[MLS] The league will award its choice for Newcomer of the Year, an award instituted in 2007 to acknowledge experienced players competing in their first seasons in the league, on Wednesday. Our choice is Estonian international midfielder Joel Lindpere of the Red Bulls.
Newcomer of the Year Finalists:
Thierry Henry (New York)
Joel Lindpere (New York)
Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake)
The MLS Newcomer of the Year Award is an excellent idea, but unfortunately, this year’s list of finalists is marred by the inclusion of former French international Thierry Henry, who played just 11 regular season games following his arrival in August and didn't light it up, at all. Not only is it illogical to select a midseason arrival in preference to players present during the entire MLS season, several other such players have out-performed the Red Bulls’ attacker.
The other two finalists, Estonian international Joel Lindpere of New York and Costa Rican international Alvaro Saborio of Real Salt Lake, were invaluable contributors from day one.
Lindpere provided an instant, significant upgrade to the New York midfield, buttressing the midfield while also prompting and inciting offensive thrusts. His stats were solid (three goals, six assists in 29 regular-season games, one playoff goal) and his range, touch, toughness and versatility – he switched to the left side once Rafa Marquez arrived – were consistently above-par.
Saborio, signed in the wake of Yura Movsisyan’s departure to Europe, gave the RSL attack a different look up front. He led the team in goals with 12 on just 51 shots and also earned four assists. A groin injury he suffered in the season finale against Colorado impaired him during the playoffs and with him at half-speed RSL came up short against FC Dallas.
An excellent first season for Saborio, whose importance will increase if Robbie Findley finds a team overseas, is laudable, but our pick is Lindpere, who missed just one of 32 regular-season and playoff games. His importance scarcely diminished when Henry and Marquez arrived.