Fans from MLS 1.0 days remember that New England became the standard bearer in turning smart draft picks into suppliers of valuable MLS minutes through much of the last decade.
Clint Dempsey (2004) and Michael Parkhurst (2005) were Revolution men who claimed MLS Rookie of the Year honors. Pat Noonan (2003), James Riley (2005) and Kevin Alston (2009) proved to be other smart and productive draft choices from the Steve Nicol regime.
But it seems as if D.C. United is the “new New England” in terms of squeezing juice from fruit of the rookie tree. The sample size of the proof keeps growing.
Major League Soccer announced its awards finalists this morning. Among the awards to be announced over the coming two weeks is Rookie of the Year. There are no surprises among the threesome of finalists:
- Austin Berry, Chicago Fire
- Nick DeLeon, D.C. United (pictured)
- Darren Mattocks, Vancouver Whitecaps
While these aren’t surprises, it does underscore the prudent choices coming from RFK Stadium deciders on MLS draft day. This is the fourth consecutive season that a young United man has been named a Rookie of the Year finalist.
Chris Pontius (2009) and Perry Kitchen (2011) were previous draft choices who made the list of finalists. So did Andy Najar, who won in 2010), although the young attacker was an academy singing rather than a draft choice.
United’s 2009 draft was especially productive, even if other clubs would eventually reap some of the greater reward. In addition to Pontius, defender Rodney Wallace (now with Portland) was the No 6 overall pick that year. Goalkeeper Milos Kocic went at No. 21 for D.C. United; he became the starter last year at Toronto after an injury to Stefan Frei.
And Brandon Barklage was the 36th overall pick in 2009; United released him last year after a series of injuries and he has since become a valued New York Red Bulls defender.