By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 10, 2006
Christian Gomez, the Argentine midfielder who guided D.C. United to the best record in MLS this year, was named the league's most valuable player yesterday.
Gomez beat out Real Salt Lake forward Jeff Cunningham and Houston Dynamo midfielder Dwayne De Rosario in voting by players, general managers, coaches and media members.
The final vote count was not released by the league.
"The work that I do on the field, that is what people are going to see," he said through an interpreter in Frisco, Tex., where MLS Commissioner Don Garber made the announcement and trophy presentation. "I'm just happy that my contributions were appreciated by the league. It's a great honor."
Despite United's four championships in the league's 11 seasons, the club has had only one previous MVP: midfielder Marco Etcheverry in 1998.
United players won two other individual awards this year: Troy Perkins (best goalkeeper) and Bobby Boswell (top defender).
Since joining the club late in the 2004 campaign, Gomez has 29 goals and 20 assists in 70 regular season appearances.
"He's an incredible player and an incredible teammate -- we're lucky to have him," midfielder Ben Olsen said. "He deserved to win."
This year, Gomez was second in MLS in both goals (14) and assists (11) as United pulled away in the Eastern Conference standings and finished with a 15-7-10 record.
The team, though, became increasingly dependent on Gomez's scoring ability as well as his playmaking skills.
While United's forwards struggled to regain their form, Gomez scored six of the team's nine goals in the final six matches, including both strikes during United's two-game playoff series with New York.
In the 1-0 loss to New England in the conference final last Sunday, Gomez was not at full strength because of a groin ailment and eventually left in the 81st minute with leg cramps.
"In a way," Gomez said, "this award will kind of make up for the sadness of not moving on in the playoffs."
Gomez, who turned 32 this week, has one year left on a contract that paid him $182,500 this season -- third most on the team behind Freddy Adu ($550,00) and Jaime Moreno ($241,250) and considerably less than several other high-profile MLS players.
His representatives are planning to approach the league this winter about a new deal.
MLS Notes: The league announced that Sunday's final between Houston and New England at 20,500-seat Pizza Hut Park in suburban Dallas is sold out. . . .
MLS will announce the goal of the year today and the Best XI all-star team tomorrow.