Vancouver, B.C.- There are some good people in and around U SPORTS soccer, and two of the finest are being honoured by Major League Soccer.
Los Angeles FC’s Mark-Anthony Kaye, a former York Lions midfielder, is nominated for the MLS Humanitarian of the Year Award. At the same time, UBC Thunderbirds Women’s Soccer Head Coach Jesse Symons was named the Vancouver Whitecaps MLS Works Community MVP for 2020.
Symons has led the Thunderbirds since 2016 while also playing an important role in B.C.’s soccer community. Besides his work on the T-Birds sidelines, he has dedicated much of his time to Vancouver-based non-profit organization, Hope and Health. The organization has been instrumental in delivering programs to continue developing life and leadership skills among Indigenous youth through Hope and Health.
Speaking with WhitecapsFC.com about the award, Symons said, “I live quite close to the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver. There’s a lot of great people there that I’ve been connected to over my life, and Hope and Health is something that really inspires me.”
Symons has also helped transition much of Hope and Health’s work online through the pandemic, so the organization’s value to the community stays present amidst COVID-19. One of the strategies over the years and online is having the T-Birds Student-Athletes be a part of the program, something Symons is proud to see his players doing.
While Symons was awarded his honours on Tuesday, Mark-Anthony Kaye will have to wait a little longer to find out his award’s fate. He won the OUA championship with the York Lions in 2014 and has been a staple of the LAFC midfielder since their 2017 expansion, while also solidifying himself as a critical member of the Canadian men’s national team. While his achievements on the pitch are noteworthy, Kaye’s community work stands out.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaye has spent the season reaching out virtually to different charities and community events around the Los Angeles area, something he has always seen as necessary. In addition to his usual community projects, he has also been a leader in the MLS Black Players for Change movement, which was formed following the murders of multiple BIPOC people across the United States.
The Ontario-born midfielder is up against the Portland Timber’s Jeremey Ebbobise and Toronto FC’s Justin Morrow. The votes of current MLS players, MLS club technical staff (coaches, technical directors/GMs) and a select group of media members will decide who takes home the award.
Above the 49th parallel, in the Canadian Premier League, former SMU Huskies goalkeeper Christian Oxner is one of three nominees for the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year Award.
With two of the finest people in U SPORTS soccer recognized by the largest league in North America, it shows the game’s appreciation and importance in Canada is more extensive than ever before. 2020 has already been an epic year for Canadian soccer, with the likes of Alphonso Davies and Jordan Huitema dominating the world’s stage, and the MLS recognition for Symons and Kaye is a cherry on top of a fine sundae that is Canadian soccer achievements in 2020.