Major League Soccer announced the finalists for 2022 MLS Year-End Awards on Thursday, and five members from the Top of the East Philadelphia Union are in contention for individual honors.
Headlining the group is goalkeeper Andre Blake who has been named a finalist for Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player and Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year. Defenders Jakob Glesnes and Kai Wagner have both been named a finalists for Defender of the Year while team captain Alejandro Bedoya has been named a finalist for the MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year. Rounding out the Union nominees is Head Coach Jim Curtin who is a finalist for the Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year, an award he won in 2020.
MLS Year-End Award winners will be announced over the coming weeks, culminating in the presentation of the MLS MVP award in early November during the week of MLS Cup.
The top-seeded Philadelphia Union have a bye in Round One of the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs and will face the winner of New York Red Bulls and FC Cincinnati, the fourth and fifth seeds in the Eastern Conference respectively, in the Eastern Conference Semifinal round on Thursday, October 20 at Subaru Park (8 p.m. ET – FS1 and FOX Deportes).
Blake has been an integral part of the Union's best regular season in club history. The two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year led the league in clean sheets and has kept the Union at a league-low 26 goals against to establish a new league record for fewest goals allowed in a 34 game season. His 15 shutouts this season set a new club record (previously 12) and set the single-season record for wins (19). The four-time MLS All-Star, holds the Union all-time records for goalkeepers in games played, games started, minutes played, saves and clean sheets, as well as the single-season saves record. The nomination for MLS MVP is the second of his career and makes him the first goalkeeper in MLS history to be a finalist twice, with his other finalist appearance coming in 2020.
Glesnes was a key anchor for the best defense in league history, which sported a 0.76 goals against average over 34 matches. The Norwegian center back was also the only field player in MLS to play every single minute of the regular season, playing 3,060 minutes while receiving only two yellow cards. Glesnes led the team with 57 interceptions and had 26 tackles while only conceding 18 fouls.
Wagner was stellar on both sides of the ball as he became the first defender in MLS history to have 15 assists in the regular season. Wagner finished tied for second place in helpers while also racing up and down the left side of the pitch to collect 30 tackles won. The German left back led the Union with an impressive 73.1% headed duel percentage to aid in 14 shutouts the team picked up in his appearances.
Alejandro Bedoya has long been an advocate for issues he cares about off the pitch. Bedoya spoke out on-field against gun violence in 2019 when he addressed congress directly using a field mic following a goal against DC United. This year, following the events of Uvalde, TX, he once led the team out in "End Gun Violence" t-shirts for warmups before their match against New England. As a member of Everytown for Gun Safety, an American nonprofit organization which advocates for gun control and against gun violence, Bedoya was invited to the White House this year to celebrate the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Bedoya continues to advocate for gun safety by participating in PSAs and speaking engagements as well as discussing mental health awareness in a longer-form club video.
Curtin led the Union to the top of the Eastern Conference and into the thick of the Supporters’ Shield race two of the past three seasons. Under his leadership, the Union have the most points in MLS over the past five seasons. In 2022, Curtin won three Coach of the Week awards and guided his club to the second-best goal differential in MLS history and the fewest goals allowed in MLS history over a 34 game season. Curtin’s top attackers, Daniel Gazdag and Julian Carranza, combined for five goals in 2021 and have combined for 36 goals in 2022. Additionally, Curtin's team has been among the top three defenses each of the past two seasons, including this season's record-setting 26-goals-against campaign, despite the outbound transfer of 2020 Defender of the Year candidate Mark McKenzie.