Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Big Improvement In Rookie Class
by Ridge Mahoney, September 4th, 2009 3:30PM
Subscribe to Soccer America Confidential

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

All those voters who last year named Sean Franklin as their top choice for MLS Rookie of the Year are in a real pickle this time around.

Franklin, certainly, did a credible job in the middle for a bad Galaxy team, though his natural spot is right back. Still, a team that conceded 62 goals, as the Galaxy did last year, deserves a lot of blame to be spread around, despite his toughness and blistering pace.

This year's rookie crop is far superior to that of last year, when top offensive candidate Kheli Dube finished the season with just four goals and four assists, and the other finalist, Geoff Cameron, played several positions and started only eight games.

There are not one, but two, Galaxy rookie defenders vying for the honor this year, and even should A.J. DeLaGarza lose out to teammate Omar Gonzalez, it has to be said both have been better and more consistent - as has been the Galaxy as a team -- than Franklin was in 2008.

So have many other rookies, especially D.C. United's Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace, Sam Cronin and Stefan Frei of Toronto, and another back-line pairing, that of Kevin Alston and Darrius Barnes in New England.

This year's bunch has talent, certainly, but what has impressed veterans like United midfielder Ben Olsen, who's seen Pontius and Wallace on a daily basis since preseason began, and observed Wallace during his college career, is their maturity.

"I've been very impressed," says Olsen, who in the Open Cup final was replaced by Wallace in the 82nd minute. "Not much fazes him. He's one of those kids who loves to go out there and get on with it, very confident.

"We didn't know much about Chris until he came, but it didn't take more than a couple days to see that he was a player. What has struck me about both of them is how mature they are, and the composure and savvy that they have at their age. I certainly didn't have that composure when I was that age. That was nice to see."

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena gambled by putting his two rookie defenders side-by-side on the right, with veteran Gregg Berhalter as the left central defender and Todd Dunivant at left back. Arena's reasoning was simple; they played together at Maryland, which would accelerate both their development as professional players as well as foster better communication in the back. Franklin may regain his spot when he recovers from a torn hamstring - he resumed training just this week - but it won't be an easy process.

"They were a little bit wide-eyed when they came in, but that didn't last long," says Dunivant of Gonzalez and DeLaGarza. "You could tell they had already learned a lot of the lessons it takes some rookies a while to figure out."

Midfielder Cronin and goalkeeper Frei have stabilized TFC in the middle of the park, and further tweaking in midseason by Coach Chris Cummins - who dropped veteran goalie Greg Sutton to signal his confidence in Frei - has added more pace and energy for the stretch run. As a whole, the league's style of play is more physical and less polished than in its formative years, which critics may bemoan but coaches have little choice other than to find the players capable of success within those parameters.

Maybe that's the secret: get a pair of good rookies and play them both, though No. 1 pick Steve Zakuani has done pretty well more or less on his own in Seattle. For this year's rich crop of rookies, their talent and zeal override the errors of inexperience.

"It's important to have a couple of young guys because that spirit, that energy is contagious," says Olsen, who broke into the league in 1998 after playing at the University of Virginia. "On the field, it's nice to have some young legs running around for you, especially when you're a 32-year-old, one-legged man in midfield."

 

 



No comments yet.

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




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Confidential
Michael Bradley: USA prepared 'to tilt the bar in our favor' early against Honduras    
As they train in San Jose for a crucial Hexagonal match against Honduras on Friday, the ...
Next move for Real Salt Lake is the most crucial in a decade    
The history of RSL is one of remarkable stability -- just three head coaches since starting ...
U.S. roster announcement: Bruce Arena's return marked by a singleness of purpose    
Multiply the left-back debate with a few more positions each with several candidates and you'll have ...
Quakes encouraged but not giddy after impressive opener    
Four seasons without playoffs has left the fervent fans in San Jose discouraged, but a ray ...
MLS 1-22: Ranking the teams on the eve of a new season    
Eight different teams have played in the last four MLS Cup finals and last year, 2015 ...
Random thoughts as the MLS season draws near    
The 2017 MLS season starts next Friday, March 3, more than a month earlier than the ...
Walker Zimmerman joins the U.S. centerback pool with solid performance    
Two FC Dallas centerbacks were summoned to the first U.S, camp of 2017 and after Matt ...
Rare USA golazo inspires some hope    
One swallow doesn't make a summer, but the USA delivered something impressive with its goal in ...
Greg Garza, soccer wanderer, finds place to start anew, again    
A long voyage to several continents has led U.S. international Greg Garza to the MLS startup ...
With first Arena game out of the way, U.S. players can re-focus on task at hand    
The message going forward for the U.S, team after it opened 2017 by tying Serbia 0-0 ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives