The 2011 MLS Draft was considered a good one with more long-term upside than immediate contributors when it took place last January, but as the season went on, we realized that the number of rookies who would wind up playing key roles on teams would be higher than most would have expected.
Whether it was C.J. Sapong playing a major part in Sporting Kansas City's climb from worst to first in the East, to A.J. Soares establishing himself as the best defender on New England in year one, there were several rookies who flourished in their first seasons as pros.
In fact, there were so many solid rookie seasons that we wound up with a handful of worthy candidates for the SBI MLS All-Rookie Team who fell short of selection. Columbus' Rich Balchan, New England's Stephen McCarthy and Vancouver's Michael Boxhall all earned 18 starts for their clubs this seasons and all have bright futures as they move forward into 2012, but none of them made our MLS All-Rookie Team.
When thinking of the 2011 MLS Rookie class, you should also remember that there were several top young prospects in it who didn't contribute much in 2011. Players such as Omar Salgado (Vancouver), Diego Fagundez (New England) and Zach Pfeffer (Philadelphia) to name a few.
Please keep in mind that our selections are players who qualify as rookies under the MLS definition of a rookie, which is any player who hadn't been under a professional contract prior to the 2011 MLS season. That means Toronto FC standout newcomer Joao Plata does NOT qualify despite having been selected in the 2011 MLS Draft.
So who were the top rookies in MLS this season? Here are my picks for the 2011 SBI MLS All-Rookie Team:
2011 SBI MLS ALL-ROOKIE TEAM
GK- ZAC MACMATH, Philadelphia Union
7 starts, 3-0-4 record, 3 shutouts
D- A.J. SOARES, New England Revolution
28 starts, 1 goals, MLS-rookie best 2860 minutes played
D- JALIL ANIBABA, Chicago Fire
27 starts, 2 goals, 2508 minutes played
D- PERRY KITCHEN, D.C. United
MLS Rookie Best 31 starts, 2781 minutes played, 1 goal
D- ZAREK VALENTIN, Chivas USA
24 starts, 2114 minutes played
D- ETHAN WHITE, D.C. United
21 starts, 24 games, 1928 minutes played, 1 goal
M- DARLINGTON NAGbE, Portland Timbers
21 starts, 28 games played, 2 goals, 3 assists, 1651 minutes played
M- MICHAEL FARFAN, Philadelphia Union
13 starts, 21 games played, 2 goals, 3 assists, 1460 minutes played
M- JEB BROVSKY, Vancouver Whitecaps
16 starts, 24 games played, 1509 minutes, 1 assist
F- C.J. SAPONG, Sporting Kansas City
22 starts, 2096 minutes played, MLS Rookie Bests 34 games played, 5 goals, 5 assists
F- WILL BRUIN, Houston Dynamo
21 starts, 24 games played, 1679 minutes, MLS Rookie Best 5 goals, 1 assist
What do you think of these picks? Which rookies impressed you the most this year? Which rookies not on our list do you feel should have made the SBI All-Rookie Best XI?
Share your thoughts below.