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Rookie Rankings: FC Dallas' Tesho Akindele rising fast, but can he overtake Harry Shipp?

Tesho Akindele (Rookie Rankings)

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports

Throughout the 2014 MLS season, MLSsoccer.com will take stock of the performances of rookie players once a month, looking at which first-year professionals are making the biggest impact for their team and in the league.

The July Rookie Rankings reflect all games in the month, including the four Week 21 games on July 30.


There's little doubt that Harry Shipp is still the frontrunner for the 2014 Rookie of the Year award, but at least now he has some competition in the form of FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele.

The Canadian-born Akindele built on a promising June by scoring two goals in Dallas' three league games in July to take his season goal total to three. It's still well behind Shipp's total, but Akindele could conceivably close the gap if he maintains the kind of consistency he showed this month. It won't hurt if he could keep doing this, too:

Speaking of consistency, it's no surprise to see another rise in the rankings from D.C. United center back Steve Birnbaum, who has continued to do an admirable job deputizing on the backline for the hottest team in the league.

Further north, Toronto FC have had a slightly rougher time of it, but still remain very much in the playoff hunt, and versatile defender Nick Hagglund has certainly done his share of the work, earning a regular place in Ryan Nelsen's plans, if not necessarily his starting XI every game.

Rounding out the top 5 is Patrick Mullins, who has continued to feature regularly for the New England Revolution after a four-goal haul in May, but has slid down the rankings due to a lack of continued output just as his team has slid down the table.

Only MLS regular-season games reflected on schedule and statistics.

Rank Trending Last Player Comment

1

1

Harry Shipp

Shipp keeps chugging along, and though July was slightly less spectacular than earlier parts of his campaign, he has still produced a bigger, more impressive body of work than any other rookie this year.

  • Last Month: 7/2 vs. TOR (1-1 draw, 90 min, 1 goal), 7/6 at SKC (1-1 draw, 90 min), 7/12 at NE (1-0 win, 90 min), 7/19 vs. PHI (1-1 draw, 75 min, 1 A), 7/23 at San Jose (5-1 loss, 59 min), 7/30 vs. Vancouver (0-0 draw, 28 min)
  • This Month: Saturday 8/2 vs. Columbus (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live), 8/10 vs. New York, 8/16 at Montreal, 8/23 at Toronto, 8/30 vs. FC Dallas
  • Season Statistics: 6 G, 5 A (19 GP, 17 GS)
  • MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager: 105 points, $7.1 million (24.2 percent owned)

2

3

Tesho Akindele

It's no surprise to see Akindele moving up, given his coach Oscar Pareja's track record with young players. That a Division II product has earned and kept his spot among a group of talented foreign imports is no mean feat.

  • Last Month: 7/4 vs. PHI (2-1 win, 90 min, 1 G), 7/19 vs. NE (2-0 win, 90 min, 1 G), 7/27 at VAN (2-2 draw, 89 min)
  • This Month: Sunday 8/3 at Chivas USA (10 pm ET, MLS Live), 8/9 vs. Colorado, 8/16 at San Jose, 8/22 vs. Real Salt Lake, 8/30 at Chicago
  • Season Statistics: 3 G, 1 A (13 GP, 10 GS)
  • MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager: 46 points, $4.6 million (6.7 percent owned)
3

5

Steve Birnbaum

Birnbaum has continued to do well filling in for the injured Jeff Parke, starting and logging 90 minutes in central defense in each of D.C.'s four wins in July. The arrival of Kofi Opare will generate some competition, but Birnbaum's place will be hard to lose if he keeps up this level of play.

  • Last Month: 7/5 at TOR (2-1 win, 90 min), 7/11 at SJ (2-1 win, 90 min), 7/20 vs. CHV (3-1 win, 90 min), 7/30 vs. TOR (3-0 win, 90 min)
  • This Month: Sunday 8/3 at Houston (8 pm ET, Univision Deportes, MLS Live), 8/9 at Real Salt Lake, 8/17 vs. Colorado, 8/23 at Sporting KC, 8/27 at LA Galaxy, 8/31 vs. New York
  • Season Statistics: 630 minutes played (7 GP, 7 GS)
  • MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager: 29 points, $4.6 million (3.9 percent owned)

4

4

Nick Hagglund

Not quite the same model of consistency as Birnbaum as far as playing time goes, but he has continued to provide Toronto with more than just a body in the back as they deal with the absence of Steven Caldwell.

  • Last Month: 7/2 at CHI (1-1 draw, 90 min), 7/5 at DC (2-1 loss, 88 min), 7/12 vs. HOU (4-2 win, did not dress), 7/16 vs. VAN (1-1 draw, 35 min), 7/19 at HOU (2-2 draw, 90 min), 7/26 vs. SKC (2-1 loss, 90 min), 7/30 at DC (3-0 loss, 90 min)
  • This Month: Saturday 8/2 at Montreal (5 pm ET, TSN, RDS in Canada; MLS Live in USA), 8/9 at Columbus, 8/16 at Sporting KC, 8/23 vs. Chicago, 8/30 vs. New England
  • Season Statistics: 1 A (12 GP, 10 GS)
  • MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager: 45 points, $5.1 million (9.9 percent owned)

5

2

Patrick Mullins

It's been two months, but Mullins' four goals are still second only to Shipp among rookies. He could increase that total in August if the Revs' big win over Colorado has truly snapped their funk.

  • Last Month: 7/4 at RSL (2-1 loss, 79 min), 7/12 vs. CHI (1-0 loss, 90 min), 7/16 at LA (5-1 loss, 57 min), 7/19 at DAL (2-0 loss, 34 min), 7/26 vs. CLB (2-1 loss, 67 min), 7/30 vs. COL (3-0 win, 28 min)
  • This Month: Saturday 8/2 at New York (7 pm ET, MLS Live), 8/16 vs. Portland, 8/23 vs. Chivas USA, 8/30 at Toronto
  • Season Statistics: 4 G (14 GP, 12 GS)
  • MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager: 43 points, $5.0 million (7.1 percent owned)

Other rookies to watch: Marlon Hairston (Colorado Rapids), Chris Duvall (New York Red Bulls), Jared Watts (Colorado Rapids), Steve Neumann (New England Revolution), Adam Bedell (Columbus Crew)