Who are the top early candidates for MLS Rookie of the Year?

Omir Fernandez - goal celebration – New York Red Bulls

National audiences might not have heard too much about the exploits of the MLS rookie class of 2019 just yet. But several newcomers have been prominently involved in their teams’ best moments thus far, and as the MLS season winds into the busy, draining summer months and roster depth is tested, more will step up to contribute.

With that in mind, here’s one view on the current frontrunners for the MLS Rookie of the Year award, and a few names who might rise into the reckoning in the days to come.

Edwin Cerrillo, FC Dallas

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Cerrillo has been a solid presence in central midfield for Dallas | USA Today Sports Images

Not many expected to see much of the 18-year-old Homegrown this season; FCD are known to bring their younger academy signings along slowly and carefully. So it was surprising to see coach Luchi Gonzalez hand Cerrillo seven straight starts in a key role at the base of midfield this spring – and the North Texans went 4-2-1 during that stretch, while the player was rewarded with a call to Tab Ramos’ US Under-20 men's national team for the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Now Cerrillo’s back in Frisco, and returned to the FCD lineup with a substitute appearance in this week’s U.S. Open Cup win over OKC Energy FC. What else is in store for the composed, technical teenager?

Omir Fernandez, New York Red Bulls

Joining the reigning Supporters’ Shield holders, the RBNY Homegrown has been thrown in at the deep end in his first pro campaign – and looks like he belongs. Offering a creative spark in addition to the fitness and intensity the Red Bulls’ system demands, the Wake Forest alum has already netted two MLS goals and two assists, as well as a goal in Concacaf Champions League play, despite making just three league starts (11 appearances). He’s one to watch down the stretch.

DeJuan Jones, New England Revolution

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Jones could be the Revs' starter at left back for the rest of the season | USA Today Sports Images

The No. 11 overall SuperDraft pick has been one of the Revs’ bright spots, starting seven matches (out of 11 league appearances) and contributing a goal and an assist. While his game has some raw edges to smooth out, he’s got something that’s mighty difficult to teach: Sheer, gamebreaking speed. New coach and GM Bruce Arena seems to rate the Michigan State product, who’s offered New England a weapon in wide areas with his pace and work rate.

Donovan Pines, D.C. United

Look beyond the statistics – no goals and an assist in four 90-minute outings – and take a gander at the towering Homegrown’s defensive performances for D.C., which have mostly come as the central defender in United’s “Plan B” formation, a 3-4-3/5-4-1 look.

Pines has been dominant for long stretches, showing both athleticism and savvy decision-making. D.C. are very, very high on him, and some around the club even proejct him as a future US national teamer. Though a knee injury ruled him out for a month, sidetracking his progress, he’ll likely see plenty of action in the coming months.

Andre Shinyashiki, Colorado Rapids

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Shinyashiki will look to add to his goal tally in the second half | USA Today Sports Images

The Brazilian scored an eye-popping 28 goals in 21 games as a college senior at the University of Denver, and he’s also shown that nose for goal at the next level.

With three goals and an assist in 438 minutes to date, Shinyashiki was until recently used as something of a supersub for the Rapids, making 14 appearances but only four starts – which breaks down to an impressive 0.62 goals per 90 minutes. He’s started their last three matches, chipping in a goal and an assist in that time, which could portend a bigger role ahead.

Others to watch: Hassani Dotson (MIN), Julian Araujo (LA), John Nelson (DAL), Frankie Amaya (CIN), Tajon Buchanan (NE)