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Burgundy Wave 2016 End of the Year Awards

Our staff picks for the best of the impressive 2016 Colorado Rapids squad (and MLS Cup predictions).

MLS: Playoffs-Los Angeles Galaxy at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

2016 has been an incredible season. The Colorado Rapids went unbeaten at home, came in second for the Supporters’ Shield, which was enough to earn a Champions League spot, and are currently preparing to take on the Seattle Sounders at home on Sunday for the second leg of the Western Conference Finals.

Whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving, we thought this would be an appropriate day to honor and be thankful for our Rapids and all of the hard work they’ve put in this season with our Burgundy Wave End of the Year Awards.

Editor’s Note: I collected these answers before the playoffs started so that we based our opinions solely on the regular season.

Best Defender

Rapids South Stands: Axel Sjoberg. Nothing gets by him. He's so good, I fear Europe will be calling soon.

Ssssshhhhhh.

Mile High Soapbox: Axel Sjoberg. He just gobbles everything up on the backline. He has grown as a defender this year and is playing the position smartly.

Richard Terry: Axel Sjoberg.

Rapids Rabbi: Axel Sjoberg. Second in MLS in clearances. Started 31 of 34 games on the backline. Excellent instincts in positioning. Axel is a no-brainer here.

Abbie: I have to go with Axel Sjoberg. He’s been amazing for us this season.

Best Goal

Rapids South Stands: Marlon Hairston's first against Sporting KC.

Mile High Soapbox: Dillon Serna. May 11th vs SKC. That was a big goal and a big win. Just don't know how it got through everyone and why it wasn't up for goal of the year. This was a big loss this year when he went out injured. Gashi's goal in Vancouver was good too.

Richard Terry: Marco Pappa - vs LA Galaxy in 1st home game of the season

Rapids Rabbi: Marlon Hairston's winner on July 16. He stole it, 1-2'd it to Powers, and curled it into the upper 90. It's got it all.

Abbie: Sebastien Le Toux’s goal against Portland on October 1. It wasn’t really fancy at all, but Marly juked about half of Portland’s defense and then Le Toux finished it. It was a huge win at home and was also the win that put the Rapids in the playoffs.

Biggest Surprise (player or event)

Rapids South Stands: Marlon Hairston. We knew he'd be good, but he's turned into a player who brings pace and is a great catalyst for our offense.

Mile High Soapbox: Micheal Azira. He was picked up from Seattle in the offseason and no one knew anything about him. Didn't play much there and then he's starting Colorado and doing quite well in best defense in MLS. Watts is a close second in surprises, done well this year.

Richard Terry: Jared Watts getting as much playing time as he has, as Bobby Burling and Sean St. Ledger have had fitness issues.

Rapids Rabbi: The resurgence of Marc Burch. I couldn't believe he even made the squad out of camp after spending most on 2015 buried on the bench. But he returned from nowhere, earned the starting spot over Mekeil Williams, and was extremely consistent at everything. Never saw it coming.

Abbie: Not just going unbeaten at home, but only allowing SEVEN goals against at home. That’s incredible.

MVP

Rapids South Stands: Howard and MacMath. They kept our team in so many games and put us in the position we are now. We are blessed to have two of the best in MLS.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Mile High Soapbox: Shkelzen Gashi. He's scored 9 goals for a team that doesn't score many. He barely beats out Sjoberg here.

Richard Terry: Shkelzen Gashi.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Rapids Rabbi: Sam Cronin. He ain't flashy and he doesn't rack up the counting stats (goals, assists). But attacks often start from Sam, and on the defensive end, then often end with him. He links up the entire offense. He's got crazy intensity, and I don't think there's any doubt that his teammates respect him. This team is probably 10 points worse without Sam Cronin.

Abbie: Sam Cronin. He is the epitome of what you want a captain to be. He’s passionate, he’s hard working, he rarely makes mistakes, and if something happens, he’s the first one sticking up for his teammates. He’s the heartbeat of the team.

MLS: Playoffs-Los Angeles Galaxy at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

MLS Cup Final prediction (teams, winner)

Rapids South Stands: Rapids vs Toronto FC. Kevin Doyle slots one past Irwin, leaving it late. We won our first Cup in Toronto, and we will win the 2nd one against it.

Mile High Soapbox: Rapids vs Toronto. Rapids win.

Richard Terry: Colorado vs. New York Red Bulls, Rapids winning 2-1

Rapids Rabbi: Rapids 1, Toronto 3. We go the distance, but the Canadian juggernaut keeps on rolling.

Abbie: Rapids v. Toronto, Rapids win 1-0 at home and the CUP COMES BACK TO DENVER.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to compare our responses to what we thought mid-season, you can check out that post here.