By Ridge Mahoney
They vied for the lead neck-and-neck for much of the season, then it was Deshorn Brown pulling away from Colorado teammate Dillon Powers in the Rookie of the Year race.
Those weren’t the only two contestants, as several other first-year pros found their feet early in the season and provided valuable contributions to their teams. Yet Brown and Powers finished as their team’s top two scorers, and while a rash of injuries provided their initial opportunities, they held their spots for a team that improved from an 11-19-4 record last year to a 14-11-9 mark and a return to the playoffs.
Brown, picked No. 6 overall out of Central Florida by the Rapids, came within one goal of Damani Ralph’s rookie record of 11 goals set in 2003. In 31 appearances (24 starts) Brown scored 10 goals and recorded four assists in 2,174 minutes of play. Like Ralph, he’s a native of Jamaica blessed with a speed and a keen knack of knifing into threatening positions. He scored the second-fastest goal in league history, 14 seconds after the opening kickoff, in a 5-1 demolition of the Sounders Oct. 5.
Deshorn’s teammate Powers, the 11th overall pick out of Notre Dame, started 29 of 30 games in midfield and finished the season with five goals, six assists, and numerous opponents befuddled by his mastery of the ball. He and Brown carried the bulk of the Rapids’ attack until the midseason arrivals of Gabriel Torres and Vicente Sanchez, but those arrivals didn't sideline the two rookies. In the 3-2 defeat of Vancouver Oct. 19 that clinched a playoff spot, Torres scored twice, and Brown also netted with a clever chip.
Colorado wasn’t the only team to rely heavily on rookies this season. Two first-year pros played integral roles for the Revs. No. 1 SuperDraft pick Andrew Farrell started in each of his 32 appearances (2,813 minutes) in the back line and committed just 12 fouls, though he was sent off once. Scott Caldwell took over the holding midfield role early enough to start 23 of 29 games (2,174 minutes) and register two assists.
Like Caldwell, Sounders right back DeAndre Yedlin is a Homegrown signing who made good. Yedlin, 20, locked up the right-back job early in the season and among rookies only Farrell exceeded his 2,710 minutes played (31 games, 30 starts). TFC academy product Jonathan Osorio started 18 of 28 games in midfield, scored five goals, and registered one assist. Carlos Alvarez, whose SuperDraft selection at No. 2 prompted some skepticism, played 29 games for Chivas USA with two goals and three assists.
Signed as a Homegrown player by the Galaxy last December, and thus held out of the SuperDraft after scoring 38 goals in three collegiate seasons at Cal State Bakersfield, Gyasi Zardes played wide midfield and up front for the Galaxy. He scored four goals and registered four assists in 27 games (23 starts).
Here are the top five in the chase for Rookie of the Year:
1. Deshorn Brown (Colorado).
2. Andrew Farrell (New England).
3. Dillon Powers (Colorado).
4. DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle).
5. Gyasi Zardes (Los Angeles).
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