TULSA – With FC Tulsa’s record-setting 2020 season officially in the books, it was only appropriate that we hand out some hardware…literally. While some teams may distribute standard issue “trophies” to its end of season award winners, we at FC Tulsa know there are only one kind of awards that could possibly be acceptable following the 2020 season. Gold wrenches.
Three of the awards distributed were given out to the club’s Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player. The honors were voted on by FC Tulsa’s coaching staff, players and front office. No single player could win more than one of the three awards so we could spread the award love around.
Let’s get to the honors….
There have been plenty of surprises in 2020. Our Offensive Player of the Year winner wasn’t one of them. The forward dubbed Super Darío delivered on his nickname this season with eight goals in 15 regular season matches to take home the top offensive prize. Suárez led the team in goalscoring this season and finished inside the top 10 in the USL Championship, tying for ninth.
It seemed like every Suárez goal was a highlight. He started with a bang, scoring his first goal of the season on his birthday to secure three points at fellow playoff team Saint Louis FC. That tally ended up winning the league’s Goal of the Week award, and it was an omen of things to come. Suárez saved his best for September as he scored six consecutive goals to begin the month in a four-match stretch. FC Tulsa earned results in all four matches, including two draws at Austin Bold FC that turned out to be the difference in the playoff race.
His September performance earned the Cuban dynamo two Team of the Week honors, two Player of the Week runner-ups and a nomination for Player of the Month.
Looking at his place in franchise history, Suárez’s 0.60 Goals per 90 minutes of action is the best of any player in Tulsa USL Championship history (min. of 5 matches played). When you add on his one assist to his eight goals, Suárez had a hand in 43% of the goals FC Tulsa this season.
This might not be Suárez’s only end of year honor, as his season could be good enough to earn him a spot on a USL Championship All-League team.
One of the most recognizable new faces signed to the 2020 FC Tulsa team was defender Bradley Bourgeois. From his collegiate career at the University of Tulsa to his 2017 season leading the Roughnecks to its only previous playoff berth, Bourgeois had lead billing heading into the 2020 campaign and lived up to the hype.
Bourgeois played every minute of 2020, starting all 15 regular season matches and the club’s playoff match, and was the leader of a backline that was one of the best in the USL Championship. His 47 clearances were the most on the team and he finished second in blocks, third in interceptions and was also tops in aerial duals.
One underrated aspect of Bourgeois’ season was his position change two-thirds of the way through. Due to injuries and circumstance, Bourgeois shifted to right back from his natural centerback for the final month of the season, a position he had previously only played in two matches in his five-year professional career. The athletic defender didn’t miss a beat on the right side after his move, giving the team much-needed cover at the position.
It never hurts to add a little offense on occasion, and Bourgeois did that, chipping in with his third career assist and also converting a penalty kick in the club’s postseason defeat.
No matter your definition of “MVP,” Sean Lewis was it for FC Tulsa in 2020. In a landslide vote, the goalkeeper who protected the FC Tulsa net for every minute this season was awarded the club’s highest on-field honor in 2020.
The Michigan native smashed club records in 2020, allowing just 16 total goals in 15 regular season matches, 1.07 allowed per match, while finishing third in total saves in the USL Championship with 51. He is the fourth player in league history to finish in both the top five in total saves and have a goals against average of lower than 1.10.
While it might appear obvious that Sean Lewis’ 2020 season was the best for any goalkeeper in Tulsa’s USL Championship history, one more stat can’t hurt. Lewis’ 1.07 goals allowed per match in 2020 is the best mark for any starting keeper in franchise history, besting Fabián Cerda’s previous club record of 1.41 set in 2017.
Lewis saved his best for last as he put in a performance for the ages in FC Tulsa’s season-ending playoff match against El Paso Locomotive FC. He made eight saves, including five highlight reel stops in extra time, after FC Tulsa had gone a man down, to send the match to penalties. While Tulsa didn’t advance in penalties, Lewis’ night will stand as one of the club’s all-time best performances.
Stay tuned as FC Tulsa unveils more of its season ending awards next week!