At full time after Saturday’s final home game of 2017, the Battery announced the winners of this season’s team awards, as voted on by the fans, after what has been a very exciting 25th anniversary campaign.
Betsy McAdams Newcomer of the Year: Kotaro Higashi
Higashi joined the Battery after a successful trial in the Spring, which was capped off by a clutch goal against the Seattle Sounders in the Carolina Challenge Cup. He began the season as a backup to Dante Marini, primarily being used on the left side and coming in late to use his pace against tired legs. That changed a couple months into the season, when Marini sustained a season ending injury. Higashi would go on to get better and better as the season progressed, notching eight assists in his 28 appearances, which is second in the team behind Maikel Chang‘s 10.
Derek Revord Defensive Player of the Year: Forrest Lasso
Coming into 2017, Forrest Lasso had some big shoes to fill in departing captain Shawn Ferguson, but he has done so with flying colors. The 24 year old, in his third season with the Battery, created a formidable partnership with Taylor Mueller that meant no matter if Odisnel Cooper or Alex Tambakis, who split time during the season, were in goal, the Battery didn’t often look like conceding. Winning an astonishing 77% of his tackles, and 70% of his aerial duels, at 6’5″, he was a nightmare for onrushing attackers. He would put his height to good use at the other end of the pitch too, scoring six goals, which is tied for third with Justin Portillo for the team lead.
David Vaughn Memorial Award: Taylor Mueller
Taylor Mueller picked up this award, chosen by the Coaches, after having a solid season, and, as Captain in his 4th year, leading the team to the playoffs. His own stats are spectacular themselves, beside Lasso winning 68% of his duels, and 73% of duels in the air, he was very much a calming influence on the team, keeping level headed and making sure the team stuck together.
Offensive Player of the Year: Romario Williams
Williams’ 15 goals in 21 appearances is good for currently second in the league in scoring, and leads the team in that category. After a difficult 2016, he struck up an exciting partnership with Attaula Guerra, after the latter moved further forward from his deep-lying position the year previous, combining for 20 of the Battery’s 52 goals. Williams also rode his good form into a callup for Jamaica’s 2017 Gold Cup campaign, in which he was one of their standout performers on the way to the final. Additional call-ups and suspensions have derailed his second half of the season, but the Battery hope to have him fit and firing again as they head into the playoffs.
Nigel Cooper Most Valuable Player: Justin Portillo
Justin Portillo underlined just how important he is for the Battery with another impressive campaign in 2017. Notching six goals and six assists, he led the team in chances created, with 60 in 31 appearances. His 86% pass accuracy was the best on the team, and he’s credited with 60 key passes on the season. Despite being most known for his skills in setting up attacks with his pinpoint passing, he helped out defensively quite a bit too, with 52 interceptions, only behind Taylor Mueller for the team lead, and 76% of tackles won. The arrival of Tah Brian Anunga allowed him to be a more forward thinking player this season, but as the stats show, he’s very much the complete midfielder.
As the regular season closes this Saturday against the Charlotte Independence, we look forward to more from these players, and all of the squad as we head into the playoffs, but congratulate them on an impressive regular season campaign.
TOP IMAGE: PLAYERS CELEBRATE A GOAL DURING LAST WEEK’S 4-0 WIN OVER HARRISBURG. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO