Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
D.C. United’s visit to square off with the Chicago Fire on Saturday is one of the weekend’s marquee MLS matches, and not just because second place in the Eastern Conference is up for grabs.
The two front-runners for Rookie of the Year, Fire centerback Austin Berry and United midfielder Nick DeLeon, are set to do battle in the match with postseason implications and it will provide both of them one last opportunity to show why they should be named the top rookie of the 2012 class. Berry and DeLeon won’t be matched up directly against one another, but they should still cross paths aplenty in the match that was announced as a sell-out on Friday.
Berry and DeLeon may be competing against one another on Saturday and in the race for Rookie of the Year, but the two have some history together after having been teammates at Louisville. That might explain why they both have made playful campaigns for why they should be win this year’s award, with Berry most recently responding to DeLeon going on video and saying he eats defenders for breakfast after munching on some cereal from a box that the Fire defender is plastered on the front of.
While the duo may be having fun with it all after their respective strong first seasons, Saturday’s game at Toyota Park will be no laughing matter. D.C. has a one point advantage over Chicago in the standings, but a loss for either team could see them drop down to fourth or fifth place should the New York Red Bulls see off the Philadelphia Union and if the Houston Dynamo top the Colorado Rapids.
That means the loser of the Fire-United fixture could realistically wind up playing in the knockout round of the playoffs, perhaps even as a visitor. It is for that reason alone that both Berry and DeLeon will need to try and deliver top performances for their clubs, as failing to do so by either could prove damning for their hopes of reaching and winning the MLS Cup final.
Not to mention the Rookie of the Year award.
Photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIphotos.com
Which of these two rookies do you think had a better season? Agree that one of them will win the Rookie of the Year award? Think someone else should win it?
Share your thoughts below.