Corey Baird having been named as the MLS Rookie of the Year got me thinking. We’ve obviously never had one named so before, and that’s cool and exciting.
But I’m really curious how he compares to the pantheon of MLS rookies.
Some of these names are still widely heard in the league. Ben Olsen, who won in 2008 with D.C. United, coaches that very team. Steve Ralston, who served as San Jose Earthquakes interim manager this year, won in 1996 with Tampa Bay Mutiny. Clint Dempsey — that’s a name we all know. Carlos Bocanegra won with Chicago Fire in 2000, and he’s the technical director and vice president of Atlanta United FC.
So, yeah, lots of great names. We don’t know where Baird will end up, but I’m curious where he ranks in his first year in the league.
Most of these players are attackers. Inevitably, that’s where voting lands, for better or worse. In a positive sense, though, that gives us a frame for comparison.
Let’s go through the list and highlight some key stats. That’s not everything — not hardly — but it’s still something. You’ll find the whole list at the end.
I thought defenders wouldn’t win the award. In 23 years, eight players listed as defenders won the award, while nine forwards won the award. The remaining five are midfielders; no goalkeeper won the award.
That whole thing is a little surprising to me, especially because forwards have won four of the last five awards. That’s an interesting skew — it may not mean anything, but it’s something to wonder about.
So how does Baird rank? He’s a more productive player than some forwards — say, Tesho Akindele and C.J. Sapong — but well behind Cyle Larin, who scored a crazy 17 goals in his first professional year.
Perhaps Baird is closest to Jordan Morris. He’s scored fewer goals — 8 to Morris’s 12 — but Morris played nearly every minute in every match, what with Clint Dempsey playing only 17 games through injuries. For him, that’s a goal every 238 minutes.
Corey Baird scored a goal every — wait for it — 238 minutes, despite playing fewer minutes. Interesting, huh? I’d actually put them on similar footing after their respective first seasons in the league.
At any rate, here’s the list. Enjoy.
- 1996: Steve Ralston - Tampa Bay Mutiny
31gp, 7g, 2a, forward
- 1997: Mike Duhaney - Tampa Bay Mutiny
- 1998: Ben Olsen - D.C. United
31gp, 4g, 8a, midfielder
- 1999: Jay Heaps - Miami Fusion
29gp, 3g, 1a, defender
- 2000: Carlos Bocanegra - Chicago Fire
27gp, 1g, 1a, defender
- 2001: Rodrigo Faria - MetroStars
21gp, 8g, 2a, forward
- 2002: Kyle Martino - Columbus Crew
22gp, 2g, 5a, midfielder
- 2003: Damani Ralph - Chicago Fire
22gp, 11g, 6a, forward
- 2004: Clint Dempsey - New England Revolution
24gp, 7g, 1a, forward
- 2005: Michael Parkhurst - New England Revolution
32gp, 0g, 0a, defender
- 2006: Jonathan Bornstein - Chivas USA
32gp, 6g, 4a, defender
- 2007: Maurice Edu - Toronto FC
25gp, 4g, 1a, midfielder
- 2008: Sean Franklin - LA Galaxy
27gp, 0g, 1a, defender
- 2009: Omar Gonzalez - LA Galaxy
30gp, 1g, 1a, defender
- 2010: Andy Najar - D.C. United
26gp, 5g, 1a, midfielder
- 2011: C.J. Sapong - Sporting Kansas City
34gp, 5g, 5a, forward
- 2012: Austin Berry - Chicago Fire
28gp, 3g, 0a, defender
- 2013: Dillon Powers - Colorado Rapids
30gp, 5g, 6a, midfielder
- 2014: Tesho Akindele - FC Dallas
26gp, 7g, 3a, forward
- 2015: Cyle Larin - Orlando City SC
27gp, 17g, 0a, forward
- 2016: Jordan Morris - Seattle Sounders
34gp, 12g, 4a, forward
- 2017: Julian Gressel - Atlanta United
32gp, 5g, 9a, midfielder
- 2018: Corey Baird - Real Salt Lake
31gp, 8g, 5a, forward