Friday, October 26, 2018

Handicapper's Guide: Newcomer of the Year

Despite a fine, deep field, this really comes down to two guys, doesn't it?

The co-favorites: There's no denying either the end product or the overall influence offered by D.C. United skipper Wayne Rooney. But he's also barely had to travel, a big advantage as his side rose from a summer grave to reach the postseason (and, umm, look like a side nobody wants to face right now). I couldn't argue with anyone voting Rooney. The problem is Zlatan Ibrahimovic can end the season by literally firing the LA Galaxy to the playoffs, and let's face it, probably will. Toss that final chip in the pot after one of the most lethal seasons in league history, and he's probably got the winning hand.

Main finalist contender: Don't get me wrong, LAFC have several guys pitching in with just the outings needed to win and look good doing it. But without Carlos Vela there to coalesce everything, they wouldn't be where they are.

Perhaps in another year: One could legitimately argue that the impact of Raul Ruidiaz landing in Seattle is nearly on par with that of Rooney over in the capital. Sure, El Señor has outproduced  his Sounders counterpart a little (0.93 non-PK goals + assists per 90 minutes to 0.81), but the advanced pest-ery of Ruidiaz has freed space for guys like Nico Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez to pick defenses apart. And just like that, Seattle is Seattle again, winning 13 of 15 heading into closing day.  Borak Dockal has not only racked up 17 assists thus far, he's proven the missing link between Philly's esteemed midfield and an attack by committee that's finally clicking. Kaku only made Red Bulls fans forget Sacha Kljestan. Like, quick. He's so much more than goals and (predominantly) assists to this team, but yeah, the playmaker has sparked production, too.

Fading from view: Darwin Quintero is doing what he can in Minnesota, but it's for a ninth place team stumbling to the finish line. That storyline doesn't measure up against a crowd keying playoff charges.

- Greg Seltzer

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