Last 7 MLS Rookies of the Year: Where Are They Now?

 
 
Hector Villalba #15 and Julian Gressel #24 of Atlanta United challenge Sebastian Giovinco #10 of Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.

The MLS Rookie of the Year award has been going since the divisions first season back in 1996, and it has been won by the likes of Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey, both of whom went on to amass more than 100 caps for the USMNT and play in the Premier League.

Here are the last 7 MLS Rookies of the Year: Where Are They Now?

7. Julian Gressel - Atlanta United

The first European recipient of the MLS Rookie of the Year award, Julian Gressel won the accolade following his debut season with Atlanta United. A former youth team player in Germany, Gressel went to Providence College in Rhode Island in 2013, and starred for the college soccer team Providence Friars over the next three years. At the MLS SuperDraft, he was snapped up by the recently-created Atlanta United franchise. Predominantly a central midfielder but also capable of playing in a more advanced role, Gressel made nine assists and scored five goals in 32 games in his first MLS campaign. Aged 24, he’s still with the Five Stripes.

6. Jordan Morris - Seattle Sounders

Jordan Morris #13 of The United States reacts to his missed chance behind Daniel Graovac #6 of Bosnia Herzegovina during a 0-0 draw at StubHub Center on January 28, 2018 in Carson,...Jordan Morris #13 of The United States reacts to his missed chance behind Daniel Graovac #6 of Bosnia Herzegovina during a 0-0 draw at StubHub Center on January 28, 2018 in Carson,...

The 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year was Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris. A super athlete, Morris is a really quick and strong six foot centre-forward. Highly-regarded from a young age, Morris won his first caps for the USMNT whilst still in university, and he won the Hermann Trophy in 2015. The 2016 season was his first in the MLS, and he didn’t disappoint, scoring 12 goals and making 4 assists in 34 league games for the Sounders. Aged 23, he has already won 25 caps as a full international, but just as things looked so bright for Morris, he tore his ACL in February. He is still at Seattle Sounders, but will face a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

5. Cyle Larin - Besiktas

The first player in this seven who isn’t still playing in the MLS, Cyle Larin was named Rookie of the Year in 2015. Another strong and athletic centre-forward, Larin is alert, strong in the air and composed in front of goal. Having starred for Connecticut during his college career, he was snapped up by Orlando City in the 2015 SuperDraft. Larin had an extraordinary first season in the MLS, scoring 17 goals in 27 games, which is a record for a rookie. He followed that up with two decent but slightly less prolific seasons, before making a January move to Besiktas worth around $2.4 million. He scored on his Turkish Super Lig debut earlier this month.

4. Tesho Akindele - FC Dallas

Tesho Akindele (R) of US Dallas vies for the ball with Renan Addles of Panamanian Arabe Unido during a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg football match at the Rommel...Tesho Akindele (R) of US Dallas vies for the ball with Renan Addles of Panamanian Arabe Unido during a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg football match at the Rommel...

From one Canadian international centre-forward to another, in fourth place is Tesho Akindele, who is still playing his club football in the MLS. Pacey and a real presence, Akindele can play on either flank -

but is best utilised through the middle. Akindele had an incredible record in the college game, scoring 76 goals in 83 games for Colorado. Naturally, he hasn’t been able to replicate that record in the MLS, but 7 goals and 3 assists in his debut season saw him named Rookie of the Year. Akindele is still very raw, now aged 26 and still with Dallas, and he hasn’t yet improved upon his debut season.

3. Dillon Powers - Orlando City

Texas-born central or holding midfielder Dillon Powers was named MLS Rookie of the Year in his first season with the Colorado Rapids. A well-rounded midfield player with an eye for a pass, Powers had an impressive first few seasons in the MLS, but things started to go a little stale for the 27-year-old early in 2017. He swapped Colorado for Orlando in August, joining Jason Kreis’ Orlando City side. Capped by the US at youth but not full international level, Powers hold dual US and Italian citizenship, and he went on trial in England with Championship side Reading back in 2015.

2. Austin Berry - FC Cincinnati (Coach)

Austin Berry #22 of FC Cincinnati controls the ball during the match against Crystal Palace FC at Nippert Stadium on July 16, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.Austin Berry #22 of FC Cincinnati controls the ball during the match against Crystal Palace FC at Nippert Stadium on July 16, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The first defender in this seven is also the first retired player in this seven - 29-year-old Austin Berry. A strong, hard working centre-back, Berry spent just two full seasons in the MLS, both with Chicago Fire. In his first season, he played every minute after scoring on his debut, and was promptly named Rookie of the Year. He transferred to Philadelphia Union in 2014, and went on-loan to South Korea’s second tier in 2015, before joining FC Cincinnati in 2016. Berry was born in Cincinnati, and the hometown hero captained his club in their first two seasons. He recently retired from the playing side of the game, but still works for Cincinnati as a strength and conditioning coach.

1. C. J. Sapong - Philadelphia Union

From a player who struggled at Philadelphia Union, to one who is currently their second highest scorer of all time. The 29-year-old former James Maddison Dukes college star is a bit of a throwback to old school centre-forwards. He isn’t the most polished footballer, but he’s strong, brave and a real threat in the air. He made his name in the MLS with Sporting Kansas City, where he scored 5 goals and made 5 assists in his first season. When the goals began to dry up in Kansas, Sapong made a 2015 transfer to Philadelphia Union, which has breathed new life into his career. He bagged 16 goals last season, which is the same number as Toronto FC star Sebastian Giovinco, and one more than compatriot Jozy Altidore.

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