[MLS AWARDS: Rookie of the Year] For the third time since it commenced MLS play in 1998, Chicago has produced the league’s Rookie of the Year. Centerback Austin Berry, drafted out of Louisville with the ninth overall pick in the SuperDraft last January, was named Monday by MLS as the third Fire rookie -- following Carlos Bocanegra (2000) and Damani Ralph (2003) -- to win top honors.
In the voting conducted among players, league officials, and media members, Berry easily outdistanced runner-up Nick DeLeon of D.C. United with a weighted total of 140.67. DeLeon, a former teammate at Louisville, was second with 73.83, followed by Darren Mattocks of Vancouver (26.19), Luis Silva of Toronto FC (18.93) and Connor Lade of New York (8.76).
Berry received 51.79 percent of votes from the teams, 56.92 percent of media votes, and 22.68 percent from his fellow players. He led in all three categories.
An injury early in the season to veteran Cory Gibbs opened the door for Berry, who set a team record for a rookie by starting in the next 28 consecutive regular-season games. He scored a goal in his debut against Chivas USA May 4, a few minutes after giving away a penalty kick, and finished the season with three. Berry and former German international Arne Friedrich anchored the Fire defense most of the time; Chicago allowed 41 goals, the second-best total in the Eastern Conference.
“He’s done an incredible job for us,” says Fire attacker Chris Rolfe, who came back to the team this year after playing four seasons in Europe. “Anybody who comes in his first year and play the number of games he’s played is remarkable in itself, but as a player, he’s so grounded and always trying to get better. He’s very humble and that’s the thing that will help him out a lot. He has the potential to jump up to the national team and go to Europe and do these sorts of things if that’s what he wants. We’re very fortunate to have him.”
Berry played for the Fire’s PDL team and says that experience proved to be a crucial phase I his development.
“I kept an open mind coming into this season,” said Berry, a native of Cincinnati and a two-time NSCAA All-American at Louisville. “I had the opportunity to come up with the Fire and play in their PDL program. It was a good experience for me being a young player and just being in a professional environment. We got to practice next to the first team every day so I got to see guys like Logan [Pause]running around. It gave us a good look at what the environment was like. I had a good familiarity with the team and the whole club so transitioning this year was a lot easier.”
Pause was named the winner of the Xbox Fair Play Award. The Fire captain, playing his 10th season, started 31 of 32 games, and during his 2,424 minutes played this season was not carded and committed just 11 fouls. Pause missed two matches this season after suffering two broken ribs and pneumothorax in a game against Philadelphia.