So today I was reading this, the MLS monthly rookie rankings.
It's a quick ranking of the top monthly performances of rookies around the league. This time it includes Patrick Mullens (New England), Harrison Shipp (Chicago), Tesho Akindele (Colorado), Nick Hagglund (Toronto), and Alex Martinez (SKC).
And that doesn't even include two players who were bright spots for their team before suffering injury: Thomas McNamara (Chivas), who went down when they played in Portland and Mark Sherrod of the PTFC U-23 program who played and scored in Houston, but went down in the past couple weeks.
Those guys have all seen the field a fair amount this season, and they're all producing. There's also a list of a few rookies to keep an eye on, after the actual rankings. Honorable mentions, I suppose.
Anyway, this made me think about our own rookies. You'd be forgiven for not knowing we actually have five of them: Schillo Tshuma, Taylor Peay, Aaron Long, Bryan Gallego, and George Fochive. None of them could challenge for a spot on the rookie rankings because none of them have seen minutes. In fact, I don't think any have so much as made the bench. Instead, they've been in and out of training, spending some time on loan. While this is hopefully good for their development, it concerns me that none of them have made an appearance with the Timbers.
I find it particularly concerning because the time most teams go to their young talent is when their suffering an injury crisis of some sort, and rookies are their only players ready to go. Instead, the Timbers decided to sign an MLS has-been in Danny O'Rourke. He's a valuable player in the sense that he's got some versatility; he can play fullback, center back, and defensive mid. The problem is, those positions are covered by four of our five rookies: Gallego, Long, Fochive and Peay are all defensive minded, even if Long's a little bit more box-to-box.
Given this, it has led me to question what it would take for these young guys to see time with the first team. I mean, the one game O'Rourke has played in was against a lifeless Chivas side. The Timbers could've played a branch at right back and won that game. Why wasn't Porter willing to call Peay back from loan and give him a run at right back?
Sorry for being all over the place with this, but it seems odd to me that so many other teams have turned to their draft picks or very recent homegrown signings in the past couple months – and in several cases seen them perform well and make the team better – but none of our own rookies, taking up a sixth of the roster, have sniffed playing time. By all accounts, they've played pretty well on loan, and from what I remember of the preseason, they looked like very intriguing signings then as well. But that's all meaningless if they never see the first team. So I go back to that question: what would it take for any of our rookies to get time in a league game? Why haven't we seen any of them despite our struggles?
At some point, you have to let them try to perform, right?