Alejandro Pozuelo was named the 2020 Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player on Monday afternoon.
Pozuelo becomes the second Toronto FC player to earn the title, following in the footsteps of one of the men he was brought in to replace.
Sebastian Giovinco won the honour following the 2015 season.
Having arrived in March 2019, Pozuelo put in a spectacular debut season, scoring 12 goals and adding 12 assists in 30 matches last year.
He picked up right where he left off, scoring in the opening game of the season against the San Jose Earthquakes – of course, from the penalty spot.
He registered five assists in the first two matches of the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida when play resumed in July, and was instrumental in TFC’s push for the Supporters’ Shield.
Pozuelo scored in four straight matches at the end of September as his side surged to the top of the table, including in both wins over Columbus Crew SC and eventual Shield-winners the Philadelphia Union.
And he closed the season as it began, scoring a late penalty kick game-winner over Inter Miami CF.
In this year’s shortened regular season of 23 matches, the Spanish midfielder registered 9 goals and 10 assists. And goalkeepers still have not figured out how to deal with his penalty kick prowess.
For Pozuelo, it was the by-product of several good seasons. He knew how big the boots were that he had to fill.
“I’ve had a really good three years,” said the MVP on a conference call Monday. “I was nominated to be the best player in Belgium. In my past I’ve had really good years.”
“I knew before in my position – it’s not my position – but I came to replace [Sebastian] Giovinco,” he continued, noting that though they are very different players he was expected to take on the mantle of the departing Italian. “Everybody was speaking about this.”
“[There was] some pressure to come and play, but I believed in myself. I know I can play good, and I tried to do this,” Pozuelo explained. “I feel like I’ve played [the last] three, four, or five years at a very good level and next year I’ll try to do the same.”
After a long season, spent largely away from home, Pozuelo dedicated the award to his family and thanked Greg Vanney for his help in pushing him to this high level.
It was still setting in that he was selected to be the most valuable player by his peers, the MLS clubs, and the media.
“Maybe tomorrow I will believe more, but now I still don’t believe it,” Pozuelo said. “I’m in my house, with my family to try to celebrate.”
“It means a lot. I still don't believe that I’ve won the award,” he reiterated. “I'm a person that is very calm and I don't pay too much attention to what's going on around me. Winning this award shows how important Toronto is, how important the season was. I'm very proud.”
“Maybe when I start seeing more news I will believe that I’ve won, but I’m very proud to represent Toronto,” Pozuelo closed. “It's easy to say, but it takes a lot of work to get here.”