MLS has made many gains in the past few seasons in terms of quality and ability to attract top names from around the soccer globe. One of the league’s most unsung improvements has been its ability to develop its youth into reliable starters and internationally sought-after talent. The 2016 season has already introduced us to a wide slate of rookies who will shape the league for years to come.
The following is a ranking of MLS’ rookie performers through week 3.
9. Hadji Barry, Midfielder/Forward, Orlando City SC; Previous- 5
Barry did not play in week 3 and came on as a 73rd minute sub against Chicago Fire in week 2. It is difficult to see how Barry will establish himself with Orlando in 2016 in what is effectively a nine man midfield rotation (10 if you include a subbed or injured Cyle Larin).
8. Fabian Herbers, Forward, Philadelphia Union; Previous- N/R
Herbers has seen limited time with the Union, sitting behind C.J. Sapong and Sebastian Le Toux in the forward depth chart, but has made an appearance late in all three Union matches thus far. As Philadelphia develops more confidence and chemistry between its young players, Jim Curtin could turn to Herbers more often to foster in a new era led by the Union’s young, talented core.
7. Julian Buescher, Midfielder/Forward, DC United; Previous- N/R
Buescher may not have collected many minutes in his first three games with D.C. United, but his expectation was not to replace any of United’s forward-minded players, at least initially. Buescher does appear to be one of the most MLS-ready rookies of 2016 and could find himself in a similar position as Miguel Aguillar in his rookie season last year. These two players are similar in the way they bring confidence and energy off the bench along with the skill to earn an occasional start along the way. If United keep struggling to organize an offense, Ben Olsen may turn to these young, hungry players to provide a spark.
6. Kip Colvey, Defender, San Jose Earthquakes; Previous- N/R
Colvey recorded his first MLS start with the Earthquakes at left-back in week 2 and was given the unenviable task of stopping Lucas Melano, Darlington Nagbe and a roaming Diego Valeri. For the most part Colvey held his own, was aggressive and held the potent Timbers offense to one goal. He also recorded the first assist of his career in the buildup to Chris Wondolowski’s opening goal. He did seem to get caught ball-watching at times, leading to dangerous opportunities including letting Jack McInerney cut in front of him en-route to a late Timbers goal. Colvey received a second start against LA Galaxy but found it difficult to stop the dangerous Galaxy attack after his Earthquakes side went down a man in the first half. This third-round pick has emerged as perhaps the biggest steal of the later rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.
5. Brandon Vincent, Defender, Chicago Fire; Previous- 4
Vincent looked more comfortable and proactive in week two playing wider and higher in a 3-5-2 against Orlando, where Chicago Fire opened up until they went down a man to earn a 1-1 draw. On paper, Chicago used the same formation against Crew SC, but against a more potent offense and without the outlet of David Accam, the Fire bunkered their way to a 0-0 draw that was not easy on the eyes. It seems Vincent’s full potential won’t be realized until Chicago is able to be more dynamic going forward. Vincent also received a valuable call-up to the USMNT U-23 roster ahead of their Olympic qualifying matches against Columbia next week.
4. Jordan Morris, Forward, Seattle Sounders; Previous- 2
Seattle is the only MLS side without a point after 3 weeks and while they may claim referee Mark Geiger robbed them of a point or even three, they ought to be worried about their own offensive woes out the gates in 2016. Morris adds a dangerous element to the Sounders attack but has yet to replicate the chemistry Obafemi Martins had with Clint Dempsey and Ozzie Alonso. Noone reasonable expected this to happen overnight, but given the fanfare surrounding Morris’ decision to join MLS over a first-division German club, Seattle fans would have been right to expect more than two goals in three games. Now that Seattle has suffered injuries to key players and others, including Morris, will miss time due to international call-ups, the impetus for Seattle to sort their offense out ASAP will be essential in the leadup to their next match against Montreal Impact.
3. Tsubasa Endoh, Midfielder, Toronto FC; Previoius- 1
Tsubasa has recorded starts in each of Toronto’s first three games and has surprised many by emerging in the lineup in place of injured Jozy Altidore. Endoh has yet to ink his name in the goal or assist column, but has provided moments of excitement alongside Sebastian Giovinco. Endoh had little impact on on TFC’s last two matches but came close to scoring against Sporting Kansas City when he was sent through on goal by Giovinco, only to have his shot deflected by goalkeeper Tim Melia and go off the crossbar before being cleared out of play. Endoh is scrappy and quick but has been liable to go missing for large stretches of the game. The diminuative Japanese international also doesn’t provide a physical counterbalance to Giovinco’s style, so it will be interesting to see how the rookie is used now that Jozy Altidore is back from injury.
2. Keegan Rosenberry, Defender, Philadelphia Union; Previous- 3
Rosenberry has played in every minute of the 2016 Union campaign and has not exactly been eased into the league given his first few opponents. After matching up with Fabian Castillo and FC Dallas, the young right-back faced flank happy Columbus Crew SC and the skilled front four of New England Revolution. Despite allowing an endless attacking barrage on goalkeeper Andre Blake by Crew SC, Rosenberry looks more comfortable and confident in his role in the Union starting lineup. Philadelphia’s strong performance against New England could also signal the high potential of Rosenberry and his youthful teammates.
Speaking of Rosenberry and his teammates, check out this video he and teammate Joshua Yaro’s thoughts on adjusting from college to the pros.
1. Jonathan Campbell, Defender, Chicago Fire; Previous- N/R
Any defender partially responsible for holding Kei Kamara shotless for 90 minutes and holding Orlando without a goal after going down a man deserves praise, even when the quality of his team’s play is as uninspiring as the Fire’s tactics against Crew SC. Campbell has earned two starts in three games and has shown to be valuable on both sides of the ball for Chicago. His physical presence is needed along the Fire’s backline, and he also has positioned himself well on set pieces to give Chicago an added attacking dimension. Hopefully we will see a better sample of Campbell’s abilities if Chicago adds a more aesthetically-pleasing style of play. Until then, no rookie has separated themselves from the rest of the pack, so Campbell sits atop the rankings for playing the largest part in getting his team results.
Agree with this list or think I’m a complete nincompoop? Let me know in the comments!