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Is Jake Nerwinski MLS Rookie of the Year?

Jake Nerwinski has had a great rookie campaign for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Has his season been good enough to earn him the MLS Rookie of the Year award?

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

This week, The Province reporter Steve Ewen suggested that the Vancouver Whitecaps most recent run should put Carl Robinson in the discussion for Major League Soccer’s Coach of the Year. I disagree with this assertion, although I understand where it is coming from as many did not predict the Whitecaps to be a contender this season. However, one player whom I do believe deserves some league-wide recognition is Jake Nerwinski.

During Vancouver’s September 9th match against Real Salt Lake, I posed the question on Twitter of whether Jake Nerwinski should be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.

With mixed opinions among Caps fans, I decided to ask outside the Whitecaps bubble to those that may have a better take on issue. Enter writer Matthew Doyle

The subtilty of my questioning was not lost on followers.

Doyle felt that Nerwinski was in the conversation, along with Philadelphia Union defender Jake Elliot, Minnesota United’s striker Abu Danladi, and Atlanta United’s midfielder Julian Gressel; with Gressel taking it.

This past week, the Vancouver Whitecaps played three matches at home, and it was expected that Sheanon Williams would start at least one of those matches at right back. However, after a man-of-the-match performance against RSL, which included two assists (and one unofficial assist), Robbo found it difficult to take Nerwinski out of the lineup. He followed the RSL match up with solid performances against Minnesota and Columbus, where he garnered another assist.

In the midst of Nerwinski’s three matches, MLSSoccer senior editor Ben Couch suggested that the MLS Rookie of the Year race was not as competitive as some of us might think/hope. While he did see Nerwinski as a standout rookie performer, Jake was in the ‘late break’ category, which put him around 6th or 7th best rookie.

Comparing the Top Rookies of 2017

Player Games Played Games Started Minues Goals Assists Shots Shots on Target Fouls Committed Yellow Red
Player Games Played Games Started Minues Goals Assists Shots Shots on Target Fouls Committed Yellow Red
Nerwinski 14 14 1257 0 4 1 0 12 2 0
Elliott 25 24 2172 1 1 5 2 23 4 0
Gressel 26 19 1535 3 7 22 5 20 4 0
Danladi 21 12 1088 6 2 28 11 23 3 1

Comparing the four names put forth by Doyle is difficult as two of them play defense, one is a midfielder, and the other is a striker. Doyle suggested that Gressel would win the award based on counting stats. It is hard to argue with that, given his three goals and seven assists. However, the recent surge by Danladi cannot be ignored either, who now sits on six goals and two assists.

Even though Elliot and Nerwinski are both defenders, it is still difficult to compare them, as Elliot has played almost twice as many minutes as Nerwinski. Yet, counting stats wise, Nerwinski has four assists compared to Elliot’s one goal and one assist.

As most regular viewers of Whitecaps matches will tell you, Nerwinski is often targeted by opposing teams. It makes sense as a rookie is more appealing to attack than Jordan Harvey. Despite this, I found it impressive that Jake has only committed 12 fouls and received only two yellow cards. Interestingly, Danladi has seen red once this year.

It is unlikely that Jake Nerwinski will be crowned 2017 Rookie of the Year as others have played more, received more publicity, and have better counting stats. Nevertheless, I hope that Jake is in the running at the end of the year as his successful rookie season deserves to be highlighted.

At the very least, Jake deserves the praise of Whitecaps fans. While Williams was brought in to bring short-term stability to last season’s right back train wreck, it is Nerwinski who has made the position his and someone many Whitecaps fans can see as the future at that position going forward (with Kadin Chung potentially nipping at his heels in five years).