Chivas USA’s Thornton Named Comeback Player of Year

It’s one of the more pointless awards MLS hands out, but for what it’s worth the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year beat out the Chicago Fire’s Brian McBride (who may have stopped playing in MLS, but never stopped playing excellent attacking soccer – is he available next year in South Africa?) and D.C. United’s Ben Olsen (who last I heard hadn’t really come back and was contemplating retirement because of injury).

But Thornton, 36, is as worthy a winner as they come considering he won his first MLS Goalkeeper of the Year title in 1998 with the Fire, a season in which he also helped the team to both the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup. Thornton won his last significant team honor with the Fire in 2003 when they won the Supporters Shield.

But in 2007 after eight seasons with Chicago, Thornton left and played for three clubs (Colorado, New York and Chivas) in two years and almost found himself out of the game.

Zach is back indeed.

From the Chivas USA press release: Thornton earned the Comeback Player of the Year award due to his strong play throughout 2009 after enduring two difficult seasons in 2007 and 2008. He led Chivas USA to a 13-11-6 record and posted a career best 12 shutouts and 0.87 goals against average, which ranks second all-time in MLS history behind Pat Onstad’s 0.82 mark in 2007. His 12 shutouts were one shy of the Chivas USA record, set in 2007 by Brad Guzan, who also earned Goalkeeper of the Year honors in that season. In being named Goalkeeper of the Year last week, Thornton became one of just three players to win the award twice, joining Joe Cannon and Pat Onstad.

BTW, here are the other MLS Comeback Player of the Year Winners over the years:

2008: Kenny Cooper – FC Dallas

2007: Eddie Johnson – Kansas City Wizards

2006: Richard Mulrooney – FC Dallas

2005: Chris Klein – Kansas City Wizards

2004: Brian Ching – San Jose Earthquakes

2003: Chris Armas – Chicago Fire

2002: Chris Klein – Kansas City Wizards

2001: Troy Dayak – San Jose Earthquakes

2000: Tony Meola – Kansas City Wizards

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group soccer columnist and blogger Nick Green writes at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at Cheers!