Honorable Mentions: Leonardo Jara, Junior Moreno, Chris Odoi-Atsem
While these players did not make the cut, they are immensely focal to the success of the club as a whole.
Leonardo Jara, a defender, has totaled four assists and three shots on target. That is outrageous attacking production from a player that rarely overlaps with the winger, much less crosses into the final third of the pitch. He has more assists than every midfielder we have fielded this season.
Junior Moreno is finally growing into his skin. At 25, he is finally taking some leaps in progress. Despite a goal count of zero, he has two assists, one second assist, and in three shots on target, he has hit the woodwork once. Maybe if his finishing was a little more clinical, he would have cracked the top four; nonetheless, the United fanbase is very excited to see how he grows into his role here.
And last, but definitely not least, Chris Odoi-Atsem. Not even cancer can keep him off the field. Odoi-Atsem deserved a spot on this list for fighting the ultimate battle, winning, and then jumping right back onto the pitch to chase his passion. If anyone could take a page out of Odoi-Atsem’s book, it would be, most likely, an invaluable lesson about intrinsic motivation and perseverance.
4. Ulises Segura
Ulises Segura is a dark horse contender for man of the match every game. After notching his first multi-goal game just a few days ago in a matchup against Chicago FC, he has been red hot, eluding a new and heightened sense of confidence.
Much like Acosta, Segura is important in the play itself, though he is not that much of a stat sheet stuffer. His most beneficial quality, that Wayne surely appreciates greatly, is his ability to spread the defense’s line. Blistering speed down the touch line calls for the opposing team to shift full and center backs over a tad, leaving that much more room for Rooney to do his thing. Additionally, without Segura’s production in the match against Chicago, the team would be in a much different place on the table today.
Three goals and an assist in 17 games played (only eight starts, though) is fairly good production from the youngster hotshot from Costa Rica. He has the foundational skills and talent necessary to be successful, but if he can develop, mature, and iron out some of his moves come playoffs, he, and his 6’0” broad frame, will pose a daunting task for opposing defenders.
3. Bill Hamid
*Bill, Ha-mid, Bill Bill Ha-mid* Bill Hamid is the epicenter, nerve center, and every other type of center in the world, to this club. This is his team, his home, and when it comes down to his loyalty, he eats sleeps and breathes all things United.
After being snubbed from the United States Men’s National Team, Hamid decided it was time to go to work – show Gregg Berhalter why he messed up. (Not to mention, the way by which Hamid took the news and voiced his feelings to the press were as close to a quintessence of professionalism one can get). Not letting his feelings get to him was one of the best things he could have done to keep his career on the trajectory it currently is. But, just like Rooney, it is not all about poise.
Hamid is a goalkeeper with a skillset to start on the nation’s team. Let that sink in. He is one of the best goalkeepers America has ever seen, and he is protecting our net. The numbers really, REALLY, don’t lie either: 68 saves (40 of which were inside the box), an almost 80% save percentage, and seven clean sheets this year so far.
No, he is not a flashy attacker nutmegging hopeless opponent defenders, but he comes in every day and makes a couple, if not many saves that leaves the entire crowd puzzled in awe.
2. Luciano Acosta
Luciano Acosta this season has blossomed into a composed, witty midfielder capable of caressing the ball through tight passing lanes on the offensive end while backpedaling to mark a, now, aggravated defender who has to deal with Acosta’s stellar on ball defense.
The Boca Juniors and Estudiantes product is the center of a young and star-studded midfield here in the nation’s capital. In 17 games played, the Argentine has produced five goals, one assist and a hockey assist (second assist).
As cliché as it may be, Acosta makes a lot of the plays for this team that don’t show up in the statistics sheet. He has already stuffed the sheet with his goal contributions, but chasing around any opposition player in his area to the point of exhaustion, communicating necessary teammate movements to cut passing lanes, and his 142 passes into the final third all do not show up on a pedestrian game notes – yet they make a huge difference in any game.
There is no doubt in any Black-and-Red faithful’s mind that this team would not be where it is today if it weren’t for the energy, soccer intellect, and leadership of Luciano Acosta.
1. Wayne Rooney
Undoubtedly, Wayne Rooney has been everything this club needs. He is a jolt of energy on any given play, a staunch believer in himself, a veteran and master of the game, a face for the franchise, and a mentor to all the inexperienced yet eager-to-learn young guns on the Black-and-Red’s team sheet.
Rooney stepped into this locker room and did exactly what everyone hoped he’d do — he owned it. Coming out each and every game to bring it his all, he doesn’t turn back as the gear is stuck in full throttle for 90 minutes of battle. Scenes from training come with a complementary sound track of Rooney challenging his teammates, being a tough-love oriented mentor that will push those as young as Griffin Yow to their fullest potential, while teaching them the hard way so they don’t have to find out for themselves. A mature, composed lad like this is crucial to any professional sports team – and we got an alpha.
But poise alone does not earn you the top power ranking spot on any team. Rooney, even at 33, still churns out numbers such as eight goals and four assists accompanied by a 25% shot conversion rate. In his best season (2014-15) playing for Manchester United, he tallied 12 goals and five assists. Sure, the competition was, and probably is, stiffer overseas, yet Rooney, in a very established professional soccer league, is on pace to shatter those benchmarks.