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Jordan Morris will be the Rookie of the Year, as he should be

Only Keegan Rosenberry is close, but being best defender on a bad defense isn’t a great look.

Sounders vs. Earthquakes: Photos Photo Credit - MikeRussellFoto

Comparing a goal-scoring forward to rarely attacking right back is a fool’s errand, but it is the errand that any of Major League Soccer’s awards voters must complete. The candidates for Rookie of the Year are limited to a player on their first professional contract—essentially Homegrown Players and recent draftees. Basically, it’s down to Keegan Rosenberry or Jordan Morris.

Yes, Jack Harrison finished higher in the 24 under 24 list than Morris. That list was formulated during the middle of the season. It includes projections towards the future and is not an award based on 2016 performances.

Harrison’s ‘16 was merely decent—17 starts, four sub appearances, four goals, seven assists, 1574 minutes in MLS play. That’s pretty good. He will probably be third in the voting.

The year that Jordan Morris put up is historic. He had the best scoring season of any American rookie with 12 goals. Morris added four assists. He appeared in every game, starting 32 of them on the way to 2856 minutes.

Keegan Rosenberry, the Philadelphia Union right back, played every single minute of every MLS game. The only way his rookie record could be broken would be if another rookie was traded to a team with games in hand. He had two goals and two assists, along with an own goal.

Rosenberry started the MLS All Star Game while Morris merely started the Homegrown Game. That’s a significant bullet point in Keegan’s favor. But it also brings up that MLS lacks defining right backs at this time. Only eight players started at right back in two-thirds of their teams’ games. If voters for the Best XI award a starting right back, it should be Keegan, but that does not mean he was the best rookie.

Philadelphia gave up 55 goals, fifth most in MLS. Sure, Keegan isn’t responsible for all of those. He is responsible for at least one, his own goal, but probably quite a few more. Being the best defender on a poor defense is not a great calling card.

Then again, being the best attacking player in an average attack (Sounders finished with the 13th best offense at just 44 goals) is also not a great calling card. Being the best attacking player over the season on a team with Clint Dempsey is. Morris did that. For a majority of Seattle’s season, Jordan Morris was the offense. It was just him.

Both of these men are just rookies. One of them carried his team in a positive statistic. The other was the best performer in a negative metric. While some could point to the minutes played argument as a check mark in Rosenberry’s favor that seems to be rewarding a player for being on a team without quality and/or depth. Should Morris be “punished” for being on a team with Clint Dempsey, Nelson Haedo Valdez, and Herculez Gomez? No, that would be absurd. The Sounders are better at roster management than the Union. That is not a reason to think that Rosenberry had a better season than anyone.

I voted for Morris because he made history. I voted for Morris because his season is less likely to be matched. I voted for Morris because his team could count on him carrying them.

Rosenberry is in the Best XI I submitted, because he was the best right back in the league. MLS spends more money on forwards than on right backs. Three potential MVPs are forwards. That Morris wasn’t MVP caliber does not mean he wasn’t the best rookie.

Comparing defenders and forwards is hard. Using playing time as a tie-breaker is foolish. There isn’t a tie. Jordan Morris was a rookie being called into World Cup Qualifiers. Rosenberry was the best player at a position of leaguewide poor quality.