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Who is leading the MLS rookie of the year race?

Omar Gonzalez 1 (  

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As we hit the three-quarter mark in the current MLS season, the race for MLS rookie of the year honors is still too close to call.

While D.C. United standouts Chris Pontius  and Rodney Wallace were among the front-runners at the half-way point, the race has changed some as some rookies hit the wall and some see their roles change.

Los Angeles Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez has arguably become the front-runner after establishing himself as a rock in the back for a Galaxy team that currently boasts one of the best records in MLS. Fellow ACC alum Darrius Barnes is also in the mix as he too has solidified a starting role on a top contender.

As it stands, Gonzalez, Barnes and Toronto FC rookie goalkeeper Stefan Frei look like top picks, while Pontius, Wallace and Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuani also gets consideration. Toronto FC Sam Cronin became the first rookie draft pick to get a national team cap and has quietly become an integral part of the TFC squad.

So here's our question:Who gets your vote for MLS rookie of the year right now? Do you give it the steady Gonzalez, the impressive Frei or the dynamic Zakuani or Pontius? Cast your vote here:

What does the SBI ballot look like right now? Here's our Top Five:

  • 1. Omar Gonzalez

  • 2. Stefan Frei

  • 3. Darrius Barnes

  • 4. Chris Pontius

  • 5. Steve Zakuani

  • 6. Rodney Wallace


Who got your vote? What rookie has surprised you the most? Which rookie do yo see having the brightest future?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Maybe the best question we could ask about all the members of what may be MLS’ best rookie class is, Which one of these guys has the highest ceiling? My opinion is, Steve Zakuani. Sigi knew when he took Zaki #1 that there’s no way you can teach that type of pace.

  2. I’ve only seen NE play twice this year, but in both matches Kevin Alston has been a stud. He deserves a lot more love than he is being shown by the writers.

  3. “Like that OOO-mar, takes me back to my Maryland soccer days, helped start “The Crew”, best college soccer fans in the country, big game tonight UCLA v MD in College Park tonight

    Posted by: froboy | September 04, 2009 at 08:17 AM”

    You must be high. Best college soccer fans in the country my ass. Here’s a word for you…Locos. Learn it, love it, live it. The Crew is shite.

  4. “Zakuani is overrated. only 3 goals this season should disqualify you if you’re a forward.

    Posted by: hendrix | September 03, 2009 at 01:23 PM ”

    Zakuani is a left mid. Know what you’re talking about before you post.

  5. Barnes flies under the radar because he plays a quietly efficient game.

    Take this into account: he has played every minute of every game this season, has given up only *9* fouls from the centerback position and has been a mainstay of one of MLS’ best defenses.

    Alston is also very good defensively, but needs to be more reliable distributing the ball.

  6. Omar Gonazalez would be my number 1! Number 2 would be AJ DE LA CRUZ. The rest of the rookie class are just avearge MLS players with no future in USMNT or in euro!

    Omar & AJ are the best of the best in this years rookie class. L.A last year was horrible on D-side, this year with those two fellows they have been spectacular considering they were college soccer kids a year ago.

  7. Frei came in, and pushed out a National team goaltender for the number one spot for Toronto FC; that says a lot to me. He’s been a huge bright spot for TFC this season, and has been just a solid player back there.

    As for Sam Cronin, he is the best crosser of the ball that I have ever seen on TFC, and arguably one of the best in the league. He hustles round the clock, always goes in hard.

    Both of these guys get huge kudos for doing so well in their first season at TFC, regardless of whether or not they win RotY or not

  8. Like that OOO-mar, takes me back to my Maryland soccer days, helped start “The Crew”, best college soccer fans in the country, big game tonight UCLA v MD in College Park tonight

  9. The sign of a really great player is demonstrated when that player elevates the play of others around him. I have seen Pontius do this over and over again this season.

    When you have a rookie on your team outshine the DP and major vets on the team, he is something special. Chris Pontius will be a National Team player. He is one of the most complete players as a rookie as I have ever seen in watching MLS throughout its entire 14 years.

  10. Last year LA gave up more than two goals per game. So far this year, they’re giving up less than one goal per game.

    That’s a remarkable improvement and OG has been the biggest constant on the defense.

    LA has used two goalkeepers (Ricketts and Saunders), three left backs (Lewis, DeLaGarza and Dunivant), three right backs (Franklin, Klein and DLG), two CBs opposite Gonzalez (Sanneh and Berhalter) and multiple D-mids (Kovalenko, Miglioranzi, Birchall and the since-waived Tudela).

    But game-in, game out Gonzalez has been there, playing all but 28 minutes for LA this year.

    Further, for a guy who is 6-5, he plays a pretty clean game, committing only 20 fouls in 24 games. He’s not Parkhurst clean, but for a big rookie CB, committing less than a foul a game shows solid soccer sense.

    I also think with better service he could have more goals as he only has 12 shots this year, which means LA’s service on set-pieces hasn’t been doing a good enough job finding the 6-5 kid. If they somehow start finding him and he adds a couple more goals, he locks this award down.

    But even without more offense, he’s still the front-runner right now.

  11. There are too many good rookies to single out one as ROY. Can’t we just have a Rookie Best XI? This is by far the best class MLS has seen in a while.

    Mr Rookie Best XI:

    GK – Frei (TFC)
    LB – R. Wallace (DCU)
    CB – Gonzalez (LAG)
    CB – Barnes (NE)
    RB – DeLaGarza (LAG)
    LW – Mayen (CHV)
    CM – Cronin (TFC)
    CM – Kraus (KC)
    RW – Pontius(DCU)
    ST – Zakuani (Sea)
    ST – Chijindu (CHV)

    Honorable Mentions:

    Alston (NE)
    Besler (KC)

  12. Pontius is easily the front runner. You have to look at what positions these players play and see if they are playing them well. For defense such as Barnes and Omar, look at how many goals have been giving up. I’m an LA fan, but Omar is not the front runner. Yes he has played every game, but he has made so many INDIVIDUAL mistakes that should take him out of the top. Frei has not been that solid either with a not-so-great GAA. Zakuani hasn’t done as much as people had hoped for him and Sam Cronin did get called up, but hasn’t had a HUGE impact of TFC. Pontius and Wallace are your top two. Both of them have been asked to play so many different positions and you can’t label them as just one thing. Pontius I feel has had better production than Wallace and thus puts him ahead of Wallace. 4 goals, 2 assists in league plus a few goals and assists in Cup games. No matter where Tommy puts him, he plays to the best of his ability and he improves the team though the team might not see that.

  13. Getting the ROY award is not necessarily indicative of long-term upside, just that the player’s made some impact in their first year. I think Gonzalez might be the frontrunner, due to his stabilizing a backline that has clearly been responsible (along with GK Ricketts) in turning around tha Galaxy’s fortunes this season. I would put Frei next. The others are having good seasons, but I doubt that the removal of any one of them from their team’s lineup would alter their respective team’s performance this year. The removal of Gonzalez from the Galaxy lineup would drastically change the dynamics of their defense, and probably result in a poorer record.

    Hard to say long-term, but my concern about Gonzalez is his lack of pace. He might be another player who performs well at the MLS level but can’t translate that to int’l play. We shall see…

  14. u guys are missing the point….a freaking keeper is starting and playing ridiculously well as a rookie… that is way more impressive then a defender doing well

  15. what happened to graham zusi? he looked really good in the ncaa finals last year.. i think he was drafted (by KC?) but has he seen the field at all?

  16. I can’t believe Sam Cronin isn’t figuring more prominently. He hasn’t had a bad game on a team that’s had quite a few and has several goals and assists already.

    To me, he should be leading this, marginally ahead of Gonazalez and Frei.

  17. I can’t believe Sam Cronin isn’t figuring more prominently. He hasn’t had a bad game on a team that’s had quite a few and has several goals and assists already.

    To me, he should be leading this, marginally ahead of Gonazalez and Frei.

  18. Granted I don’t get too see every DC Scum game, but in the ones I’ve watched Pontius is clearly playing as a striker and clearly not scoring goals. It surprises me that so many people think he is so awesome.

  19. Sure soccer isnt a numbers sport, but often when handing out awards they do play a role… Gonzalez and Barnes are the only two in my mind. Gonzalez has started every game in a LA turnaround, and Barnes has replaced Michael Parkhurst and fouls almost as often! At the moment I’d give Gonzalez the nod due to his teams better Goals against, but that can change before the end of the year.

    Gonzalez 24 24 2132 1 1 20 16 4 0

    Team has played 24 games with 23 GA

    Barnes 21 21 1890 0 0 9 6 3 0

    Team has played 21 games with 26 GA

    @ChrisA – I agree that long term, Alston is probably a better prospect. I think he’ll be national team player, Barnes I see as a steady, unremarkable, above average MLS player.

  20. i said it once, and ill say it again: the terps consistently churn out some of the best pro players. i think a starting XI of maryland alum could give give any mls team a run for their money. sashos a great coach, md always gets great talent, and hopefully theyll have a chance to repeat this year

  21. Omar all the way. Glaringly error free, even 2008 ROTY Franklin had quite a few slip-ups last year (although considerably less support from the rest of that squad). Shy of the little volleyball game he played in New York, its hard to find fault with any of Omar’s performances. Would be nice to get him into the January USMNT camp.

  22. I voted for Gonzalez. He has started and played in every game in a revamped defense that has only given up 20+ goals this year compared to last year’s total of 62. It’s an easy choice. Go Terps!

  23. You have to throw De La Garza in there as well. He has started a lot of games and has played solid defensively (maybe not much of an offensive threat). But he was a centerback in college right?

  24. As solid as Darrius Barnes (T.I.) has been for the Revs, it looks like fellow defender Kevin Alston has shown over the last couple of months that he is at least as good, if not better. Alston should also get some consideraion for this award.

  25. Pontius, Wallace, and Zakuani were definitely playing better the first half of the season. At the midway point, they might have been 1, 2, and 3.

    But over the long haul of the season, the defenders have had more time on the field and ultimately more impact.

  26. O-O-O-Omar!!!!

    hands down the best player from the draft, and if anyone watched the SuperClassico knows, he shut down ChivasUSA. Bradley should get him into camp ASAP.

  27. Fantastic race this year with so many players playing different roles. If the Galaxy continue, how can it not be Gonzalez? It should go down to Gonzalez and Frei, because they have the biggest impact game in and game out.

  28. Question, are players like Montero and Keller eligible?

    (SBI-To be rookie of the year you can’t have played professionally prior to this season, so that’s a big no on Montero or Keller.)


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