MLS Rookie Checkup

MLS Rookie Checkup
by Victor Olorunfemi
June 5, 2024

As the MLS season inches toward the halfway point, It is time for a rookie check up examining the ten players that have made the most impact in their first professional season.

Tyrese Spicer, Toronto FC (846 Minutes) - Lipscomb, Round 1 Pick 1

Spicer, the first pick in the draft, has quickly proven to be a worthy investment for Toronto FC having emerged as a starter, an MLS Team of the Week selection, and the overwhelming favorite for rookie of the year. The Lipscomb product has pitched in a couple of goals and an assist with his speed on either wing continuing to be a threat for a team competing for a playoff spot.

Jacob Murrell, D.C. United (360 Minutes) - Georgetown, Round 1 Pick 7

Murrel, only 20, is the youngest player on this list and doubles as an exciting prospect for D.C. United with an appearance in 13 of 17 games. The Maryland native has the potential to develop into a target striker with the athleticism to stretch the back line, a rare combination in the professional game. And there is no better player for Murrell to learn from than Christian Benteke, a 33-year-old striker and MLS All-Star who was once among the best goal scorers in the English Premier League.

Malachi Jones, New York City FC (334 Minutes) - Lipscomb, Round 1 Pick 8

Another 20-year-old rookie making an impact, Jones has done well to earn significant minutes and two starts for an NYCFC team competing for first in the Eastern Conference. Similar to Spicer, Jones offers elite speed on the wings, fitting considering they both emerged from Lipscomb.

Logan Farrington, FC Dallas (286 Minutes) - Oregon State, Round 1 Pick 3

While FC Dallas and Farrington have struggled in the MLS, the Michigan native has excelled in the U.S. Open Cup with goals in two successive rounds to guide the team to the quarter-final. That offers hope that Farrington could be part of a turnaround in the second half of the season.

Yannick Bright, Inter Miami (237 Minutes) - New Hampshire, Round 1 Pick 15

Against all odds, Bright has managed to enter a stacked Inter Miami rotation. On a roster featuring legends such as Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba, the New Hampshire product has started two games and appeared as a substitute in another five. Part of the benefit is that Bright, on a rookie contract, is a cheap option for a franchise spending far more than anyone else in the league and is intelligent and technically gifted enough to feature for the team on occasions where an aging Sergio Busquets needs a rest.

Hosei Kijima, Saint Louis City SC (176 Minutes) - Wake Forest, Round 1 Pick 17

Kijima has grown in status within the organization with six appearances in the last eight, including a start against FC Cincinnati. The fit has not always been ideal as a highly technical player asked to do more of the dirty work on a team that prefers a defensive style of play. But Kijima is acclimating and could end with 700+ minutes by the end of the season.

Tyger Smalls, Charlotte SC (154 Minutes) - Loyola Marymount, Round 1 Pick 14

Another who has come on as of late, after not making the squad over the first nine games, Smalls has made eight consecutive appearances, with Charlotte losing just two since then. The right winger is a bit of an acquired taste as one who does best with complete creative freedom, but he has made enough adjustments to earn the trust of the Charlotte coaching staff.

Garrison Tubbs, D.C. United (137 Minutes) - Wake Forest, Homegrown

There are plenty of reasons for D.C. United fans to be excited about Tubbs, none more prominent than his first career start coming against Toronto FC on June 1st. And with the team not performing as well as anticipated the season, there may be room for the Wake Forest product to win a permanent starting center-back role.

Hugo Bacharach, Minnesota United (90 Minutes) - Indiana, Round 1 Pick 9

Bacharach has had an unfortunate season for Minnesota United. The center-back made his MLS debut with 90 minutes played against the Houston Dynamo but could not build on that momentum as he suffered a meniscus injury that needed surgery. That was on April 18th, and Bacharach is expected back in mid-June, which still allows him time to have a rookie impact.

Leonardo Afonso, Inter Miami (88 Minutes) - Virginia, Round 2 Pick 32

One of the backup pieces that steps up when the Inter Miami superstars need a rest, Afonso has done well with limited looks this season. The ex-Virginia Cavalier has a goal and an assist in his 88 minutes earned from five appearances and continues to make the match-day squad, a sign that the coaching staff believes in him.

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