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MLS rookie class impresses in Week One

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Remember how you kept hearing over and over that the 2009 MLS Draft class was one of the strongest and deepest in recent memory? That draft class showed just how strong it is this past weekend as a whopping nine rookies earned starts and several others came off the bench to make key contributions.

You had four draft picks earn starts in the LA-DC match, including first-round pick Chris Pontius' first career goal, you had New England start two, yes two, rookies in its defense on the way to posting a shutout in a 1-0 win vs. San Jose. Then you had Toronto FC, with a rookie in goal and one in central midfield in its 3-2 victory against Kansas City.

Here is a look at the performances of the 2009 MLS Draft picks:

MLS Rookie Team of the Week:

———Chris Pontius——–Quincy Amarikwa—–

———————–Graham Zusi——————–

Rodney Wallace————————Kyle Patterson

————————Sam Cronin——————–

A.J. De La Garza———————–Kevin Alston

———–Darrius Barnes—–Omar Gonzalez——-

————————Stefan Frei——————–

Nine of the 11 players on this squad earned starts, with LA's Kyle Patterson and San Jose's Quincy Amarikwa coming off the bench.

Standouts among the rookies? New England rookie Kevin Alston was arguably the rookie player of the week for his stellar performance at right back against Darren Huckerby and San Jose. Yes, Huckerby had a handful of chances (which he missed badly), but Alston showed a lot of ability and closed down as many plays as he allowed. He and Darrius Barnes were sharp in the Revs defense.

D.C. rookies Pontius and Wallace both looked good in their debuts. Wallace recorded an assist and Pontius because the first rookie to score this season with a memorable.

Not all of the rookies enjoyed strong debuts. KC rookie Graham Zusi had some expected struggles against Toronto FC's high-powered midfield while Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei was pretty powerless to stop Davy Arnaud's two stunning goals. Frei did still record the victory, the first of what should be many for the standout goalkeeper.

One player not on this list who played well was New York rookie Jeremy Hall. He did not start, but came on as a first-half substitute in the Red Bulls' 3-0 loss to Seattle and was one of the few bright spots for New York. He showed good attacking quality and poise from the right back position and looks like a safe bet to be starting for the Red Bulls next week.

What did you think of how the 2009 MLS Draft class did this past weekend? Which players impressed you the most? Which player disappointed you?

Share your thoughts on how MLS rookies did in week one in the comments section below.


  1. Most of Huckerby’s chances came after he switched sides to face Tierney instead of Alston (both a compliment to Alston’s play and an accurate indication of Tierney’s)

  2. I think Suttons finger is still injured from Charleston, that being said Frei is still relatively unproven (didnt have to face much in the KC game) BUT still might get the start over Sutton to see what he has

  3. I’m both a DCU and a Maryland fan, and I’m surprised about the high praise for Wallace. I thought he played well enough for about as long as DC did (between the 20th and 80th minutes). He did well when we were going into the attack. However, in the first 20 minutes he gave Klein more opportunities to cross than you’d like to see an opponent get in 90 minutes, and gave the ball away virtually every time it came to him. Basically, when DC was doing well, he looked good, but during our awful start and the chaotic final 10 minutes, he struggled. I think the potential is there for him to become a high quality player, and that he’s further along than I thought he’d be, but at the same time he’s got a lot of work to do.

    Pontius looked good enough to be a regular. He’s very astute, and while he might not be as flashy as Moreno, he’s got that same kind of shiftiness, and that same tendency to be able to find what defenses are giving him and take advantage. A lot of rookies wouldn’t have had the confidence to go for goal, even with LA basically standing aside for him to do so. Most guys on their pro debut would have looked to dish to Emilio or Gomez, and in that situation it would have been a mistake. I think the thing that will stop him from being a rookie of the year candidate will be playing time. When Moreno and Emilio can play, they start. However, if he trains like he played Sunday, Soehn is going to have a hard time keeping him on the bench.

  4. I agree with the earlier poster that Alston could be the real deal – quick, strong, athletic and seemed to read the game well.

    Amerikawa may turn out to be the surprise rookie of them all if he can begin knocking them in the back of the net. He’s strong and fast too, and looks to have a quick shot.

  5. USMNT material? Too early to say. Alston, Hall, and Wallace have a decent chance considering how weak the fullback competition usually is. Cronin is quality at a stacked position. Gonzalez has youth experience and is considered a top prospect. Pontius will eventually get looks if he continues to score.

    Few have ever mentioned Delagarza, Barnes, Zusi, or Amarikwa as USMNT propsects lately. But I haven’t seen much of Amarikwa yet.

    Frei is Swiss (and plays from them IIRC). Patterson is English (probably not that close to US citizenship).

    Alston and Gonzalez probably have the best chance to start most games this season though Alston will get some competition (Badilla is injured, Albright was suspended, Heaps is a veteran starter, & NE may always revert back to 3 in the back). Pontius, Wallace, and maybe Zusi look like frequent starters right now. I say Zusi because all chatter from KC points toward coaching loving him there (Kevin Souter held the LM spot last year – is he injured?).

  6. i think hall will be this years ROY! he will put the ball in the net for the red bulls and also shut down any attack down the right side with his great speed. Hall will be on that national team in years to come mark my words.

  7. Apart from the goal, Pontius played great.

    I couldn’t believe he was a draft pick.

    This again shows the possiblity and the future of the country and league developing more great players.

  8. Cronin sent this long diagonal ball downfield to De Rosario, the kind of ball that reminded me of the work of David Beckham. It was perfectly weighted with a slight curve, leading De Ro.
    He’s a pretty nifty passer.

  9. Seitz dosen’t suck, he single handeldy helped the u20 beat brazil in the wc. I think after spending that much time on the bench without even getting a shot is frustrating and to know people are asking about picking you up and your club keeps saying no, I think he’s probably just over it and I can’t blame him personally I would ask to play me or trade me. La could use him so could Chivas.

  10. Dan- yea he was putting up stats in preseason, but you know preseson is….. I like Lopez as the withdrawn forward that can find space and distribute which is all he needs to do with Arnaud making runs through the middle, Onalfo should goe with Hirsig on the right and Espinoza on the right next game.

  11. sayerville: the 4-4-2 is DCU’s preferred setup, but without Tino and Fred on the wings, the 3-5-2 was necessary. you’ll see the 4-4-2 as soon as both those guys are healthy.

  12. amarikwa (f#&k yeah!) was unlucky not to score- only an unlucky deflection kept it out. this year’s shea salinas, should get more minutes than shea did last year, especially if our other forwards keep missing chances like they did on saturday.

  13. I think in time Rodney Wallace is going to be a very good left back. He’s OK as a mid but he played LB last year for the Terps and that’s where I see him as a pro.

    If he settles in there, I think United will switch to a 4-back set.

    Ives, Wallace has a green card; do you know how long he has to go before he can get US citizenship? I’d hate to lose him to Costa Rica after he grew up in the US, went to college here and started pro ball here.

    Oh, and Alston and Hall were both very good. I still think Marvell Wynne is the heir-apparent to Cherundolo at RB for the US but I think Hall, who should definitely start for NY this week, and Alston are gonna push him.

    Pontius’ strike was money but not a huge surprise to anyone who saw him consistently at UCSB.

    Having said all that, when it all settles I won’t be surprised if Omar Gonzalez is Rookie of the Year.

  14. MVK, Espinoza is not going to switch sides he’s a left sided midfielder and will stay there, he has to beat out Lopez for that spot. As for that idea even to begin with, Zusi had a VERY impressive preseason and earned the chance to start. Obviously in his first start in a real game he was in a little over his head.

  15. Frei single-handedly shut-down Pontius (&UCSB) in the NCAA tourney last year. He has a couple BLISTERING shots that were parried with ease. (This while hearing cat-calls and heckling about his mothers potential lewd behavior for well over 90min) Very few keepers could have done this especially ones currently in the MLS. Ives, I’m calling that Frei will start for the Swiss Nat’s soon. The hype is justified.

  16. Zusi shouldnt see the field for atleast a month, he was clearly not ready and cost the Wizards points. Onaflo’s idea to start him was questionable considering Espinoza is healthy and game ready even if he has to switch sides; the game changed when Zusi was taken out for Hirsig, the Wizards then dominated. I hope I do dont see Onaflo run out Zusi for a very long time.

  17. Frei is the real deal and there are going to be a handful of teams kicking themselves that they didn’t take Frei earlier.

    Pontius is my choice to Rookie of the Year, although I think Cronin might be in the running if TFC makes a strong push this year.

    I just hope it’s not a defender again on the worst team in MLS. Sorry AJ and Omar.

  18. Zusi had a critical mistake. Him getting stripped of the ball in midfield allowed Toronto to lead a counter attack for TFC’s first goal.

  19. Even though RBNY were painfully disappointing, I agree that Hall was a bright spot that gives me hope for a stronger NY team. As much as it hurt to watch the game, I was happy to see Hall making a difference…even if it wasn’t enough.

  20. Edwards started last year because Sutton had not recovered from his concussion symptoms. Sutton was on the bench Saturday, so he must of been healthy.

  21. Was at the DC/LA game, and Pontius goal happened right in front of us…what a beautiful strike!!!

    LA’s rookies made some mistakes, but also showed some hustle to recover from them, and potential for the future. Omar was strong in the air, and almost had a goal. Overall the young backline gave me hope for future, becuase these guys should get better (something we couldn’t say about last year’s geriatric group).

    Patterson was a nice spark off the bench…a role he may thrive in this year.

  22. De La Garza is from my hometown. He was a forward in high school like pretty much every other MLS player. He has speed and great footwork, played D for the Terps, and is very small (5’9″ 145 lbs.) so he is perfect for an outside back position.

    I was shocked by Pontius’ performance. I had never seen him play before, but he has made the transition to the MLS with ease. He looked calm and collected on the ball, and had several other chances to score.

    Thought Wallace looked slow, but thats probably because I’m used to him running on a small field against collegiate opponents.

  23. This is a story I wasn’t thinking about – thanks for putting the info out there Ives. Now, as a Fire fan, what I notice is that none of our rookies got a start. In fact only one (Dimitrov) even made it to the bench. It looks like some of our recent rookies (Pappa and Nyarko in particular) will be making an impact this year, but it’s always cool to see new guys take off.

  24. Watched the DC/LA game and was so impressed with both Wallace and Pontius. It’s been a long time since we saw draft talent in the DC lineup and it was really nice!

  25. Patterson showed promise,(great ball on Donovan’s legitimate goal) and De La Garza looked ok after a shaky start. 3 Galaxy players on the rookie team of the week, not bad.

  26. I don’t think Frei getting the season opener means anything yet. Edwards was in goal for Toronto’s season opener against Columbus last year before Sutton took over.

  27. I’m amazed how many rookies got the start. I didn’t see all the games, but I was impressed by the skills and poise of a number of these guys; really just about all of them.

    Ives you called it – this is proving to be a very deep draft. Unlike last year, rookie of the year is going to be an interesting contest.

  28. I think Zakuani looked very good in his debut for Seattle. He got a decent shot off with his first touch and he brought a lot of energy when Seattle was looking too tire a bit. The way they are stacked up front he won’t get many starts unless there is an injury.

  29. As a Galaxy fan but UC Santa Barbara alum, I had mix emotions about Pontius’ goal. Didn’t know cheer to get mad.

    Nevertheless it was a beauty, and it was textbook Pontius. He has been doing that move for several years at UCSB. If he continues to perform this well, I see him as lock for Moreno’s replacement.

  30. Ives, Cronin mostly operated out on the right for TFC–though arguably at KC everything is in the middle; how narrow is that field?


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