Nyarko is ESPNChicago.com's Fire MVP

The Chicago Fire announced their annual team awards on Tuesday, with defensive midfielder Logan Pause earning most valuable player honors and C.J. Brown earning defender of the year accolades.

Pause and Brown are class acts and incredibly hard workers. But the team's voting -- which included a ballot submitted by ESPNChicago.com -- was a bit off.

Pause edged out midfielder Patrick Nyarko for MVP, but Nyarko was the instant MVP selection from this reporter's perspective.

For much of the Fire's disappointing 2010 campaign, Nyarko was the versatile component who made things happen on the pitch. Before Freddie Ljungberg came into the picture, Nyarko was the backbone for the team's creativity and energy in a midfield that did not produce a whole lot.

Nyarko led the team with 10 assists, and he added a goal in the second half of the season.

Nyarko also managed to fend off concussion symptoms during the season after taking a knock against the Columbus Crew on July 3. Then he had an ankle problem and had to receive injections to battle through the rest of the campaign.

Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich singled him out earlier this month, saying "we need more guys like that."

Quite a few folks made the Fire's injury report this season, but Nyarko managed to miss only three regular-season matches as he gutted it out to the very end.

Nyarko clearly was MVP material. If Ljungberg was with the Fire for a full season, perhaps that sentiment would have changed.

Brown was the favorite among voters for the defensive honor, edging out rookie goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Considering MLS All-Star Wilman Conde's struggles and quite a bit of roster juggling among the back line, it makes sense that Brown, a retiring veteran of 13 Fire seasons, earned the award.

But ESPNChicago.com selected Pause for the defensive honor. Pause is stationed in the midfield, but his defensive contributions clearly outweigh any minor production on the offensive end.

Pause had a brief period at the start of the season where his game was a little off. But for the most part Pause was a steady force in the middle.

The Fire's back line simply was too shaky this season, and picking a "non-defender" made much more sense for the defensive honor.