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Is D.C. United the “new New England” in rookie matters?

Nov 15, 2012, 12:19 PM EDT

Colombus Crew v D.C. United Getty Images

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.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s Rookie of the Year conversation)

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.



  1. Dan Haug - Nov 15, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    Well… you gotta look at LA’s recent draft history:
    2008 – Sean Franklin (ROY)
    2009 – Omar Gonzalez (ROY) and A.J. DeLaGarza
    2010 – Michael Stephens
    2011 – Paolo Cardoza and Hector Jimenez
    2012 – Tommy Meyer and Kenny Walker

    You’ve got at least one guy from each of the last five drafts that has made a significant contribution to the club, and 4/5 that have done it in their rookie season (Stephens was huge for LA at times in 2010, and Meyer has been a rock in the last month). I think that group rivals the DC list that you’ve put up there. I also think that this is one of the most over-looked aspects of LA’s recent success. Everyone likes to talk about their big spending on internationals, but the in-house development of quality players has been what’s kept them competitive.

    • mvktr2 - Nov 16, 2012 at 3:46 AM

      It’s a bigger and long discussion to flesh out your point fully especially as it relates to MLS salary cap and depth throughout the league. As to your point the in-house development in LA has been key and smart clubs are figuring this out. I’m convinced player development focus is key for both MLS and USNT going forward. He who plans, invests, and executes the best in player development including the draft but especially academy is going to reap financial rewards and competitive advantages in depth now that MLS 2.0 is launched.

  2. mvktr2 - Nov 16, 2012 at 3:48 AM

    Btw what year/events mark the official-unofficial MLS 2.0 relaunch?

    • Dan Haug - Nov 16, 2012 at 3:54 PM

      That’s a good question. I’m no expert, but I would think the earliest possible date would be the initiation of the DP (2007… although it didn’t really kick in until 2008). However, you could argue that the expansion teams like Seattle, Portland, Philly, Vancouver, and Montreal are all MLS 2.0 products You might even argue that Toronto is, although I they came into the league in 2007). This also corresponds to teams like RSL, Houston (and more recently NYRB and KC) developing soccer-specific stadiums that have improved the product on the field. So I’d say it’s been a bit of an evolution, but the more I think about it, 2007 seems like a good place to draw the line.

      I’d be interested to hear what others think.

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