The Houston Dynamo announced their 2017 team awards today, with midfielder Juan David Cabezas earning Most Valuable Player honors and forward Alberth Elis receiving the Players’ Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year honors. Local Houston media voted on four award categories, while Dynamo players selected the Players’ Player of the Year.
In the remaining categories, defender Adolfo Machado was voted Defensive Player of the Year, forward Mauro Manotas repeated as the Young Player of the Year (age 23 and younger), forward Erick Torres earned the Golden Boot Award and forward Andrew Wenger was honored as Humanitarian of the Year. In addition, midfielder Marcelo Palomino was selected for the second year in a row as the Dynamo Academy Player of the Year by the Academy coaching staff.
Cabezas was an important part of the Dynamo midfield this season, with 27 appearances and 26 starts during the regular season. The 25-year-old led the team with 1,052 passes attempted, and his 86.4 pass completion percentage was the second-highest among regular starters. A true two-way midfielder, Cabezas also led the team with 102 tackles and 77 tackles won, and his 52 interceptions were also a team-high while his 46 clearances were fifth-most on the team. The Cali, Colombia native led the Dynamo during postseason with 15 interceptions and played a key role in slowing down MLS Most Valuable Player Diego Valeri during Houston’s Western Conference Semifinals series win over the top-seeded Portland Timbers.
Elis had a stellar debut season for the Dynamo as he tied for second on the team with 10 goals while his four assists tied for third on the squad. In his first postseason appearance, La Panterita scored the game-winning goal against Sporting Kansas City during the Knockout Round of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs in overtime. Elis’ play for the Dynamo quickly earned him acclaim throughout the league as one of the league’s most dangerous young attacking threats. He was named a member of the CONCACAF Best XI, which recognizes the best players from the region each year, and was ranked 12th on the league’s “24 Under 24” list, which recognizes the best young players in Major League Soccer. He also earned a spot in the MLS Team of the Week in Week 23, and his goal against Orlando City SC in Week 10 was voted AT&T MLS Goal of the Week.
Machado quickly became an important pillar for the Dynamo’s defense as he led the team in minutes played with 2,970 in 33 games started. The only game that the Panamanian defender missed was Houston’s postponed game against Sporting Kansas City on October 11, when he had just returned from playing 90 minutes to help Panama qualify to their first FIFA World Cup the night before. The 32-year old defender led the league in clearances with 200 and in interceptions with 81. Machado contributed on offense as well with two assists.
Manotas enjoyed a career year in his second full season with the Dynamo, setting MLS career highs with 10 goals, good for a tie for second on the team, and tying for second with five assists. Manotas’ 24 starts, 33 appearances and 2,063 minutes during the regular season were all career highs as well. The 22-year-old Colombian helped the Dynamo claim a spot to their seventh Conference Championship in 12 years when he scored the game-winning goal against Portland in the Western Conference Semifinal.
Torres set the club single-season scoring record when he scored twice against FC Dallas on August 23, leading the club in goals with 14 in 27 games. The Mexican international started the season scoring at least one goal in the first four games, becoming the first Dynamo player to accomplish this feat. Torres scored his first career hat-trick against the New York Red Bulls on April 1.
Wenger – alongside THE FORGE for Families and Dynamo Charities – created the First Pass Initiative, a program to teach teamwork and accountability through soccer. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania native brought together Dynamo and Dash players to volunteer mentoring kids throughout the season. The 26-year old forward played in 22 games, scored two goals and added two assists. Wenger scored the third-fastest goal in Dynamo history when he headed in a cross from Manotas 52 seconds into the game against the Montreal Impact on July 5.
Palomino was named Dynamo Academy Player of the Year for the second year in a row. The 16-year-old began the year in residency with the U.S. Under-17 Youth National Team in Bradenton, Fla., before suffering a broken bone in his foot that sidelined him for most of the summer. After an intensive rehabilitation regimen, Palomino returned to the field with the Dynamo Academy Under-19 squad in the fall and scored three goals in seven Academy League starts. Palomino also gained invaluable experience while training with the Dynamo first team on a regular basis as the team earned a spot in the playoffs and throughout the team’s run to the Western Conference Championship. Palomino’s season came full circle with a late October call-up to the U.S. Under-18 Youth National Team, and he has been called back to the U-18s for their upcoming January camp.
2017 Houston Dynamo Award Winners
Most Valuable Player: Juan David Cabezas
Players’ Player of the Year: Alberth Elis
Defensive Player of the Year: Adolfo Machado
Young Player of the Year: Mauro Manotas
Newcomer of the Year: Alberth Elis
Golden Boot: Erick Torres
Ironman of the Year: Adolfo Machado
Humanitarian of the Year: Andrew Wenger
Dynamo Academy Player of the Year: Marcelo Palomino
(All categories except for Players’ Player of the Year and Academy Player of the Year voted upon by Houston media)