According to the voting members of the North American Soccer Reporters, the best was saved for last on First Kick weekend of the 17th season for Major League Soccer. Portland Timbers midfielder Kalif Alhassan was recognized as the Player of the Week, the first-ever award for the second-year MLS franchise.
A lot of eyes Monday night in the prime-time lights of ESPN2 were on newcomer Kris Boyd, a scoring sensation in Scotland where he ranks as the Premier League’s all-time scoring leader, but it was the second-year Timber catching the spotlight in a 3-1 win over the visiting Philadelphia Union with 13 first-choice votes and one as a second choice by the NASR members.
With Andrew Jean-Baptiste leveling terms at 1-1 in the 54th with a shot that squirmed through Zac MacMath’s wet gloves, the match turned to Alhassan, who sent a cross into the box in the 66th minute that Boyd nicely headed into the side netting for what held as the game-winner. Alhassan then floated what appeared to be a cross over the keeper and directly into the far upper corner for insurance in the 76th minute.
The strike was the first for Alhassan in MLS, though not for a lack of trying. In his debut season in the league last year he tallied six assists while logging over 2,300 minutes while making 27 starts in 32 appearances. It was not his first in a Timber uniform, however, as he scored twice at the end of the club’s final second division campaign in 2010 after his mid-season acquisition.
“I’m really happy for Kalif, it’s a good achievement for him,” said Timbers head coach John Spencer. “This award goes to show that when you put in really good, hard professional training sessions, you get your reward in the game. I think his performance and his training over the last month have justified him getting his award this week. I’m extremely happy for him.”
Alhassan was the runaway choice for the honor with Vancouver Whitecaps striker Sebastien Le Toux picking up three first choice votes and one as second choice. Blas Perez of FC Dallas also garnered some attention with two first choice selections and three second.
How They Voted:
|Member||First Choice||Second Choice|
|Michael C. Lewis||Blas Perez (DAL)||Fabian Espindola (RSL)|
|Orrin Schwartz||Blas Perez (DAL)||Camilo (VAN)|
|Tom Timmermann||Javier Morales (RSL)||Kalif Alhassan (POR)|
|Steven Sandor||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Javier Morales (RSL)|
|Scott French||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Blas Perez (DAL)|
|Jonathan Tannenwald||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Javier Morales (RSL)|
|Don Ruiz||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Zach Loyd (DAL)|
|Kyle McCarthy||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Dan Kennedy (CHV)|
|Frank Giase||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Kosuke Kimura (COL)|
|Marc Connolly||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Fabian Espindola (RSL)|
|Michael Lewis||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Blas Perez (DAL)|
|Beau Dure||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Jay DeMerit (VAN)|
|Andrew Wiebe||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Dan Kennedy (CHV)|
|Jose Romero||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Jack Jewsbury (POR)|
|Marc Weber||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Kosuke Kimura (COL)|
|Shaun Schafer||Kosuke Kimura (COL)||Kenny Cooper (NY)|
|Bobby McMahon||Kosuke Kimura (COL)||Fabian Espindola (RSL)|
|Dan Girard||Quincy Amarikwa (COL)||Sebastien Le Toux (VAN)|
|JP Dellacamera||Sebastien Le Toux (VAN)||Kris Boyd (POR)|
|Gerald Barnhart||Sebastien Le Toux (VAN)||Blas Perez (DAL)|
|Lisa Eisenmenger||Sebastien Le Toux (VAN)||Camilo (VAN)|
|Phil Schoen||Zach Loyd (DAL)||Fabian Espindola (RSL)|
|Steve Clare||Kalif Alhassan (POR)||Fabian Espindola (RSL)|
What They Had to Say:
Steve Clare (Prost Amerika): “Kalif has always had immense ability but last night that ability transfered itself into being the difference between drawing and winning a MLS match. He lost none of his unpredictability of 2011 and his USL days, but on last night’s evidence, the potency of his final product has reached a new level. Given Portland were one of two clubs not to win a PotW award in 2011, this caps a very promising start to the season for them.”
Jose Romero (Freelance): “Alhassan ran circles around the Union defense and scored an amazing goal. Jewsbury had two assists and was great on set pieces.”