Brandon Vincent

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Fire run unbeaten streak to 11 with 2-2 draw in Portland

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Sebastian Blanco scored in the 70th minute and the Portland Timbers salvaged a 2-2 draw against the surging Chicago Fire on Wednesday night.

[ MORE: Giovinco brace, assist helps TFC ease past Orlando City ]

The Fire (11-3-4) are undefeated in 11 games, winning nine times. The tie ended Chicago’s four-match winning streak and dropped the Fire a point behind Toronto FC for the Eastern Conference lead. Last season, Chicago had seven total victories and an MLS-worst 31 points.

Fanendo Adi opened the scoring for the Timbers (7-7-5) in the 24th minute, and Arturo Alvarez tied it 10 minutes later.

Defender Brandon Vincent got his first goal of the season early in the second half to give the Fire the lead before Blanco took a pass from Diego Valeri and slotted the tying goal past goalkeeper Matt Lampson.

[ MORE: Veron’s late finish helps Red Bulls win in New England ]

It was the third straight draw for the Timbers, who are winless in five straight games. But Portland has never lost to Chicago, with four wins and four draws since joining the league in 2011.

PST selects its MLS Rookie of the Year

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2016 was a very good year for first-year players in Major League Soccer, whether they came from a strong first round of the MLS SuperDraft or were flat-out Homegrown studs.

It was another example of the depth of talent in NCAA Soccer, as even top Homegrown players like Jordan Morris (Seattle/Stanford) and Alex Muyl (New York Red Bulls/Georgetown) had their development aided in the college game.

[ MORE: Aguero staying with City ]

Consider:

— Top SuperDraft pick Jack Harrison took his electric season at Wake Forest and neatly transitioned into a Rookie of the Year finalist at NYCFC after being selected first overall.

— No. 3 pick Keegan Rosenberry is also a finalist after an outstanding year for the Union that could’ve earned him shouts for the top defender overall, and No. 2 pick Joshua Yaro also saw significant time for the Union and Fabian Herbers got into 30 matches as well as part of Philly’s surprising playoff run.

— Chicago’s Jonathan Campbell led the Fire in minutes, while Brandon Vincent was fourth. They went 12th and 4th in the draft.

— It didn’t stop there. It may’ve not been a surprise to see first rounders Tsubasa Endoh (Toronto) and Julian Buscher (DC United) succeed, but what about New England third round pick Femi Hollinger-Jansen?

MLS whittled its awards finalists down to three: Morris, Rosenberry, and Harrison. Aside from a lone write-in for Endoh, our staff didn’t see much wrong with the voters’ selections.

[ USMNT: New home for Boyd? ]

First-place votes were a little more varied amongst our staff. Rosenberry and Harrison each earned a nod, while three of us saw it the same way.

Jordan Morris is PST’s MLS Rookie of the Year.

It’s not just his American rookie record for goals, it’s that the Sounders’ 22-year-old forward improved in every part of his game in his first year as a pro (even including the use of his oft-maligined left foot).

His 12 goals led Seattle, and consider just what he had to deal with after turning down Bundesliga interest to stay in Washington:

  • Pegged to ease into the pro game as the third Sounders attacker, Obafemi Martins skipped town on the ease of the season to heap more pressure on the Stanford grad.
  • American legend Clint Dempsey underwent multiple heart procedures, only making 17 appearances.
  • Oh yeah, the Sounders fired another legend in Sigi Schmid.

Morris also scored six of his 12 goals on the road, never an easy achievement with Major League Soccer’s distinct home field advantage. He added four assists.

Given Rosenberry’s position, it’s difficult to imagine Morris won’t win the official MLS award as well, giving the league a decisive winner for the second year in a row.

MLS Combine begins Friday: Names to know one week from the SuperDraft

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How important, for better or worse, is the MLS Combine in relation to a player’s draft prospects?

Eighteen of the 21 players who were first round selections at the 2015 MLS SuperDraft participated in the combine, and it took to pick No. 8 for a non-combine player to be selected (Clement Simonin of NC State).

All five of the Generation Adidas players aren’t heading to the combine. Outside of those five, you’ll see most of Jan. 14’s draftees coming from the Combine.

[ MLS: Meet the five Generation Adidas players for the 2016 SuperDraft ]

The 2016 Combine will pit four squads of 15 players against each other for matches on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday. Full rosters are here.

A disclaimer: the MLS Combine is far from ideal. Many players won’t be playing in their natural positions, and most have been out of game action for a month or more.

We’ll list the draft order below, and won’t bother you with a mock draft at this point. But here are some names to monitor over the next five days, ones who could make big moves under the bright lights.

Brandon Vincent, D, Stanford — Jordan Morris is a stud, sure, but his college teammate could honestly be the No. 1 overall pick if Chicago sees it close and personal this week.

Callum Irving, GK, Kentucky — The Canadian backstop played with the Whitecaps Academy before starring for the Wildcats.

Neco Brett, F, Robert Morris — A bit mercurial and undersized, you cannot ignore that Brett scored 15, 14 and 13 goals in his last three seasons in Moon. The Jamaican born striker has speed to burn and a classy touch.

Patrick Hodan, M, Notre Dame — Has a legitimate chance to be a 10-year vet in the league. A solid leader who was invited to Andreas Herzog’s U-23 College ID camp in the summer.

Kyle Fisher, D, Clemson — After a College Cup season with the Tigers, Fisher is poised to be a first year contributed in Major League Soccer.

James Moberg, M, Washington — Big and coming off a season-ending knee injury, the 6-foot-2 senior has a chance to show off the promise of elite playmaking he showed in his first three seasons (6, 9 and 6 assists).

Thomas Sanner, F, Princeton — 6-foot-4 forwards with noses for goal don’t grow on trees, and Sanner is the Tigers’ third-all-time leading scorer with 32 in 64 games.

  1. Chicago Fire
  2. Colorado Rapids
  3. Philadelphia Union
  4. New York City FC
  5. Real Salt Lake
  6. Philadelphia Union
  7. Orlando City
  8. San Jose Earthquakes
  9. Toronto FC
  10. New England Revolution
  11. Sporting KC
  12. L.A. Galaxy
  13. D.C. United
  14. Montreal Impact
  15. Seattle Sounders
  16. Vancouver Whitecaps
  17. FC Dallas
  18. New York Red Bulls
  19. Columbus Crew
  20. Portland Timbers