Over the past two years, the Philadelphia Union have been lucky to acquire two great, young defenders via the MLS SuperDraft in Keegan Rosenberry and Jack Elliott. Although Rosenberry hasn’t played much this season, there have been discussions based on who was the better player as a rookie in the MLS with the Union.
Elliott has proven that he can compete with the best of the best in this league at 21. Both of these players were mentioned for the Rookie of the Year award, even as defenders in this attacking minded league. As the MLS regular season nears an end, Elliott has been seriously talked about well and mentioned for the possible winner of the award as well as Julian Gressel of Atlanta United and Ian Harkes of D.C. United. Typically over the years, forwards have won this prestigious award as Tesho Akindele won the award in 2014, Cyle Larin in 2015, and Jordan Morris in 2016.
In 2016, Rosenberry was the favorite to win Rookie of the Year throughout most of the season, but as the final games neared, Morris caught on fire and scored a total 12 goals as Seattle went on to win the MLS Cup. Rosenberry ended up finishing second place in voting, receiving 30% of the votes from players, media, and clubs. Although Rosenberry didn’t win the award he was hoping for, he still came out of the season with the MLS Fair Play Award, which is given to the player who represents the best sportsmanlike behavior and commits the least amount of fouls or receives the least number of yellow cards throughout the long season.
The debate starts to get interesting as Elliott has been playing phenomenal for the Union as a centerback with 1,812 minutes played already this season. Manager Jim Curtin truly believes Elliott is making a strong case for the coveted award as a young player in the league.
A few weeks ago Curtin stated Elliott should be considered for the league’s top rookie. “He’s played at that level and I thought he was excellent again tonight,” Curtin said after the Union were shutout by the New England Revolution. Recently, Elliott scored his first career MLS goal off a corner for the Union in Saturday night’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes.
The team considers themselves very lucky having drafted Elliott 77th in this year’s SuperDraft. He was a diamond in the rough among this year’s draft class, while Keegan Rosenberry was selected third in last year’s draft as he had more pressure to do well throughout the season. Rosenberry truly showed he could defend against the best superstars in the league as he was a lockdown one on one defender at right back with the team.
Another incredible fact about Rosenberry was that he played a total of 3,060 minutes, which was every single minute throughout the 2016 regular season. Along the way, he scored two goals as well as two assists at the right back position for the Union. Elliott played in his first career MLS appearance on April 1 against D.C. United, as Richie Marquez suffered an injury at halftime. But Elliott didn’t even start the first five games of the season, as Marquez’s distant illness thrusted him into action on April 14 against NYCFC at home.
Between Elliott and Rosenberry, the two young studs have plenty to prove throughout their careers, wherever it takes them in the future. As the season was still young, Rosenberry had only played average at best in his first few games in the 2017 campaign, so as the seventh game of the year rolled around against the Montreal Impact, Ray Gaddis took his spot and hasn’t looked back since. As for Elliott, he will hope to continue playing at a high level as the season goes on, and Rosenberry will wish to get more playing time as he’s only started six games and played a total of 612 minutes so far this season.
The Union have a good situation on their hands with potential superstars in the years to come as they grow older and become more experienced or smart with their playing style. Whether or not Elliott and Rosenberry stay with the Union as they age, the Union front office will feel glad they had the opportunity to train and help them improve into better players as their careers go forward.
The Union will do anything in their power to hold onto these two distinguished soccer players. While Rosenberry is from Pennsylvania, Elliott has always had a passion for soccer in arguably the biggest soccer city across the pond in London. Elliott has definitely had more support with him on defense as veteran defender Oguchi Onyewu has helped guide him along his rookie season. Elliott did not have to be as much of a leader as Rosenberry because of his support on the defensive side as opposed to Keegan playing the role of a leader on the right side.
Lastly, the Union’s most proven young defenders have their best years ahead of them as they have the potential to become some of the best defenders in the league for many years to come.
“Photos: Dave Zeitlin/CSNPhilly” “InterperformancesUSA/jackelliottsoccer”