There may have been more flashy rookies, and first-year players in prime roles on more high-profile teams, but you will be hard pressed to find a rookie who made more of an impact on his team’s success in 2013 than Colorado Rapids midfielder Dillon Powers.
The Notre Dame product was a consistent force in the Rapids midfield from the first match of the season, quickly establishing himself as a two-way threat capable of sparking the attack while also contributing to the team’s defensive efforts.
The final result was a regular season that saw Powers start 29 of the team’s first 31 matches, delivering five goals and six assists (he missed the final three matches of the regular season with a concussion). The Rapids finished the season 5-0-3 in matches where Powers recorded either a goal or assist (or both), and in an interesting twist, all but one goal and every assist came against playoff teams.
Those numbers, and Powers’ overall contributions to Colorado’s successful bid for a playoff berth, helped Powers earn Goal USA’s MLS Rookie of the Year honors.
Powers beat out a field that included teammate Deshorn Brown, Seattle defender DeAndre Yedlin and New England defender Andrew Farrell.
Beyond the offensive stats, Powers gave the Rapids surprising poise in central midfield from a 22-year-old rookie, but that probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Powers spent four years at Notre Dame, establishing himself as a U.S. Under-20 national team fixture before injuries sidelined him for parts of his sophomore and junior season. Powers’ senior season at Notre Dame in 2012 showed a player with well-rounded skills and leadership qualities that suggested he could handle the jump to the pros.
The Rapids thought enough of Powers to make him the 10th overall pick in the 2013 MLS Draft. It wasn’t clear right away whether Powers would find regular minutes, but injuries to Martin Rivero and Jaime Castrillon made room for Powers to break in from the start of the season.
Powers made the most of that opportunity, playing like a veteran under Rapids head coach Oscare Pareja. Adept at creating chances and at scoring goals of his own, Powers held on to that starting role even as veterans like Rivero and Castrillon returned from injury, and even with new additions like Vicente Sanchez joining the Rapids.
Powers narrowly edged out teammate Deshorn Brown for Goal USA MLS Rookie of the Year. Brown’s 10 goals were second-most in MLS history by a rookie, and the Central Florida product put some real pressure on Powers for top rookie honors.
The 2013 MLS rookie class was a strong one, with Yedlin establishing himself as one of the more exciting full backs in the league, and Farrell becoming a regular starter on the playoff-bound New England Revolution. Los Angeles Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes overcome a broken foot early in the season to become a starting force for the defending champions, while Vancouver speedster Kekuta Manneh put on a late surge that flashed qualities that could wind up making him become the best player produced by the 2013 MLS Draft class.
For now, that title belongs to Powers, who turned in a rookie campaign that has earned him respect throughout the league, and has the Rapids in the playoffs for the first time since 2010, when they won the MLS Cup Final.