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Player Awards: Who’s the Revolution’s Unsung Hero of 2016?

Honoring the player who made a significant-yet-underrecognized contribution to the 2016 Revs’ campaign.

MLS: D.C. United at New England Revolution Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

In 2016, when injuries mounted and starters struggled to find their form, Revolution gaffer Jay Heaps relied on a cast of versatile role players to power his weekly 11. Players like Kelyn Rowe and Je-Vaughn Watson featured in numerous positions. Three ‘keepers started in goal. And a late Febuary signing proved his worth, even while filling the shoes of a certain USMNT midfielder.

Who deserves the 2016 “Unsung Hero” award? Cast your vote below.

1. Kelyn Rowe

2016 stat line: 33 appearances (32 starts), 5 goals, 7 assists, 25 shots on goal

For five seasons, Revolution fans have waited for Rowe to emerge as an elite MLS midfielder. He isn’t there yet, though the former first-round SuperDraft pick put together his most complete campaign in 2016.

He logged minutes at every position except goalkeeper and center back. He made 32 starts, far and away his most ever. And he put a career-high 25 shots on frame. With a full season of play behind Kei Kamara and Juan Agudelo ahead, Rowe seems poised to finally make his mark.

2. Je-Vaughn Watson

2016 stat line: 23 appearances (19 starts), 3 goals (2 in U.S. Open Cup play), 1 assist

When the Revolution acquired Watson for a 2017 third-round SuperDraft pick, club GM Mike Burns felt confident that he would “play a valuable role for the team” in 2016. Yet Burns likely had no idea how valuable Watson would become. The 33-year-old defender made 19 starts and led the Revs to an appearance in the U.S. Open Cup Final with two goals (and a game-clinching penalty-kick finish).

Perhaps most importantly, Watson featured at all three defensive positions and even moved forward into a defensive midfield role. His versatility proved invaluable during an inconsistent defensive campaign for the Revolution.

3. Gershon Koffie

2016 stat line: 22 appearances (19 starts), 4 assists, 5 shots on goal

When the Revolution acquired Koffie in February, the move was met with both excitement and curiosity. The club had already signed designated player Xavier Kouassi to replace Jermaine Jones’ and Scott Caldwell had just earned Team MVP honors for his 2015 campaign. The defensive midfield position seemed stable.

Yet when news broke that Kouassi—who was originally expected to join the Revolution mid-summer—had torn his ACL, the door opened for Koffie to emerge as a key part of the Revolution Starting XI. He answered the call, adding bite and creativity to the midfield in 22 appearances (19 starts). Injuries limited his impact, though he looked like a club MVP when healthy.

4. Brad Knighton

2016 stat line: 13 starts, 2 shutouts, 31 saves, 6-5-1 record

​For two-and-a-half seasons, Knighton found himself on the doorstep of earning meaningful starts for the Revolution. He finally got his chance in mid-season 2016, overtaking Bobby Shuttleworth on the depth chart as the former starter battled injuries and on-field inconsistencies. Knighton performed well in 13 starts, keeping the Revs competitive in several late-season matches with sound decision making between the pipes.

He's not a top-tier MLS goalkeeper and will have to battle for a starting role next season. But when the Revs needed consistency from the goalkeeper position, Knighton stepped up and held on to the number one shirt.

Who's the Revs' Unsung Hero of 2016?
Kelyn Rowe
Je-Vaughn Watson
Gershon Koffie
Brad Knighton
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