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A Mid-season Look: Sizing up the MLS Rookie Class

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If you followed SBI's pre-draft coverage as well as the 2009 MLS Draft, you knew that this year's rookie class had the chance to be a special one. As we sit half-way through the season, it isn't a stretch to say that this year's rookie crop is off to a flying start.

A total of eleven rookies have started ten or more matches this year, with several players establishing key roles on top teams. This isn't just a case of rookies coming in and playing on bad teams (well, for a few it does). In fact, seven of the eleven rookies with ten or more starts play on winning teams.

Whether it is the D.C. tandem of Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace, or the Toronto FC dynamic duo of Stefan Frei and Sam Cronin, MLS has received a major infusion of young talent at a time when the league sorely needed it.

Here is a look at SBI's mid-season All-Rookie XI

SBI Mid-Season All-Rookie XI

——————-Chris Pontius——-Steve Zakuani——————-

Rodney Wallace——————————————–A.J. Delagarza

——————–Sam Cronin——Nick Zimmerman——————

Matt Besler——Omar Gonzalez—-Darrius Barnes—–Kevin Alston

——————————-Stefan Frei———————————

LA defender A.J. DeLaGarza New York Red Bulls rookie Jeremy Hall gets the honorable mention nod. He is the lone member of the ten-start rookie club not to make this group (I originally had him in ahead of Delagarza, but Hall's form the past month or so has really dipped while Delagarza has played well for LA). Red Bulls rookie Nick Zimmerman, one of the few bright spots in a terrible season, gets the nod ahead of his teammate (and roommate). The other ten selections all have made at least ten starts for their teams. (And please don't get caught up in positions for this group. It obviously wasn't a perfect fit in terms of fielding an actual team, so no, Jeremy Hall hasn't played RM, at least not yet.)

So what does the MLS Rookie of the Year race look like? Here's the SBI Top Five in that race right now:

  • 1. Chris Pontius

  • 2. Stefan Frei

  • 3. Sam Cronin

  • 4. Rodney Wallace

  • T5. Steve Zakuani

  • T5. Omar Gonzalez

It's a two-horse race right now between Pontius and Frei, with Frei enjoying the momentum heading into the second half. Pontius' production has slowed some, but he's still so versatile and key to D.C. United's attack. Frei has emerged as one of the better goalkeepers in the East as a rookie.

I'm sure Seattle fans will insist that Zakuani should be at or near the top of the list. In most years he would be, and while he's arguably the flashiest player in this group, this is a loaded group with every player commanding a key role on a good team. And yes, Omar Gonzalez has entered the conversation. He's the only rookie to start every game for his team this year and he's been a steady centerback for an LA team enjoying a surprisingly strong season. Darrius Barnes was in the conversation at the quarter pole, and could still fight his way back into the picture.

What do you think of this year's rookie class so far? Which players have impressed you? Surprised you? Who do you see winding up as the biggest star in the bunch?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. No one’s going to see this since the post is from 3 days ago, but I admit to being one of the people who doubted the strength of this draft. Possibly the first time I’ve doubted Ives, and of course I was wrong…

  2. Stats so far for 2009 SuperDraft players (apps/starts, and goals/assists where applicable)

    S. Frei TFC 16/16
    M. Kocic DCU 2/2
    S. Ceus COL 0/0

    O. Gonzales LAG 17/17, 1/0
    M. Besler KCW 15/14
    D. Barnes NE 14/14
    J. Hall NY 14/12
    AJ Delagarza LAG 12/11, 0/1
    K. Alston NE 10/10
    G. John DAL 7/6
    M. Holody COL 0/0
    E. Brown SEA 0/0

    R. Wallace DCU 17/16, 2/3
    S. Cronin TFC 16/15, 1/2
    S. Zakuani 16/12, 2/4
    N. Zimmerman NY 7/6
    M. Lahoud CHV 6/2
    B. Husidic CHI 5/2, 0/1
    G. Zusi KCW 5/2
    B. Barklage DCU 4/1
    R. Cox RSL 4/1
    K. Patterson LAG 3/2, 0/1
    A. Gredni CLM 3/1, 0/1
    D. Cruz HOU 2/0
    J. Alexandre RSL 2/0

    C. Pontius DCU 17/15, 4/2
    Q. Amarikwa SJ 13/1, 0/1
    P. Marosevic DAL 3/0
    R. Schunk COL 2/0
    O. White TFC 0/0
    M. Fucito SEA 0/0

    For comparison, here are some numbers from last year (*note: entire season) for the 08 draft class. Seems like 09 draft class is on pace for significantly more PT than last year’s class.

    B. Edwards TFC 6/6
    J. Lambo DAL 0/0

    S. Franklin LAG 27/26, 0/1
    A. Iro CLM 18/11, 1/0
    T. Beltran RSL 15/10, 0/1
    J. James TFC 13/10, 1/0
    C. Myers KCW 10/7
    M. Marquess KCW 5/4, 0/1
    M. Zaher DCU 3/2
    A. Washington CHI 1/1
    J. Valentin LAG 1/1
    D. Horst RSL 1/1
    J. Roberts SJ 1/0
    R. Valentino NE 0/0
    R. Miller DCU 0/0
    R. McKenzie KCW 0/0
    Y. William KCW 0/0

    G. Cameron HOU 23/8, 1/2
    S. Salinas SJ 23/2, 2/0
    R. Espinoza KCW 22/12, 1/3
    S. King CHI 20/8, 2/1
    L. Sassano NY 17/11
    B. McDonald LAG 15/10, 1/1
    E. Avila 14/3, 0/2
    E. Allen LAG 12/11, 1/1
    P. Phelan NE 11/5
    R. Cordiero DCU 8/1, 0/1
    K. Savage 6/3, 0/1
    B. Shea DAL 2/0
    J. Germanese NE 1/0
    C. O’Brien COL 1/0
    B. Grazier COL 0/0
    D. Roth NY 0/0
    P. Lowry CHI 0/0
    A. Nimo RSL 0/0
    B. Tennelle RSL 0/0
    M. Hatzke SJ 0/0

    P. Nyarko CHI 9/2, 1/0
    G. Josten CLM 0/0
    R. Pierre-Louis CLM 0/0
    J. Barlow LAG 0/0

  3. please to see AJ, Omar, and Rodney on here…. UMD soccer was such a fun experience thanks to those guys, and I’m so happy they brought the cup back to my school. How I’ll never forget the nights before games when they had early curfews and would be playing Xbox at all hours of the morning in the apartment below ours!

  4. I believe Zakuani has taken himself out of the rookie race. Stevie Z I believe has some serious health issues that keeps him off the pitch or on only part time. If you look at the last Sounders game with Houston you’ll see Zakuani exhausted at 35 to 40 minutes in, then subbed-out at half time. Management hasn’t come out with a statement on his health, and some people still claim lack of pre-season, yikes. Zakuani has a fitness issue, and I believe it’s also a health issue.

  5. “The University of Maryland soccer program has become a true juggernaut – the soccer equivalent of Ohio State, USC, or Penn State. Rodney Wallace, Jeremy Hall, Omar Gonzalez, Maurice Edu, Robbie Rogers, and Chris Seitz in the past three years alone represents remarkable success for the team. Add names like Taylor Twelleman, Ryan Burch, Danny Califf, and Seth Stammler and it is clear that Sasho Cirovski has established a great program for the long term.”

    The Twerps will have to get in line behind Wake Forest, my friend. Wake is the true collegiate juggernaut.

  6. Jakovic was only in Serbia for 4 months playing pro. He was in College before that. He only played a half a season overseas, before he was bought by MLS. He hasn’t played a full year as a professional yet.

  7. Omar:

    What a dumb comment! Arena needs to bounce out of L.A.? He makes a total crap team WITHOUT Beckham or Donovan into a winning side, but you think he needs to be gone? Well, I’m pretty sure NYRB fans would take him back, and your beloved L.A. could have Juan Carlos Osorryo. How about that?

  8. @loosek

    I believe Ives has been refering to members of the 2009 MLS Superdraft. Jakovic has been a pro for some time, so thats why he’s not in this discussion. Ditto for Brunner.

  9. Listen folks, anybody who has played professionally before this season is NOT a rookie by MLS definition. That means Eric Brunner, Dejan Jackovic, and anybody else who came into MLS from some other pro team, are not rookies.


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