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Should Albert Rusnak be in the running for MLS Newcomer of the Year?

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The creative force has been one of the top new players in MLS — but is he the best?

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Awards doled out by MLS are often a thing of controversy in these parts, and that’s down to two factors.

First, we sure love the idea that we were snubbed, and I’m definitely not alone in this. Second, there’s that whole issue of Nick Rimando never being given the Goalkeeper of the Year that’s certainly soured people a bit on awards more generally.

With that in mind, it’s worth talking about whether our very own Albert Rusnak should be in the running for the MLS Newcomer of the Year award, and whether he deserves to be handed it or not.

Goals + Assists

On goals alone, Rusnak, with seven, is only 34th in the league — that’s definitely not enough. But you add in assists, and things start to look a bit more favorable.

With 12 assists, Rusnak is behind only 30-year-old Victor Vazquez in assists output according to MLS. There’s a strong chance that includes second assists, which are a strange thing, but I don’t mind their being involved. Still, by other counts — particularly those from WhoScored — show Rusnak with 11 assists, and he leads MLS with that number. It’s hard to say what’s going on here, but it’s obvious that Rusnak has been a player that has created much for the team.

Other candidates on this metric

  • Victor Vazquez, 7 goals & 16 assists
  • Nemanja Nikolic, 18 goals & 3 assists
  • Josef Martinez, 16 goals & 1 assist (14 games played)
  • Hector Villaba, 11 goals & 8 assists
  • Miguel Almiron, 8 goals & 12 assists

It’s clear that Rusnak isn’t the most impressive player on the list in terms of raw numbers, but he’s certainly in some very good company near the top of this list of newcomers. What’s interesting to me is that there are a good number in this range,

Team impact

Three of the players on my shortlist above are from Atlanta United — that’s incredible for a number of reasons, especially because teams like Toronto FC, Montreal Impact, Orlando City, Chivas USA and New York City FC have all tried similar approaches with considerably less success. But Atlanta United has been bold with their acquisition of foreign players, and that’s led to a lot of success.

But by the same token, it’s hard for any one single player there to be held up as the reason for success.

Albert Rusnak, on the other hand, can be easily propped up as a major reason for RSL’s success and turnaround. As he grew into the team and adapted to the league, RSL grew in power. It’s a pretty clear correlation here, and it’s one thing Rusnak has over the others on this list.

I will say, it’s really quite remarkable that Atlanta has three players who should absolutely be considered. They’ve smashed it out of the park.

Will he get it?

Almost certainly not. I’d put good money on someone talked about a little more, because there’s a sense that people don’t really know what he’s going to do here. Our poor start to the season has caused the whole team to fly under the radar a bit, and that basically guarantees it.

But what he does have on his side is that voters inclined to vote for one of the three Atlanta players might be split. Additionally, of the six-man short list, Rusnak is the only player in the Western Conference. That might just be an edge with some voters. I guess we’ll just have to hang on and find out.