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Toronto FC's Alejandro Pozuelo one of five finalists for MLS MVP award

Toronto FC playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo is one of five finalists for the Landon Donovan MVP Award while Toronto's Greg Vanney is up for Major League Soccer coach of the year.

Toronto FC playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo is one of five finalists for the Landon Donovan MVP Award while Toronto's Greg Vanney is up for Major League Soccer coach of the year.

TFC fullback Justin Morrow is a finalist for the MLs Humanitarian of the year, along with Canadian midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye of Los Angeles FC.

Pozuelo is up against Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake, Seattle midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro and forward Jordan Morris, and Los Angeles FC forward Diego Rossi for MVP honours.

"I'm really happy for him," Toronto president Bill Manning said of Pozuelo. "He's in a good place.

"He has shown not only what a great player he is but he's turned into one of the leaders on the team. And he's invaluable for us. He's a good person, has good character and has bought into everything. He's a winner."

The 29-year-old Spaniard has also proved durable, the only Toronto player to start all 23 regular-season games.

The four outfield MVP finalists were the top four in the league in combined goals and assists in 2020. Pozuelo led the league with 19 combined goals and assists, followed by Morris and Rossi (18) and Lodeiro (17).

Pozuelo, who was tied for the league lead in assists with 10, is bidding to join Sebastian Giovinco as the only Toronto player to earn the MVP award. Giovinco won in 2015.

Canadian Dwayne De Rosario, then with D.C. United, captured the MVP award in 2011.

Blake backstopped the league’s top defence, allowing 18 goals in the regular season for a 0.88 goals-allowed average and a 77.8 save percentage, both league-bests for goalkeepers with 20 or more appearances this season.

Rossi is also up for the AT&T Young Player of the Year award, which replaces the previous Rookie of the Year award. And Blake is a finalist for the Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year award along with Columbus' Eloy Room and New England's Matt Turner.

Vanney, who was named coach of the year in 2017, faces tough opposition in Philadelphia's Jim Curtin and Orlando City's Oscar Pareja for the Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year award.

Curtin led the Union to Supporters' Shield, edging Toronto for the best regular-season record and Philadelphia's first-ever trophy. Pareja, the 2016 coach of the year with FC Dallas, turned Orlando around in his first year at the helm, leading the club to its first-ever playoff berth.

But neither had to face having to play away from home almost the entire season, with Toronto shifting operations to East Hartford because of pandemic-related travel restrictions.

"To finish second in the league in points-per-game under those circumstances is fantastic. And he's truly deserving of being amongst the finalists," said Manning. "Certainly Jim and Oscar have done a tremendous job but they haven't had to do what we had to do."

Morrow, executive director of Black Players for Change, and Kaye are up against Portland's Jeremy Ebobisse for the MLS Humanitarian award.

"Such a fine young man … What he's done this season in really driving the messaging for Black Players for Change has been tremendous," Manning said of Morrow.

Kaye, a 25-year-old from Toronto, is LAFC's representative with Black Players for Change and has been prominent in community events in the Los Angeles area.

The finalists in all the categories earned the most votes in polling among three voting groups: current MLS players, MLS clubs technical staffs (coaches, technical directors/GMs) and selected media members.

The league did not announce release time for the award winners.

2020 MLS Awards Finalists

Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player   

Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC), Diego Rossi (Los Angeles Football Club).

MLS Defender of the Year

Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew SC), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC).

Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year

Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Eloy Room (Columbus Crew SC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution).

MLS Newcomer of the Year

For this award, “newcomer” is defined as a player with previous professional experience who made his MLS debut in 2020

Robert Beric (Chicago Fire FC), Alan Pulido (Sporting Kansas City), Lucas Zelarayan (Columbus Crew SC).

AT&T Young Player of the Year 

For this award, “young player” is defined as a player age 22 (born on or after Jan. 1, 1998)

Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC), Diego Rossi (Los Angeles Football Club).

Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year

Jim Curtin (Philadelphia Union), Oscar Pareja (Orlando City SC), Greg Vanney (Toronto FC).

MLS Comeback Player of the Year 

Honours an MLS player who has overcome injuries and/or adversity in order to achieve success during the 2020 regular season 

Kevin Molino (Minnesota United FC), Milton Valenzuela (Columbus Crew SC), Bradley Wright-Phillips (Los Angeles Football Club).

MLS Humanitarian of the Year

Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Los Angeles Football Club), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC).

MLS Referee of the Year

Joe Dickerson, Ismail Elfath, Jair Marrufo.

MLS Assistant Referee of the Year 

Kathryn Nesbitt, Cory Richardson, Corey Rockwell.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2020

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press