2013's Biggest Surprise: In a season full of surprises, votes split across pitch

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The end of the regular season brings with it an opportunity to reflect on what we've seen over 34 games spanning March to October. RSL Soapbox contributors bring you our picks for the best players this season. Now, the biggest surprise of the season — votes were inevitably split across the pitch.

Charles Barnard: Devon Sandoval. This award could have easily gone to many different players but I went with Sandoval. When drafted I don't think anyone thought that he was going to get much playing time. Not only did he come in and get three goals in MLS play, he also played extremely well in the early rounds of US Open Cup play. Along with Garcia and Plata, RSL has an exciting forward corp for the future.

Chad Loveland: Olmes Garcia. I'll go with one of my favorite players, Olmes Garcia. He wasn't supposed to play at all and in only 8 starts got 5 goals and 4 assists. His form really dipped towards the end of the year but that might be because of the elevation change, inexperience, and colder climate. Still one of the more dangerous players to bring on in a match and chase the game. He has everything you'd want in a striker and until he is at least 26, he'll be on RSL's roster. Should only get better with time. Honorable mention to Grabavoy's resurgence and Plata's impact.

Matt Montgomery: Lovel Palmer. The Jamaican came in with very little hype and bad reviews from Portland fans, some of whom were inevitably searching for scapegoats and glad to see the back of him. But Palmer proved a hard worker and a capable full back in our system, spelling Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran and at times, winning spots ahead of them — both club veterans. In a season full of surprises, that was one of the more notable ones.

Randal Serr: Carlos Salcedo. Salcedo is barely 20 years old and had a run of about nine or ten games in which RSL looked to have the peak of their season because the defense wasn't letting other teams score and the offense was scoring a few goals per game. Salcedo had seen very few MLS minutes before 2013 and he came on and showed very well. There were a couple of humbling moments and learning experiences, but his future is as bright as anybody on the team. That is the kind of talent you want to see from an academy product.

Jake Simons: Carlos Salcedo. He's 19. He had never seen professional minutes before this season. He stepped in and performed far better than I expected him too. Does he need to work on things? Yes. He came up huge for us during a year chalked full of center back injuries.

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