Making the adjustment from college soccer to MLS is no small task.
And over the past two months, pro hopefuls have been battling and working hard in order to impress coaching staff. For some, it’s a matter of earning a contract, while others are hoping to earn playing time in their new home.
With the season set to kick off on March 10, TopDrawerSoccer.com is here to breakdown how we think some of the college stars of last fall will do in the pro ranks, setting the odds for the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year race:
MF Luis Silva, Toronto FC - 5/2
Silva looks pretty comfortable in his attacking role with the Reds so far this preseason. Picking up goals in a few games already, Silva has shown the ability to flourish outside the UCSB style of play.
Despite the charming smile you see on the field, Silva showed he is a ruthless finisher in college and should challenge for top goals scored among rookies, if he continues to find time in the TFC midfield.
If he leads TFC anywhere close to the playoffs, he deserves Rookie of the Year honors and a statue outside BMO Field.
F Dom Dwyer, Sporting KC - 14/1
After battling for a year as USF’s lone striker in the Big East, Dwyer showed he could handle the physical play that any defense threw his way. The 21-year-old netted 16 goals, and led the Bulls to the Elite Eight.
Sporting KC does not institute a lone striker role though, and Dwyer will have to adjust to combining with other forwards in head coach Peter Vermes’ 4-3-3 formation.
Also, given the depth on the Sporting roster, Dwyer may need to adjust to a reserve role as well. With Soony Saad, Teal Bunbury, and CJ Sapong already headlining a young, talented crop of forwards, minutes may be hard to come by from Dwyer.
D Tommy Meyer, LA Galaxy - 15/1
The last pick in the first round, Meyer could be pegged as the starting center back with Omar Gonzalez gone for the year with his ACL injury -- barring a major comeback.
Meyer certainly has the tools to be a starter in MLS one day, but would this be too soon for the Hoosier? He’s definitely a sleeper on a good LA team, and could enjoy a smooth transition to a starting role.
MF Kelyn Rowe, New England Revolution - 4/1
Before Rowe has even stepped onto the field for the Revolution, questions exist about whether he has the pace, power and physicality to succeed in MLS.
So far, in preseason, Rowe has shown the ability to fit right in with the New England midfield, scoring pretty goals in bunches. And while he’ll have his ups and downs, Rowe could be poised to contend for the end of year honors, as he’ll get plenty of chances to play and can make his mark in the final third.
F Darren Mattocks, Vancouver Whitecaps - 6/1
Mattocks made news in preseason when he scored against the Impact, the club who decided not to take him with the first overall pick. And while the Jamaican has the tools to take the league by storm, he’ll face an uphill battle for minutes in Vancouver, who boast a number of established MLS forwards. Mattocks will still be able to make an impact (pun intended) but probably not the sort of numbers to standout as the best rookie.
MF/D/F Andrew Wenger, Montreal Impact - 8/1
Three things are working against Wenger’s Rookie of the Year hopes. First of all, the first overall pick has never won the award. Second, Wenger will be jetting back and forth from Montreal and Durham as he finishes his degree. And thirdly, it’s still unclear where he’ll play -- possibly as a forward -- that leaves his Rookie of the Year hopes at steeper odds.
MF Ethan Finlay, Columbus Crew - 5/1
There are plenty of reasons to believe Finlay can succeed in MLS. He’s got plenty of talent to spare, and is the sort of hard-working, no-nonsense, versatile player who can make a seamless transition to the pros. Add into that the Crew’s lack of depth on the wings, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that Finlay could have a great year.
F Casey Townsend, Chivas USA - 12/1
After his excellent season for Maryland, Townsend solidified himself as a poacher extraordinare, able to finish with both feet and his head. The question is how much time he’ll see with Chivas, and if he’ll be able to convert enough opportunities in order to stake a claim at the accolades.
D Matt Hedges, FC Dallas - 20/1
Already long odds on Hedges getting the playing time in year one took an even bigger hit with news on Friday that FC Dallas center back George John is returning to the club for the immediate future.
In the long run, this is probably a good thing for Hedges’ pro future, as he won’t be thrown into the fire right away, and will have time to adjust to a new challenge. However, it means that he’s a huge long shot to finish this year as the top rookie.
F Chandler Hoffman, Philadelphia Union - 10/1
There is a lot to like about Hoffman’s game - he is smart, fast, and great anywhere near goal.
The problem for Hoffman is playing time.
Will he carve out enough in his debut campaign to make a significant contribution to the Union? Questionable at this point; but if Hoffman does find a role immediately with the first team, he could help fill the void left by Sebastian Le Toux’s exit. The goals are there for someone to score.