[MLS SPOTLIGHT] It is getting harder and harder for rookies to break into MLS lineups. In the first month of the season, just four rookies started regularly. The top rookies so far have been Chivas USA's Tommy McNamara and Chicago's Harry Shipp. But of the 10 first-round picks in the 2014 SuperDraft, just one, Eric Miller, has started and only three have even played.
McNamara, who played three seasons at Brown and was a fifth-year senior at Clemson last fall, has been a big surprise for Chivas USA, which took him with the 20th pick in the draft, though its coach, Wilmer Cabrera, said his staff had targeted him as its primary target in the draft. McNamara has provided a spark in midfield for Chivas USA, which is 1-1-2 after four games, showing his versatility by playing both in the middle and on the left side.
2014 MLS SuperDraft:
19 picked, 19 *signed, 5 played, 3 loaned out.
19 picked, 14 signed, 4 played, 5 loaned out.
19 picked, 9 signed, 3 played, 1 loaned out.
19picked, 1 signed.
*Ryan Neil was drafted by Real Salt Lake but signed by San Jose.
Shipp already has two assists in three starts for the Fire since taking over in the lineup for Dilly Duka after the 3-2 loss at Chivas USA in the opener. Shipp's play for the Fire is no surprise to its staff, either. He had trained with the Fire last summer between his junior and senior years at Notre Dame, which he led to its first national championship in 2013.
Miller has impressed Impact coach Frank Klopas, who kept him in the starting backline even with the insertion of newly signed Heath Pearce at left back against Philadelphia. Klopas switched Miller from the left side to the right and benched Jeb Brovsky.
The only other rookie to start regularly has been former SIU-Edwardsville goalie John Bernerin place of the injured Clint Irwin at Colorado, but Irwin should probably go back in goal Saturday at Vancouver. The Rapids finished with three rookies on the field in their 3-2 loss to Sporting Kansas City as Jared Watts (replacing the suspendedJose Mari) and Marlon Hairston saw their first minutes of the season.
The 2014 SuperDraft was not considered to be a strong one, so it comes as no surprise that just 12 of the 76 players taken have played. Perhaps surprising is how little the top picks have played. The top four picks have played a combined 13 minutes. No. 3 pick Christian Dean has made one appearance for Vancouver, while No. 1 Andre Blake, No. 2 Stephen Birnbaum and No. 4 Steve Neumann have yet to play.
Shipp is one of three Homegrown signings in 2014 to have played. Jordan Allen (Real Salt Lake) and Sean Okoli (Seattle) have both looked promising in brief appearances.
-- Eight draft picks and six Homegrown signings have been loaned out NASL or USL PRO teams.
2014 MLS Rookies:
MIN. PLAYER, TEAM (PREVIOUS)
360 Eric Miller, Montreal (5th pick, Creighton)
336 Tommy McNamara(1 goal), Chivas USA (20th pick, Clemson)
270 John Berner, Colorado (35th pick, SIU-Edwardsville).
246 Harry Shipp(2 assists), Chicago (HG, Notre Dame)
90 Jared Watts, Colorado (33rd pick, Wake Forest).
78 J.J. Koval, San Jose (9th pick, Stanford).
45 Patrick Mullins, New England (11th pick, Maryland)
22 Kristopher Tyrpak, Chivas USA (40th pick, Houston Baptist)
18 Sean Okoli, Seattle (HG, Wake Forest)
15 Alex Martinez, Sporting KC (57th pick, N.C. State).
13 Christian Dean, Vancouver (3rd pick, California)
9 Jordan Allen, Real Salt Lake (HG, Virginia)
6 Mark Sherrod, Houston (32nd pick, Memphis).
2 Marlon Hairston, Colorado (12th pick, Louisville)
1 Adam Bedell, Columbus (45th pick, Detroit-Mercy).