Colorado Rapids' top rookie Dillon Powers praises time served in NCAA ranks before MLS debut

They’re roommates, they’re friends and they finished one-two in MLS’ Rookie of the Year voting on Monday.

But while MLS Rookie of the Year Dillon Powers hadn’t spoken to his Colorado Rapids teammate and Rookie of the Year runner-up Deshorn Brown as of late Monday morning, the midfielder had a bit of an axe to grind with the striker.

“We have to sort out a utility bill,” Powers told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Monday morning. “I’m sure I’ll talk to him later today.”

Earlier on Monday, Powers was announced as the Rapids’ first-ever MLS Rookie of the Year after making an instant impact for Colorado in 2013, helping steer his side to the playoffs and becoming a key force in the starting lineup from day one.

“It was quite an honor, I know I worked very hard for it,” Powers said of the award. “I know that I felt that I really had a good season, and it’s nice to have others recognize that as well.”

Perhaps most impressive about his rookie season was Powers’ versatility within head coach Oscar Pareja’s midfield. A strong, physically intimidating player, Powers spent the beginning of the season playing deeper in the midfield, but he eventually moved into more of an attacking role, thriving equally in both positions.

Powers started 29 of 34 games (he missed the final three games of the season because of injury), collecting five goals (tied for second on the team, behind only Brown’s 10) and six assists (second on the team behind defender Chris Klute) while filling multiple spots during the Rapids’ injury-plagued start to the season.

So what allowed Powers, overlooked by half the league in January’s SuperDraft, to transition so quickly to life in MLS playing multiple roles? The Plano, Texas, native credits his award-laden four-year career at Notre Dame for helping prepare him for the grind of professional soccer.

“I think there’s many ways to come into the league, you can come in straight out of high school or leave college early,” Powers said. “But I loved being in a great program like Notre Dame and I really learned how to be the guy on the team and be under pressure for big games. I think that habituated myself to the pressure over the years and helped me jump to that next level.”

While the overwhelming majority of Powers’ season was a huge success, it ended on a sour note. After picking up a concussion in an Oct. 5 win over the Seattle Sounders, the 22-year-old was forced to spend the rest of the season on the bench, recovering from the symptoms, and he had to miss the Rapids’ 2-0 Knockout Round loss to the Sounders on October 30.

While Powers said he’s made progress the last few weeks, he still hasn’t fully recovered from the injury, although he anticipates being fully ready for the start of preseason.

“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent, but I’m almost there,” said Powers, who said he still felt “swimmy-headedness” when getting active.

In the meantime, Powers celebrated the news of his award with a Chipotle burrito – his favorite – and hopefully, he and Brown can eventually settle the score on their utility bill. But in the meantime, the Rapids are thrilled to be home to MLS’ two top rookies in 2013.

“We are incredibly proud of Dillon for this accomplishment, though it’s clear that both he and Deshorn would be worthy Rookie of the Year winners,” Rapids technical director Paul Bravo said in a club statement. “Dillon’s skill, tenacity, consistency and character were a big part of our success this year, and he deserves to be recognized.

"I also feel that in any other season, Deshorn would have easily won this award. I’d like to congratulate both players, and hope that this honor gets them, as well as our fans, even more excited for the 2014 season.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.