Altidore named USMNT Player of the Year, Pulisic takes Young Player honors

Jozy Altidore and Christian Pulisic
Altidore and Pulisic are worthy winners of 2016’s top honors. (Getty Images)

Jozy Altidore was the most prolific goalscorer on the United States men’s national team in 2016, scoring six times – and four times in World Cup qualifiers – despite missing the Copa America Centenario with an injury. And for his contributions, he was named U.S. Soccer’s Male Player of the Year for the second time on Friday.

Christian Pulisic – the 18-year-old phenom who has dazzled in his early days with the senior national team and his club, Borussia Dortmund, making him quite possibly the most promising young American men’s player ever – earned the Young Male Player of the Year award.

“This is truly an honor to receive this award,” Altidore said in a statement. “It’s also very humbling when you look at such a talented group of teammates nominated for this accolade along with you. At the end of the day, any success I have had on the field this year is in large part due to their success and contributions.”

The awards were voted on by any senior men’s national team player who had earned a cap this year; coaches throughout the senior and youth national team program; head coaches in Major League Soccer, the North American Soccer League and the United Soccer League; and some former players, active administrators and media members.

Altidore, who also had two assists, earned 32 percent of the vote, eking out fellow forward Bobby Wood, who had four goals and two assists and got 30 percent. Defensive stalwart Geoff Cameron finished third with 15 percent of the vote.

Notably, former captain Clint Dempsey, who also had four goals and got four assists (equaling Altidore’s eight total points) and starred in Copa America, did not make the final three. Perhaps because he’s been out of action with an irregular heartbeat since mid-August and slipped from the voters’ minds, even though he had more starts and minutes played than Altidore.

This year, Altidore rose to third in the national team’s all-time scoring charts, passing Eric Wynalda. At 27 years and a month old, the Haitian-American’s 37 goals now trail only Dempsey (52) and Landon Donovan (57). He also set a new American record for all-time goals in World Cup qualifying, reaching 16. Away from the national team, Altidore matured into one of the best strikers in Major League Soccer with Toronto FC, leading his club to Saturday’s MLS Cup final by scoring in all five of its playoff games thus far while racking up four assists.

While the national team had an up-and-down year, with a respectable fourth place at the Copa America sandwiched in between decidedly disappointing performances in qualifying for Russia 2018, Altidore was steady. He reinforced his side with his trademark holdup play and a newfound consistency that he’s tapped into now that he’s in his apparent prime. His selection was warranted, even though Wood had a good year with several strong performances in Copa America.

Pulisic quite rightly won his prize in a landslide with 86 percent of the vote, ahead of Jordan Morris, who had five percent, and youth national teamer Andrew Carleton, who got four percent.

He made his senior team debut with Dortmund in January, when he was still 17, and went on to set a record as the youngest foreigner to score in the Bundesliga. He was so impressive, in fact, that he now starts most games in spite of the murderous competition for playing time in Thomas Tuchel’s midfield. He also became the youngest U.S. national teamer to ever appear in a World Cup qualifier against Guatemala on March 29 at 17 years and 193 days.

He then became the youngest player to score for the U.S. in any game and was the youngest ever to start a World Cup qualifier. At just 18, he already has 11 senior team caps, three goals and two assists.

There really wasn’t any argument there, either.

Here, for the record, are the last 10 winners in each category:

2016 Jozy Altidore
2015 Michael Bradley
2014 Tim Howard
2013 Jozy Altidore
2012 Clint Dempsey
2011 Clint Dempsey
2010 Landon Donovan
2009 Landon Donovan
2008 Tim Howard
2007 Clint Dempsey

2016 Christian Pulisic
2015 Matt Miazga
2014 DeAndre Yedlin
2013 Wil Trapp
2012 Rubio Rubin
2011 Brek Shea
2010 Gale Agbossoumonde
2009 Luis Gil
2008 Sacha Kljestan
2007 Michael Bradley

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.