Commentary

MLS's best newcomers come in different packages

From Brian Fernandez and fellow Argentines Cristian Espinoza and Gustavo Bou to American teenagers Julian Araujo and Brenden Aaronson and Malagasy surprise Romain Metanire, Soccer America breaks down MLS's best newcomers by category.

Best Newcomer (Designated Player): Brian Fernandez. The fiery Argentine didn't play his first game with the Portland Timbers until mid-May, but he is already the most dynamic new forward in MLS. He broke a league record for consecutive games with a goal scored to start his MLS career, with five. He won the Timbers' match at archrival Seattle 10 days ago with both goals in the 2-1 win. He also scored two goals against the Sounders in Portland's Open Cup win. With 11 of their last 13 games at home, Fernandez and the seventh-place Timbers are poised to make a run in the Western Conference, and they're also only two wins away from capturing their first Open Cup title.

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Best Newcomer (TAM Signing): Romain Metanire. Minnesota United had the league's best offseason haul, adding league newcomers Vito Mannone in goal and Jan Gregus in midfield to go along with Metanire at right back. (And that's on top of MLS veterans Ike Opara and Osvaldo Alonso picked up from Sporting KC and Seattle, respectively, and rookies Hassani Dotson and Chase Gasper.) Metanire has been so good at right back he was picked to the MLS All-Star team that will face Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. The French-born Metanire started for newcomer Madagascar at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and earned all-tournament honors.

Best Newcomer (Loan Player): Cristian Espinoza. Signed on loan from Spain's Villarreal using Targeted Allocation Money, Espinoza bounced around clubs on loan in Spain (Alaves and Real Valladolid) and Argentina (Boca Juniors), but he has certainly found a home in San Jose. Espinoza, 23, has thrived in the San Jose Earthquakes' all-out assault on opponents, leading the team with nine assists. Espinoza, who played for Argentina at the 2015 U-20 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, is on a one-year loan, but the Quakes would be wise to try to secure his services on a long-term deal.

Best Newcomer (Mid-Season Signing): Gustavo Bou. The New England Revolution was doing just fine without him -- unbeaten in eight straight games -- but since the Argentine striker arrived from Tijuana, the Revs have won all three games by a margin of 10-1 to climb into the playoff zone in the Eastern Conference. Bou, 29, has already scored golazos against Vancouver and Orlando City to go along with the game-winning assist against FC Cincinnati. After the Cincinnati game, La Pantera said, "It’s only going to get better." Watch out.



Best Newcomer (Rookie): Julian Araujo. This year's rookie class isn't deep, but the 17-year-old Araujo has been outstanding at right back in the 10 games he played for the LA Galaxy. He even put in a shift in midfield, setting up Zlatan Ibrahimovic's first goal in the Galaxy's 3-2 win over LAFC in their first El Trafico meeting. It was the sixth game the Galaxy has won with Araujo on the field. All this in a season that saw him go to Poland as a last-minute replacement for the U.S. U-20 World Cup team. Recent comments about being open to playing for Mexico should have U.S. fans nervous.

MLS Rookies (most minutes):
1. Andre Shinyashiki
, Colorado (882)
2. DeJuan Jones
, New England (844)
3. Edwin Cerrillo
, FC Dallas (828)
4. Frankie Amaya
, FC Cincinnati (826)
5. Donovan Pines
, D.C. United (733)

Best Newcomer (Homegrown Player): Brenden Aaronson. The Philadelphia Union has one of the most productive academy programs in MLS. It started most of last season with Homegrowns Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie at center back. In 2019, Aaronson has been a surprise addition in midfield. The 18-year-old Jersey kid has started 19 games in midfield for the Eastern Conference leader and shown no sign of slowing down.



Photos: Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire, New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union.

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