Last week, we took a look at 10 favorites for the men’s MAC Hermann Trophy award, handed out to the nation’s top player.
A year ago, Andrew Wenger was the consensus winner, as the Duke star put up the sort of offensive numbers that no one could resist voting for.
Trying to guess the eventual winner is never an exact science, but history shows that attackers are clearly favored. The last non-attacking player to win the award was in 2004, when it went to Indiana’s Danny O’Rourke. After all, goals are easier to measure than defensive statistics.
This year’s field is a bit more difficult to sift through, as a number of players have played significant roles on their respective teams, some scoring bunches of goals, others providing offense but adding so much more with their experience, leadership and other intangibles.
Here’s a look at TopDrawerSoccer.com’s at five of the best arguments for the Hermann award winner in 2012:
F Chris Thomas, Elon
Stats: 23 goals, 5 assists
The case: The numbers speak for themselves. Thomas is on this list because he’s the nation’s leading goal scorer, plain and simple. His Elon team would be not nearly as good without him – he was involved in 28 of the team’s 42 goals of the season, or 67% of their tallies. Nine of his goals were game winners, an even more impressive number when considering they won 15 games.
Losing in the first round of the tournament isn’t going to bolster things for Thomas, but he’s a surefire semifinalist.
F Patrick Mullins, Maryland
Stats: 14 goals, 8 assists
The case: Since his arrival in Maryland two years ago, the talent of Mullins has been easy to spot. He has all the right tools in an attack – good speed, technical ability, and an eye for the goal.
While his numbers pale in comparison to Thomas, Mullins has come through for the Terps in the clutch, in ways that aren’t necessarily in the score sheet. He’s scored six game winning goals, but is delivering on the biggest stages. When Maryland trailed 1-0 against Clemson in the ACC championship semifinals, Mullins scored in the game’s 85th minute to tie the game and force overtime, setting the table for a championship win two days later.
Mullins deliver again in the second round of the tournament, scoring a 35-yard goal against Brown to tie it up in a game the Terps went on to win 2-1.
Stats: 6 goals, 8 assists
The case: The midfield maestro doesn’t have gaudy numbers, but that doesn’t hurt his case when you watch him on the field. Along with being used as a jack of all trades for the Blue Jays, Gomez helps the team maintain possession, jump starts the attack, and is a player that opposing defenders must shutdown in order to beat Creighton.
MF Scott Caldwell, Akron
Stats: 9 goals, 10 assists
The case: Similar to Gomez, Caldwell doesn’t have quite the gaudy numbers as some of the other favorites – although with a goal in the tournament would hit double digits in both goals and assists – but he’s been vital to his Akron side.
In fact, it’s hard to argue of a more valuable player to a top college side. A team that likes to possess the ball in spades, Caldwell is always in the middle of it, picking out the right pass, keeping the ball moving, and ensures that the playing style works smoothly.
F Eriq Zavaleta, Indiana
Stats: 16 goals, 3 assists
The case: With 16 goals in 20 games, Zavaleta checks the box of being a prolific goal scorer on a tournament team that seems to be the bare minimum for Hermann winners.
The fact that he’s put up those numbers with opposing defenses keying on him makes it all the more impressive. But a couple of knocks against him are playing for a team that couldn’t capture a regular season or conference tournament title – although that certainly shouldn’t rule him out, especially the longer the Hoosiers play in the tournament.