New York Red Bulls winger Mike Grella a finalist for MLS Newcomer of the Year

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The former Leeds United forward faces competition from Didier Drogba and Sebastian Giovinco for the award, having been nominated ahead of the likes of Kaka and David Villa.

MLS announced the finalists for the 2015 end-of-season awards on Tuesday afternoon, and a former Leeds United youngster was among the nominees.

New York Red Bulls forward Mike Grella made the shortlist for Newcomer of the Year after an impressive debut campaign in the US top-flight saw him record nine goals and seven assists in 33 appearances from the wing, while helping his side claim their second Supporters’ Shield title in three seasons.

The 28-year-old American faces strong competition for the award from Montreal Impact summer signing Didier Drogba, who netted 12 times in 12 games, and Toronto FC’s MVP frontrunner Sebastian Giovinco, who became the first player in league history to register 20 goals and 15 assists in a season, but the fact he was nominated over the likes of Orlando City SC skipper Kaka and New York City FC striker David Villa goes some way towards highlighting how much of a revelation he has proved for the Red Bulls.

Grella’s 2015 season has been all the more noteworthy considering that he had been contemplating retirement before joining his hometown Reds Bulls on a pre-season trial last winter.

Having previously failed to impress during a five-year stint in Europe and brief spell at the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks, the New York native even “had a job lined up in insurance and real estate”, but he has since turned around his career in remarkable fashion after impressing head coach Jesse Marsch enough to land a permanent deal.

A first-choice starter throughout 2015, despite the summer arrivals of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Gonzalo Veron, the former US Under-20 international has continued to wow supporters with his skill on the flank and even made MLS history last month by netting the fastest goal in league history, opening the scoring in a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Union after just seven seconds.

There is now growing support for him to receive a first senior international call-up ahead of the USA’s first two World Cup qualifiers later this month, but for the moment his focus is on helping the Red Bulls progress through the playoffs to clinch a first MLS Cup.

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