It’s already been a rugged year for rookies.
In April, Chivas USA lost barnstorming midfielder Tommy McNamara to a season-ending ACL injury. Less than a month later, the Houston Dynamo lost promising striker Mark Sherrod to the same injury. Devastating. That wiped out two players who would’ve assuredly made this list on the back of their performances up to that point. Meanwhile, the top two MLS SuperDraft picks have yet to play a single minute for their respective senior teams, while suddenly it seems No. 11 overall pick Patrick Mullins was the steal of the draft.
Here’s a look at our second update of our MLS Rookie of the Year rankings. Eric Miller drops off this week after sitting in each of the cellar-dwelling Impact’s last three games. It’s now been more than a month since he’s started a game.
1. F Harrison Shipp, Chicago Fire
Last update: #1
Numbers: 10 starts in 10 appearances; 807 minutes; 3 goals, 4 assists
Notes: When you’re a rookie, the most difficult thing can be just getting consistent minutes. Shipp established himself early, so he’s been able to hurdle an obstacle that trips up Rookie of the Year campaigns more so than anything else. Shipp has logged 807 minutes this year, which is among the highest totals for a rookie through a team’s first 11 games in league history. His last two games haven’t produced a goal or an assist, but one of those 90-minute stints paved a 2-1 win over Sporting KC. This is still Shipp’s to lose, but the door is cracked slightly ajar thanks to the freight train rushing up behind him.
2. F Patrick Mullins, New England Revolution
Last update: #4
Numbers: 5 starts in 5 appearances; 405 minutes; 4 goals
Notes: Mullins’ rise in the rankings echoes his sizzling club form. It never goes like this for rookies - Mullins started each of the Revs’ last four games, and he has a goal in each 90-minute appearance. And it’s not as though they were all sitters - the Toronto goal that got this run started is as good a strike as we’ve seen in MLS so far this year. There was some question as to how Jay Heaps might deploy Mullins, but he’s found a home up top with Teal Bunbury splayed wide right. Suddenly Harry Shipp’s previously unassailable spot at No. 1 doesn’t seem quite as untouchable.
3. M J.J. Koval, San Jose Earthquakes
Last update: #2
Numbers: 3 starts in 11 appearances; 434 minutes
Notes: Koval’s utility for the Quakes appears to be falling fast. Since the last update he’s appeared in two games, but both were garbage time sub appearances that amounted to a combined six total minutes of action. And now with Clarence Goodson’s somewhat surprising early return from USMNT camp, there’s even less need for cover at the back, where Koval had doubled in addition to his more typical duties in the midfield. The bonus of course is that Koval is a Swiss Army knife, capable of slotting in just about anywhere on the field. The question is whether that’s enough to win Mark Watson’s favor in a suddenly clogged XI.
4. F Tesho Akindele, FC Dallas
Last week: Not ranked
Numbers: 3 starts in 6 appearances, 272 minutes; 1 goal
Notes: One of the biggest head-scratchers at January’s draft was FCD’s decision to take the relatively unknown Akindele with the sixth overall pick. It wasn’t that Akindele wasn’t talented, it just came out of left field. Akindele played just 15 total minutes in FCD’s first 10 games, but his recent explosion rockets him into the top five this week. While FCD’s form hit a snag, Akindele started three of the last four and scored his debut MLS goal in a 2-1 loss to the LA Galaxy on May 21. Offside or not, things like that can spark positive runs of form.
5. D A.J. Cochran, Houston Dynamo
Last update: #5
Numbers: 3 starts in 6 appearances; 324 minutes
Notes: Cochran only made one appearance since our last update - an 18-minute sub stint in a 3-0 blowout loss to San Jose last week. In fairness to Cochran, Houston’s been trying just about everything to shore itself up at the back, and nothing in particular seems to be working. This isn’t entirely the fault of Cochran, who’s put in some encouraging stints but hasn’t started in four games. Cochran’s holding onto his position by his fingertips thanks to relative weakness elsewhere. It’s been a slow start for the 2014 rookie crop, and hopefully the summer promises more minutes.