Generally speaking, rating rookies after four weeks is a bad idea. Not “green ketchup” bad, but probably not something ever to be list under “media best practices.”
Reason: the season is just too long. Too much will happen between now and October, when Major League Soccer’s regular season winds down. When you commence the examination and analyzing period too soon, too much weight gets naturally assigned to early accomplishment. That’s always been the complaint about rankings in college football, for instance. The baseline gets established, and sometimes falsely so, and the field is forced to work against initial perception.
But as I always say: “If you can’t beat them, elbow into the melee with some proper perspective, at least.”
MLSSoccer.com has released it early rookie rankings. No real quibbles from my end; D.C. United youngster Nick DeLeon, at the top of the rookie totem pole, has been a Black and Red beast at RFK Stadium so far.
But there are a couple of notable absences. Like, for instance, the league’s two top draft picks. File those under “mitigating circumstances.”
Andrew Wenger and Darren Mattocks were everyone’s choice to go Nos. 1 and 2 in January. The only “mystery,” such that it was, revolved around where the order would fall. Would Montreal, choosing first, take Wenger or Mattocks? That would leave the other for Vancouver at No. 2.
Well, Wenger (who went to Montreal) was never going to appear on any early lists. That’s because he’s finishing his courses at Duke, determined to get that degree. Good for him.
On the other hand, his time for Jesse Marsch’s Impact has been limited by the practice time constraints.
“Obviously, it hasn’t been ideal soccer-wise because I’m with the team a couple of days, then I have go back and kind of do my own thing and then come back again,” he told the Associated Press recently. “But it’s been nice in other ways that I’ve been able to gradually integrate myself into the team — the coaches have kind of let me take my time to get set.”
Mattocks? Well, things took a bad turn about three weeks ago when he suffered shoulder burns in a kitchen accident. Mattocks was released from the hospital last week but has yet to return to Martin Rennie’s rotation. So far the rookie forward has been limited to just one minute of mop-up time in the Whitecaps’ first match.