David Villa recipient of the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award (left) and MLS commissioner Don Garber (right) pose for a photo during the MLS MVP press conference at Spring Studios. Photo by Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Honorable Mentions

David Villa wins MVP:

New York City Football Club, in their second ever season, managed to clinch the number two seed in the Eastern Conference, the first playoff berth in team history. Pretty much the entire reason why that was possible was because of Spanish striker David Villa.

Villa has had his fair share of career achievements — in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Villa was joint top scorer in the competition with five goals and was an integral member on the Spain squad that won the tournament. He is also the Spanish national team’s all-time leading goalscorer.

Villa has also played in two Champions League finals and scored in the 2011 final for Barcelona against Manchester United.

Since coming to MLS, Villa has been terrific, and his sophomore season for NYCFC saw him take home Most Valuable Player, after racking up 23 goals and 4 assists. While NYCFC were demolished in their sole playoff tie against Toronto FC, their largely impressive regular season earned Villa this prestigious award.

Yankees go for youth:

Approaching the trade deadline this summer, the New York Yankees were floundering. They were fourth place in their division, well behind the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles (all three of whom would make the playoffs). Brian Cashman decided that his formula– relying on veterans to lead the Yankees to the playoffs– had failed, and decided to overhaul the franchise’s direction.

Cashman traded relief pitchers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, along with outfielder Carlos Beltran (three players who, arguably, were three of the team’s five best players in 2016) to the Cubs, Indians, and Rangers, respectively. The team acquired a bevy of high-quality prospects, most notably shortstop Gleybar Torres and outfielder Clint Frazier.

The Yankees surged up the standings following those trades, as their young players, known as “Baby Bombers,” carried them back into playoff contention. While they ultimately fell short, fans are growing increasingly excited about the direction of the franchise, large in part because New York now possesses arguably the best farm system in Major League Baseball.

Kristaps Porzingis drops career high 35:

The future (and perhaps, present) face of the Knicks franchise had his best career offensive game against the Detroit Pistons on November 16th. The Latvian big man had 35 points, including 25 in the first half, to propel the Knicks to an impressive home victory over a playoff-caliber team.

Islanders win Game 1 against the Lightning:

After an emotional victory to lift the Islanders to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 23 years, they continued their hot streak by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 on April 27. Shane Price scored two goals as the Isles upended the defending Eastern Conference champions on the road.

Unfortunately, it was their last victory of the season, as the Lightning stormed back to win the next four games and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to eventual champions Pittsburgh. At the time, however, the victory gave Islanders fans immense hope of an improbable run to the Stanley Cup.


Giants extend win streak to 5 with win over the Bears:

It wasn’t pretty, but to be fair, nothing about the Giants this year has been pretty. They grinded their way into playoff contention, winning one-possession games off the strength of their defense and relying on Odell Beckham Jr. to carry them on offense.

Against the Chicago Bears, the Giants squeaked past a team who never had a shot of making the postseason, to improve to 8-3. The win was their fifth straight and really catapulted Big Blue into playoff contention. Tied at 16 in the third quarter, Eli Manning found Sterling Shepard to give the Giants a 22-16 lead, and despite some late pressure from Jay Cutler, the defense held to give the Giants the win.

While the victory wasn’t a season defining one, it marked the first time the Giants had won five straight since 2011, when they ended the season with six straight victories, including four in the postseason, to win the Super Bowl.