[MLS] Major League Soccer begins handing out its major awards Wednesday. Philadelphia Union forward Danny Mwanga is Soccer America's pick for Rookie of the Year.
Rookie of the Year Finalists:
Danny Mwanga (Philadelphia)
Andy Najar (D.C. United)
Tim Ream (New York)
Ream started from day one, got off to a great start, struggled through a few bad games and regained his poise and confidence down the stretch. Critics say he’s not as good as last year’s winner, Omar Gonzalez, also a defender; two years ago, another rookie defender, Sean Franklin, got the nod, and Ream is certainly better on the ball than him and most other young MLS defenders.
The other two candidates are attackers; Mwanga, a tall, powerful forward, and Najar a wonderfully gifted midfielder.
Neither put up dazzling numbers, with Mwanga scoring seven goals and Najar, a creator as much as a finisher, netting five.
Najar, 17, is a marvelous talent and a great selling point for the academy teams now fielded by all MLS teams. Mwanga left Oregon State after two seasons and at 19, obviously is teeming with potential.
Our pick: Mwanga. He battled for playing time with several other forwards and didn’t rely solely on size and strength; his touch and vision improved immensely in the second half of the season. He scored stoppage-time goals in three straight games after sitting out eight straight games.