[MLS SPOTLIGHT]How good is this year's rookie class? We'll only know down the road just how good are players like DeAndre Yedlin, Gyasi Zardes, Dillon Powers and Andrew Farrell, but they certainly have done better than last year's rookie class. A look at last year's rookie class offers a cautionary note. Of the 11 rookies who played 1,000 or more minutes in 2012, only six are starting regularly in 2013, and only one rookie, New England's Kelyn Rowe, is starting regularly for a team in the playoff zone.
The first thing that is evident about the 2013 rookie class is that the standout players are all playing for playoff contenders -- title contenders in the case of Yedlin's Sounders and Zardes' Galaxy and 2013 surprises like Powers' Rapids and Farrell's Revs.
The other factor is the growing influence of the MLS academy system. Seven of the 12 rookies who have already played 1,000-plus minutes in 2013 were signed from their academy teams even if two of them, Carlos Salcedo (Real Salt Lake) and Jonathan Osorio(Toronto FC), aren't technically homegrown players.
Last year, New York's Connor Lade was the only one of the 11 rookies to play 1,000-plus minutes who was a homegrown signing, and he has faded from the picture in 2013.
Besides Rowe, the only 2012 rookies who have duplicated their success in 2013 are all defenders: Austin Berry(Chicago),Matt Hedges (FC Dallas)andRaymon Gaddis (Philadelphia).
Perhaps the best player from the rookie class of 2012 is Chris Klute, who played all of one game for Colorado in 2012 after signing from the Atlanta Silverbacks in midseason. He already has seven assists this season and has emerged as one of the best left backs in MLS.
Indeed, Klute is one of three MLS sophomores who have played 1,000-plus minutes and played just one game in 2012. His 90 minutes were more than Rapids teammate Shane O'Neill (four minutes) or Chivas USA defender Marky Delgado (17 minutes) got in 2012.
Like Klute, O'Neill won a starting job on the Rapids early in the season, and he kept it after returning from the U-20 World Cup.
MLS's strict construction of its rookie criteria -- rookies are players with no previous pro experience at any level -- means that Klute, O'Neill and Delgado are ineligible for 2013 Rookie of the Year consideration -- MLB rules allow for players to keep their rookie status until they have up to 130 at-bats in previous seasons -- as is Rapids keeper Clint Irwin, whose only previous "pro" experience was in third level USL PRO.
Perhaps the most amazing story of the 2013 MLS season has been Colorado's success. The Rapids are in playoff contention despite regularly starting five players whose previous first division pro experience was a combined two games, the one MLS game each played by Klute and O'Neill in 2012.
2013 MLS Rookie Class(1000+ minutes):
MIN. PLAYER, TEAM
2398 Dillon Powers, Colorado (4 goals, 4 assists)
2363 Andrew Farrell, New England (1 assist)
2171 (HG) DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle (1 goal, 2 assists)
2022 Carlos Alvarez, Chivas USA (2 goals, 3 assists)
1936 Deshorn Brown, Colorado (7 goals, 3 assists)
1813 (HG) Scott Caldwell, New England (1 goal, 2 assists)
1720 (HG) Gyasi Zardes, Los Angeles (3 goals, 1 assist)
1439 Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC (5 goals)
1365 (HG) Chad Barson, Columbus
1070 Carlos Salcedo, Real Salt Lake
1055 Adam Jahn, San Jose (4 goals, 1 assist)
1029 (HG) Will Trapp, Columbus (1 assist)
2012 MLS Rookie Class (1000+ minutes):
MIN. PLAYER, TEAM (STATS)
2520 *Austin Berry, Chicago (3 goals)
2175 *Nick DeLeon, D.C. United (6 goals, 4 assists)
2088 (HG) Connor Lade, New York (3 assists)
2061 *Luis Silva, Toronto FC (5 goals, 5 assists)
2022 *Matt Hedges, FC Dallas (3 goals)
1897 *Kelyn Rowe, New England (3 goals, 5 assists)
1692 Tony Cascio, Colorado (3 goals, 3 assists)
1620 Ryan Meara, New York (1.50 GAA)
1475 *Raymon Gaddis, Philadelphia (1 assist)
1300 Darren Mattocks, Vancouver (7 goals, 1 assist)
1156 Andy Rose, Seattle (1 goal, 1 assist)
*regular starters in 2013.
2013 MLS Sophomore Class(1000+ minutes):
MIN. PLAYER, TEAM (STATS)
2610 Austin Berry, Chicago (1 goal, 2 assists)
2478 Matt Hedges, FC Dallas (3 goals)
2336 Chris Klute, Colorado (7 assists)
2255 Raymon Gaddis, Philadelphia
2142 Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Portland (1 goal, 1 assist)
2078 Kelyn Rowe, New England (7 goals, 6 assists)
1683 Luis Silva, D.C. United (3 goals, 4 assists)
1676 Nick DeLeon, D.C. United (1 goal, 1 assist)
1837 (HG) Shane O'Neill, Colorado
1247 (HG) Marky Delgado, Chivas USA (1 assist)
1220 Warren Creavelle, Houston (3 goals, 2 assists)
1011 (HG) Jose Villarreal, LA Galaxy (2 goals, 1 assist)