- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On October 4, 2010
- 3 Comments
- 2010 Rookie Watch, Andy Najar, Danny Mwanga, Ike Opara, Sean Johnson, Teal Bunbury, Tim Ream, Zach Loyd
The race for MLS’s Rookie of the Year had been an interesting one this season. The talent brought into the league via the SuperDraft and from the league’s increased attention from the homegrown player pool is causing the rookie race to be even tougher than its been before.
One week it looks like its Philadelphia’s Danny Mwanga’s award to lose, the next its New York’s Tim Ream showing how valuable of a pick he was in the second round. Then from nowhere you get guys like forth rounder Sean Johnson in Chicago who start to show a bit of the future there. But in all its really been about one guy, an academy product from D.C. United, midfielder Andy Najar.
Below is how I see the rookie of the year race finishing out this season. Unless something crazy happens in the final weeks I’ll likely be voting in the following manner for my top three (note: I’m listing more for discussion points).
1. Andy Najar (D.C. United) – Like I said its been about this kid for a while now. He’s leading his club is ways we never thought a 17-year old could do in this league. He was also brought along exactly how every young teenager hoping to be in MLS should be brought along. Slow and steady with miles of room to grow without too much hype. Najar has been the lone bright spot for D.C. and one guy the club absolutely has to start building around this winter. Also I find it interesting that Najar may become the league’s first academy signing to win the ROY award. Looks like the league has grown up quite a bit huh?
2. Danny Mwanga (Philadelphia Union) – Injuries have done two things for him, kept him from probably winning this award and second helped keep him in the Generation adidas contract that Philly loves having him in for another year. Seven goals and four assists in his first year show exactly why Philadelphia wanted him at number one last winter. He’s shown he has the scoring touch to be a real asset to the Union in the coming years provided they and the league are able to keep him here.
3. Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls) – Red Bull fans will hope and expect to see Ream win the award this year, and for plenty of good reasons. Ream was a fairly steady rock in the back for Hans Backe who showed he has an eye for young talent in our American soccer system. Ream has played every minute of this season for New York and is likely to go down as one of the best second round draft picks in league history.
4. Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy) – His production and play have taken a bit of a nose dive since the summer but I still believe Stephens deserves some recognition for his play this season. The lone Galaxy draft pick has eight assists on the season, most of them coming when Landon Donovan was out with the US National team.
5. Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire) – I always said that Johnson was an absolute steal in the fourth round for the Fire and boy he hasn’t disappointed in the 12 games he’s played so far this year. Once he took over the starting job he showed us all exactly why he has the talent to be one of the best keepers in this league for years to come.
6. Toni Tchani (New York Red Bulls) – It took him a little while to see time in Hans Backe’s system but lately he’s starting to show why the Red Bulls wanted him at number 2 back in January. It hasn’t hurt one bit that he has been pared lately with Rafa Marquez in the midfield either, that’s a duo that is really starting to become one of the best midfield tandems in the league.
7. Zach Loyd/Eric Alexander (FC Dallas) – These two share number seven for me. Both came in on different paths to FC Dallas but both have done a great job in finding their roles with the club. Loyd has seen plenty of minutes this season while Alexander has shown he can be used just about anywhere on the field for Schellas Hyndman.
9. Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes) – Injuries derailed his chances at this award back in the summer but believe me Opara will get back to health and be a real force in this league for the Quakes. We saw exactly how good San Jose can be with him too. If he were healthy enough for the playoffs the Quakes would not be a club I’d want to face largely because of Opara.
10. Teal Bunbury (Kansas City Wizards) – Just like with teammate Kei Kamara, once Peter Vermes found out how to use Bunbury properly things paid off for them. I definitely believe he still has a bright future with the Wizards after the four goals he’s put in this season.
11. Zach Schilawski (New England Revolution) – Rookies definitely go hot and cold. Schilawski is just another example of that. His hat trick in April gave Revs fans hope that he would be their saving grace offensively but he’s only had two goals since.
Others worth note: Jack McInereny (Philadelphia); Blair Gavin (Chivas USA); and Ben Zemanski (Chivas USA).