Orlando City midfielder Darwin Cerén is the surprise winner of the 2015 FutbolMLS.com Latino del Año out of a field of 32 impressive nominees. The nominees came from the staff of FutbolMLS.com, MLSsoccer.com, UnivisionDeportes.com and other national media outlets. Cerén was selected by a fan vote as the best Latino player in MLS despite not being among the biggest names on the list of candidates.
He won the honor over several Major League Soccer star players, including teammate Kaká, Colombian international and FC Dallas star winger Fabián Castillo, and Costa Rican international and Vancouver Whitecaps' defender Kendall Waston. Orlando City SC was the only side with two players elected to the final.
"I'd like to thank God for giving me this opportunity of winning the Latino del Año award," Cerén said in a club press release. "I want to thank everyone that made this possible, the fans here in Orlando and around the world that supported me. Now, I am going to enjoy it with my family. I am going to enjoy it because it is an award that, as soccer players, gives us great satisfaction of our work."
The Latino del Año honor caps off an impressive 2015 season for Cerén, who was named the 2015 Player's Player of the Year earlier this year. The Mane Land staff gave Cerén a season rating of 7.5 out of 10 for his play this season. Although he didn't win the staff award for Team MVP, I gave Cerén my vote, as I felt he was the engine in the midfield that drove the Lions all season.
Cerén recorded two goals and two assists in his first MLS season, and City's third MLS signing led the team in passes per game with 59.8 (fifth best in MLS), and ranked 11th in MLS in both passing completion percentage (86.5) and average tackles per game (3).
The Salvadoran won Group E with a 58.43 percent of the votes, defeating Juninho (LA Galaxy), Jesse González (FC Dallas) and Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers). In the Round of 16, Cerén beat out LA Galaxy and Mexican international Giovani dos Santos with 84.94 percent of the votes, the highest percentage of any player in the round. He qualified for the final round after beating out NYCFC Spanish striker David Villa in the quarterfinals, receiving 72.76 percent of the votes.
Created in 2010, the Latino del Año is FutbolMLS.com's annual contest to select the best Latino player in MLS, based on fan voting. All MLS players born in a Latin American country, Spain or those who were born in the United States and have Hispanic heritage are eligible.