Rookie Revolution: 2016 first-rounders have Union on brink of playoff berth

Philadelphia Union's Keegan Rosenberry quiets Columbus crowd after scoring - 8/24/16

CHESTER, Pa. — These days, Keegan Rosenberry and Fabian Herbers can’t get away from each other.

They live together in Philly. They room together on the road. And for the last two months, they’ve started on the same side of the field for the Philadelphia Union with Rosenberry deployed at right back and Herbers slotted into the right wing.

“If you’re going to be spending that much time together, you should put it to good use,” Rosenberry told “Hopefully we’re doing that so far.”

Union fans would certainly say that they are.

While Rosenberry has been a picture of consistency all year — he leads the league in minutes played (2,970) and was named to the MLS All-Star Team in July — Herbers has been on a recent tear, logging two goals and three assists over the last eight games since joining the starting lineup.

And while Seattle's Jordan Morris is likely the frontrunner to win MLS Rookie of the Year honors, it’s possible that Rosenberry and Herbers could finish 2-3 in the voting. Throw in center back Joshua Yaro, the third member of Philly’s vaunted 2016 draft class, and the Union believe they have a trio of rookies they can build around for a long time to come.

“We knew they had quality right from the start,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “We knew they were guys because of the careers they had in college, how they were coached in college, they’d be quick to make the transition. We’ve leaned heavily on them … and they’ve shown that they not only belong on the field but can leave big impact on games.”

Rookie Revolution: 2016 first-rounders have Union on brink of playoff berth -

Heading into the 2016 SuperDraft, Curtin said that the Union targeted all three players, in part because they all knew each other well in college with Rosenberry and Yaro working together as defensive teammates at Georgetown, where part of their task was to slow down Herbers at Big East rival Creighton.

But with only two picks coming into the draft, they had to be “aggressive” to get it done. They were, and it has paid immediate dividends as the Union, despite a recent slide, are poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011 with all three rookies playing huge roles.

“Hopefully when we look back on it in 10 years, it’s a decision that helped mold a franchise,” Curtin said.

While Yaro was the highest pick at No. 2 — Rosenberry went third and Herbers sixth — he’s had the most difficult rookie season, dealing with red cards and injuries, including two recent concussions, that have prevented him from locking down the starting center back spot. But Curtin said he’s been “excellent for us when called upon,” and his two rookie teammates are proud of Yaro for enduring what he has while still remaining positive.

“For him, it’s the first time he’s had to deal with anything like that,” Rosenberry said. “I don’t think he had two yellow cards in a season at Georgetown. It’s just one of those things. He’s doing well and handling it well because he has such good character.”

Rookie Revolution: 2016 first-rounders have Union on brink of playoff berth -

While Yaro’s status remains up in the air after he had a scary collision in a 3-2 loss to the Red Bulls on Oct. 1, Rosenberry and Herbers will look to cap off memorable rookie seasons in a rematch with the Red Bulls in Sunday’s regular-season finale at Talen Energy Stadium (4 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

Rosenberry can become just the second Union player to play every minute of every game (Sebastien Le Toux did it in 2011) as well as the first rookie ever to play every minute of a 34-game season. And with seven assists, Herbers is currently tied for fourth for the most in a season by an MLS rookie — and is even already in the top 10 for career assists in Union franchise history.

“Keegan’s season speaks for itself,” Curtin said. “He’s a top rookie in our league. For me, he’s the Rookie of the Year. … And Fabian’s coming on really strong at the end of the year. He’s a guy we saw the quality every day in front of the goal. He’s shown from that wing position, he can set up goals and also score goals. He’s a natural playmaker.”

Other people on the Union have been touting Rosenberry for Rookie of the Year, including Herbers, who said his teammate is “the clear No. 1” because he’s been “the most consistent player.” Herbers then laughed he’d “take that No. 3 spot all day” behind Morris and Rosenberry. Or could he even go higher if he keeps piling on the stats?

“I think he’s definitely making a late push here,” Rosenberry said. “We’ll have to see what the balloters think.”

Of course, the Union have bigger things to shoot for as they look to snap out of a six-game winless streak heading into the playoffs and then make a run once they get to the postseason. Beyond that, Philly’s vaunted rookies hope to continue to reshape the franchise’s fortunes for the next several years … while never forgetting to stay in the moment.

“We’d love to be here for a while and help the club grow for the next five to 10 years,” Rosenberry said. “But the moment you start thinking too far ahead and put too much value in that kind of stuff is when you start getting into trouble.”

“Of course it would be great if we had an impact over the long run,” Herbers added. “At the same time, you can’t look ahead too far. Right now, we’re just happy with the club.”