Dillon Powers was one of the best players on the field again Sunday. He continues to play at a consistent high level and make a strong case for MLS Rookie of the Year. This is the time of the season when rookies traditionally start to hit the wall and fade. Powers is doing anything but.
Against Chivas USA on Sunday, he again showed an impressive range of abilities. He makes excellent touches to keep possession and distribute the ball, and has the ability to possess while moving the ball forward. Powers makes smart movements with and without the ball, which often leads to him leading or setting up a break. He also continues to take set pieces, is a threat to score, and generally looks like a veteran while running the show from midfield.
Besides his individual heroics, Powers also has the advantage of being a valuable 'team-player' on an overachieving team. This should help his ROY candidacy as well. The Rapids would not be in the playoff mix had young players like Powers--perhaps especially Powers--not stepped up when the injury bug hit earlier this season. That he continues to play despite the return of the presumptive starters is a testament to his play, and to his attitude.
It was noticeable on Sunday that Powers sprinted off the field when he substituted in the 75th minute. After the box-to-box work he had put in all night, he had earned a jog off the field. But he sensed the Rapids were closing in on an equalizer, and he sprinted off the field to get play restarted as soon as possible. This team-first attitude is another plus in Powers' favor when it award-voting time comes.
Powers' main competition for the award seems to be New England's Andrew Farrell, LA Galaxy's Gyasi Zardes, Seattle Sounders DeAndre Yedlin, and his Rapids teammate, Deshorn Brown. The eye test says that none of those players have thus far played as central a role in their team's success as Powers. The stats agree: Powers leads those players in games played, minutes played, and assists, and trails only Brown in goals (6 to 4). On Sunday he also may have separated himself in the ROY race from Brown, whose missed chances helped cost the Rapids an easy win (you have to wonder how many assists Powers would have if Brown had finished his easy chances this season).
As Chris mentioned in May, if Powers wins the award, he would be the Rapids' first Rookie of the Year. The only other remotely notable Rapids' rookies have been Tony Cascio (2012), Jacob Peterson (2006), Jordan Cila (2004), Nat Borchers (2003), and Ross Paule (1997). Powers and Brown are already head and shoulders above that group, and if he can continue to earn playing time in a talented midfield, Powers is making a strong push to win the award this year.