Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Sapong gets nod in tight rookie race
by Ridge Mahoney, October 21st, 2011 12:39AM

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

[MLS AWARDS FINAL FIVE] It's getting tougher and tougher for MLS rookies coming out of college to get regular time in their first pro seasons.

MLS has opened the doors to more foreign players and enticed teams to develop their own young talent through expanded rosters, academy programs and revival of the Reserve Division. It can be especially difficult for college attackers, since many teams prefer to fill those slots with more proven and experienced players.

Still, about a dozen rookies have established themselves in the first team, and while No. 1 pick Omar Salgado has played little for Vancouver, many of those taken in the first two rounds have done enough to earn consideration as the best of the best in 2011.

Several top defensive candidates have been competent in their rookie seasons, though none match the confident, dominant presence in the mold of 2009 winner Omar Gonzalez. A more reasonable comparison could be his predecessor, Galaxy teammate Sean Franklin, who won the award despite playing for a team that conceded 62 goals.

If that’s the standard, along with heralded candidates Perry Kitchen of D.C. United and A.J. Soares of New England must be listed Michael Farfan of Philadelphia. On the offensive side, the leading picks are CJ Sapong (Kansas City), Darlington Nagbe (Portland) and Will Bruin (Houston).

Kitchen, one of the many outstanding players to come out of the University of Akron, has played 30 games and 2,636 minutes at centerback, outside back and defensive mid. He averaged a foul a game and was cautioned only three times, which are remarkable numbers for any young defender and particularly for one who left college after his freshman year.

Like Kitchen, Soares has scored one goal in his rookie season (28 games) and this week it was learned he’s been hobbled by a sore left ankle suffered during preseason training. He underwent surgery Oct. 6 to correct the problem and though the Revs’ defense performed poorly this season, the Cal product has shown great potential.

Farfan (North Carolina) played only 21 games but generated some offense (two goals, three assists) while proving his reliability defensively. He helped fill a need for the Union, which lacked stability on the corners until he and twin brother Gabriel got regular playing time. (Like Michael, Gabriel is a former U.S. U-17 who started out at Cal State Fullerton but then moved to Mexico where he spent time in the Club America system.)

Also worth of mention is the Crew’s Rich Balchan (Indiana). As Coach Robert Warzycha moved pieces around to find the right combinations, Balchan played in the back and midfield for his 19 appearances and might have played more had he not been sidelined for more than a month with an adductor strain.

Nagbe, the No. 2 overall pick and also an Akron product, scored one of the most spectacular goals of the season before falling into a funk. He managed two goals and three assists in 28 games (21 starts).

Bruin (Indiana) scored five goals in 24 games (21 starts), which ties him for the team lead with Geoff Cameron and Brian Ching. Three of those goals came on a hat trick early in the season as Bruin played a minor role during a surge during the final two months that propelled Houston into the playoffs.

Sapong (James Madison) also scored five goals, and registered five assists while battling for playing time with veterans like Kei Kamara as well as second-year stud Teal Bunbury. Sapong only started 23 times yet with a game to go had played in every one (33). In a close vote vs. the defensive contenders, he gets the nod.

MLS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINAL FIVE:
1. CJ Sapong (Kansas City)
2. Perry Kitchen (D.C. United)
3. A.J. Soares (New England)
4. Michael Farfan (Philadelphia)
5. Rich Balchan (Columbus)



No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
ICYMI | MLS: Dynamo breaks crowd record    
The Houston Dynamo set an attendance record at BBVA Compass Stadium, while Crew SC drew its ...
USA's Road to Russia begins in St. Louis    
The USA will open 2018 World Cup qualifying Nov. 13 against the winner of the series ...
What They're Saying: Landon Donovan    
"I always thought if I was in that position I would kind of keep my cool ...
Drogba and Gilberto: A tale of two DPs    
Chicago didn't get its top choice but it did upgrade its attack by signing Gilberto, using ...
MLS Power Rankings: Big win pushes FCD into top spot    
There's a new leader in Soccer America's MLS Power Rankings after a big win by FC ...
Player Ratings: USA reaches new low in Klinsmann era    
Of the 16 matches the USA has played at competitive tournaments in the Jurgen Klinsmann era, ...
European draw for 2018 World Cup produces enticing groups    
A group with former World Cup champions Spain and Italy and another with Netherlands, France and ...
What They're Saying: Mauricio Pochettino    
"[MLS All-Stars coach] Pablo [Mastroeni] and I share something. Pablo is Argentine like me, same nationality.  ...
High times don't faze Tottenham manager    
For many of Tottenham's players, playing at altitude, even in the Mile-High City of Denver at ...
Three-time gold-medalist Boxx will retire after fall tour    
Shannon Boxx, who won three Olympic gold medals to go along with her Women's World Cup ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives