Top Stories

SBI MLS Rookie of the Year: Steve Birnbaum


Photo by Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports



Steve Birnbaum was patiently waiting for his chance while fellow rookie Harry Shipp was tearing up the league early in the season.

But once Birnbaum moved into the D.C. United starting lineup, he never lost his spot. The former Cal Golden Bear center back formed a strong partnership with Bobby Boswell over the final 21 games of the regular season, and Birnbaum’s performances earned him SBI MLS Rookie of the Year honors.

Birnbaum started every match he played in 2014, and though he didn’t record a goal or assist in the regular season, he had an assist in the MLS Cup playoffs. Birnbaum’s efforts helped lead D.C. United to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, a complete turnaround from last season’s last-place finish.

The former No. 2 overall selection in the 2014 MLS Draft beat out a host of other worthy individuals, including Shipp, Tesho Akindele, and Chris Duvall.

Here is a rundown of the other candidates for the SBI MLS Rookie of the Year Award:


Shipp was the early favorite for the award, becoming a nearly instant starter in the Chicago Fire lineup and showing his prowess for setting up teammates and scoring goals. Through his first 10 starts, Shipp had scored three goals, all in a man of the match performance against the Red Bulls, and dished out four assists. Though he hit a wall late in the season, Shipp still played 33 times and finished with seven goals and six assists, for a very productive first season.


The MLS award winner came on strong in the middle of the season, earning a starting place when Blas Perez went down with an injury and instantly scoring goals. The Canadian-born forward had a stretch with six goals in six games, and finished the season with seven goals and three assists, as well as playing a part in every game since early May.


When the New York Red Bulls discovered that Richard Eckersley wasn’t the answer at right back, they turned to Chris Duvall. Little was expected of the former Wake Forest Demon Deacon defender, but when called on, Duvall played solidly, mostly staying back but also at times providing an option down the right wing. Duvall had one assist in 19 games, but didn’t play after being burned by Landon Donovan in late September in a crushing 4-0 defeat to the Red Bulls.


The No. 5 overall selection in the draft, Miller was in and out of the starting lineup for much of the season, save for the beginning, when he started the first seven matches of the year. Miller had one assist in 21 games, 18 starts, but couldn’t do much on his own to help the Impact’s fortunes.


With Steven Caldwell injured and Doneil Henry suspended in the fourth game of the season, TFC turned to Hagglund to start his first match against the Columbus Crew. Playing in front of friends and family, Hagglund put in a strong performance on the way to a solid rookie season, starting 23 of 25 games and scoring two goals and adding three assists.


What do you think of our selection? Which player stood out to you as Rookie of the Year in 2014?

Share your thoughts below.


Leave a Comment