Another eventful season of NPSL action means another series of post-season awards for us. With the conference growing more competitive every year, 2019 provided us plenty of regular season, playoff, and USOC action to look to as we awarded players, clubs, and coaches the best and not-so-best moments of the year.
Golden Boot - Francisco Neto
The North’s top scorer was Med City’s Francisco Neto, who netted nine times this season as he helped his side to a second place finish and brief playoff run. Neto was prolific against the smaller and bigger clubs in the conference, scoring against the likes of Sioux Falls, Dakota Fusion, and Minneapolis City, while also notching a hat trick against MapleBrook TwinStars.
Neto represents the first time Med City have had the highest scoring player in the NPSL North, with the likes of Duluth and TwinStars producing said players in the previous two seasons.
Neto was the fourth highest scoring player in the NPSL Midwest, beat by Max Todd (Detroit City), Damani Camara (FC Columbus), and Shawn Lawson (Detroit City). Three other North players appeared in the top ten, those being Carlyle Junior (8), James Westfield (8), and Lucas Jacobs (6), all from Duluth FC.
Golden Glove - Matt Elder
The Golden Glove for 2019 goes to Matt Elder, a keeper that’s managed to earn a lot of experience in this state and conference. The keeper has made his name at Minneapolis City, though his career before joining the club is certainly one to respect, and he again helped the club to silverware this year. Elder didn't play as many minutes as he did last season, but he was still the most consistent of City’s goalkeepers, managing 687 minutes of NPSL action and only conceding roughly one goal per 90 minutes of play.
Elder will likely be the conference’s most decorated goalkeeper when he eventually departs, though that seems like a distant possibility given the player’s ability to frustrate opponents and fire up supporters every match he sets foot on the pitch.
Season MVP - Carlyle Junior
Carlyle Junior made some massive waves in his first season with the club. Coming over to the amateur side after a career playing and coaching in his native Brazil, amongst other places, the midfielder managed to be the club’s lead goal scorer for the 2019 season (nine in all competitions), winning a place in the conference, regional, and national best XI’s along the way. Add to that the MyCujoo/NPSL Goal of the Season and his place in the Midwest’s Top 10 goal scorers and it’s clear this is a special player.
Duluth’s season didn't prove a great one in comparison to the last two, which may leave the squad under-appreciated for the new levels of talent it brought to a club that already had high standard after two years of silverware. Carlyle is the club’s third highest goal scorer of all time, doing in one season what some barely accomplished in two or three. For his consistent presence as a key piece for his club, along with his many post-season awards, we pick Junior as our MVP of the season.
Most Improved Side - La Crosse Aris
To put it simply, when you get three times as many points in one season as you did in the last two combined, you’re probably the most improved side in the conference. That’s exactly what Aris did when they beat the Dakota Fusion twice to earn six points in 2019 after earning a point a season in 2017 and 2018.
The club’s goal differential also proved not nearly as harsh as it has in the past. The club scored 10 goals, conceding 46, ending with a GD of -36. To put that in perspective, the club conceded 70 and 61 goals in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Aris aren't good enough to compete in this conference yet, they’ll need to get points against clubs like Sioux Falls to start to make that a reality, but this season they became a team that actually, well, achieved the things you’re supposed to in football.
The future is bright for Aris. If they continue down the road they’re on right now, it isn’t crazy to think they might be a 10-15 points a season club eventually.
Longest Trip Award - Minneapolis to Detroit
Without a doubt the Longest Trip Award goes to the only club that took part in long distance playoffs, that being Minneapolis City when they traveled to face Detroit City in Detroit. That trip registers at about 693 miles, far exceeding the regular season travels of the likes of the Dakota Fusion or Duluth. Duluth and Sioux Falls had the longest regular season trips as they are 422 miles apart.
Duluth also have the third longest distance trip due to their Open Cup match in Des Moines, Iowa. That trip is just under 400 miles and a few miles longer than the trip from Fargo, North Dakota to La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Red Handed Award - Head Coach Neil Cassidy
Coach Cassidy did not finish the season with the most red cards in the league, helped by the fact he isn’t a player, but he did have the most high-profile sending off of the season. Cassidy was sent off in the first half of the final match of the season, the playoff decider against Minneapolis City, after refusing to identify a booked player for a referee and then, apparently, yelling at City players about the situation.
Cassidy led Med City to a historic first-ever playoff run and was named the manager of the Conference Best XI, leaving no doubt he is one of the best in the region. That doesn't, however, stop him from having one of the bigger gaffs of the year in terms of coaches and potentially risking his club’s playoff spot by acting out in the club’s biggest game ever at the time.
It should also be noted the offense left Cassidy suspended for Med City’s playoff game against Minneapolis City, which is by and far the biggest game the club has ever played.