A couple weeks ago I wrote about Dillon Powers pushing for the Rookie of the Year award. And yes, now I'm clearly pushing him for the award. But I was thinking about his competition more, specifically DeAndre Yedlin with the Seattle Sounders, and Andrew Farrell with the New England Revolution. Both are defenders, and it seems that defenders always win the ROY award. The natural conclusion is that it's easier for a rookie to step right into the lineup as a defender than it is as a forward or midfielder. So defenders have an unfair advantage, and that should strengthen Powers' case for this year's award. Here's the breakdown of past winners:
It doesn't look so skewed against midfielders at first look, but those numbers are deceiving. Three of those six midfielders (Steve Ralston, Ben Olsen, and Andy Najar) were wide midfielders, a position which rewards speed and work rate, and is therefore a position where rookies often step right into the lineup. A fourth (Clint Dempsey) played a lot of forward the year he won, giving him more chances to score goals than the average central midfielder (and the award seems to have gone to the top scoring rookie or the best defender most years). So that leaves two true central midfielders who have won the award, Maurice Edu (a defensive midfielder) and Kyle Martino. Powers' stats are equal or better than those two already, and so he will almost assuredly eclipse them by the end of the season in appearances, starts, minutes, goals, and assists, making him arguably the best rookie central midfielder in league history.
But the point obviously isn't to compare him to past winners, but to compare him to his peers in 2013 (which statistically is also a favorable comparison for Powers). And I believe it is important to consider how difficult it is for a rookie to succeed in the context of his particular position. Yedlin and Farrell have been excellent for their teams this year, as has Powers (and Deshorn Brown, who will certainly be in the ROY conversation as well). But Powers has done so at central midfield--the hub of the team, a position which is exceptionally difficult for a rookie to step into, nevermind own or thrive at.
Dillon Powers has played a position with a tough learning curve and excelled, and MLS ROY voters needs to consider that when the votes are cast.