year award. Gurson came to the St. Louis in a midseason trade from Seattle and finished his first professional season with 46 goals, which ranked second in the league. He added 18 assists to finish second with 64 points.