Injuries, both in the squads and among the rookies themselves, moved the rankings from the first month. Khiry Shelton saw an increase in minutes as NYCFC’s attackers are fighting to spots on the training table. April’s number 2 ranked rookie, Axel Sjöberg, missed four straight matches due with a foot ankle injury likely below the knee. Additionally reps have led to the improvements of Dominique Badji and Matt Polster, who went from dreadful in the start of the season to serviceable.
April’s Rookie Rankings:
- Fatai Alashe –San Jose Earthquakes: The last match for Alashe was thus far his worst as the New York Red Bulls dominated the Quakes and created a number of chances through the middle. Nevertheless, Alashe remains in the top slot. His role increases as San Jose begins to open the offense. Alashe looks to remain a fixture in the lineup, of course more attack focused players begin to put up numbers the former Spartan might dip in the ranking.
- Khiry Shelton–NYCFC: With the David Villa and Mix Diskerud out of the lineup, Shelton has been asked to contribute more to the attack. Shelton is athletic and explosive just not a playmaker. He’s more Tesho Akindele than Harry Shipp. Effective, but right now NYCFC needs crafty.
- Matt Polster – Chicago Fire: Polster has steadily improved this month and had his best match against 10-man NYCFC. Polster, a college defender converted to holding mid, has impress Frank Klopas enough to keep him in the starting XI despite the arrival of Spanish DM Victor Perez. With Chicago on a 3-match winning streak it is wise to keep the band together. Eventually the former Levante midfielder and Real Madrid academy product will get minutes, will it be at the cost of the SIU Edwardsville Cougars man?
- Rob Lovejoy – Houston Dynamos: Lovejoy has been the Brad Davis understudy, minus the lethal left foot. Lovejoy comes in the second half as fresh leg on the left and Owen Colye moves Davis into the middle. In the 4-0 victory over Montreal Lovejoy had his first goal and assist of his career. He was not however, included in the recent 4-4 thriller versus Sporting Kansas City.
- Cyle Larin – Orlando City SC & Axel Sjöberg – Colorado Rapids: The 20-year old Canadian International scored a goal in his first start via pec press to the near post. Despite the positive first impression he has not been the answer to Orlando City’s struggles up top. OCSC seems to be in win now mode and might not have the patience to wait on Larin… Axel Sjöberg dealt with a foot or ankle injury (depending on the source) most of the month. He was number 2 on the list in March only fell due to his lack of playing time. No surprise Sjöberg is a ball winner in the air. It is difficult to judge his distribution after watching him in person versus the New York Red Bulls, even Omar Gonzalez confused RBNY gave him headaches. If can get more playing time he’ll likely move up the list.
Dominique Badji – Colorado Rapids: He has gotten better from his early season difficulties where he failed to produce a shot in 2 of his 4 starts. After seeing him in person it is clear he lacks the touch and ability to match his speed and quickness. He got behind the Red Bulls backline twice yet was unlucky not beat Luis Robles at least once.
This month’s Throw Ins:
- In back-to-back seasons the projected top college player returns for another year in hope to complete their education, now the highest profiled MLS academy player, Jordan Morris, declared he will do the same despite the added attention. Will this lead an increase in attendance at men’s college soccer game? Probably not, though the PAC 12 network would be wise to get Stanford matches on TV as much as possible. Also, I am sure Stanford will be the most sought after team for early season tournaments.
- I skipped the CONCACAF Champions League Final to be one of the select few (12,540) to attend the intimate confines of Red Bull Arena for the RBNY – Colorado Rapids match. So no CCL musing… Instead it is time to pump the brakes on the RBNY hype train. They are undefeated, but dropping 4 points at home to a Robbie Keane-less Galaxy and the listless Rapids is not the sign of a top flight side. This RBNY side is the most entertaining I have seen the move to RBA and Coach Jesse Marsch deserves all the credit for implementing the aggressive and free flowing style countless coaches have only paid lip service to. Nevertheless, they are struggling to score against the better defeats in the league, especially when opponents are set in the counter. The chemistry needed to breakdown opponents in tight spaces may eventually come. Today, RBNY look more like the Caleb Porter’s Portland Timbers team year two, than his first year PTFC year side.