Friday, September 21, 2012
Nine PDL alumni have been named to MLSSoccer.com’s annual 24 Under 24 list, highlighting the top young players in the top professional league in North America. Four former PDL players were named in the Top 10, with C.J. Sapong, Sean Johnson, Andrew Wenger and Perry Kitchen leading the league’s alumni in the professional ranks.
Sporting Kansas City’s Sapong took the No. 2 spot, with the power forward and 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year being praised for his work off the ball as much as his goal-scoring ability. The former Reading United standout, who had four goals and three assists in the 2010 PDL season, hit his first major setback this season in the professional ranks this season, when a groin injury and a deep attacking arsenal in the SKC squad left him short of playing time. Now restored to the lineup after an unlucky break to fellow PDL alum Teal Bunbury, he has scored two goals in the past three games.
Sapong told MLSSoccer.com’s Steve Brisendine that he thought the injury was, in a way, a blessing in disguise.
“I would say at the beginning of the season, I was very fresh, very determined, very hungry,” Sapong told MLSSoccer.com. “And after a lot of games, you get a little burned out. That's what happened to me. I looked at the injury as a sign and a blessing, to reiterate the need to kind of take care of my body and to just heal and rejuvenate myself. I feel the hunger again. So that's good, that it's coming now at the home stretch.”
Johnson, now with the Chicago Fire, checks in at No. 4 on the list, with the recent U.S. Men’s National Team call-up having made the starting spot in the Fire’s lineup his own since his rookie season in 2010. A native of Lilburn, Ga., Johnson played for the Atlanta Blackhawks in 2009 prior to his selection in the MLS SuperDraft, and currently sits fourth in MLS with 94 saves, also recording a 1.21 goals-against average.
Wenger, who checked in at No. 7 and played alongside Sapong in 2010 in Reading before competing for the Carolina Dynamo last season, has shown great potential since being chosen with the No. 1 overall selection in this year’s MLS SuperDraft by the Montreal Impact. A versatile player who can fit in both in attack and defense, the Impact are hoping to take advantage of Wenger’s scoring prowess as he continues to develop.
At the other end of the field, Kitchen has become a mainstay for D.C. United since being taken with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. A member of the Chicago Fire PDL prior to his move to the professional ranks, the defensive midfielder was the No.8 selection on the list. Having played the second-most minutes for United this season, making 27 starts, Kitchen has quickly become one of the first names on Ben Olsen’s lineup sheet.
Other players named to the list include No. 15 Darlington Nagbe, who played for the Cleveland Internationals before joining the professional ranks. One of four consecutive MAC Hermann Trophy winners that spent time in the PDL, Nagbe has been a bright spot for the Timbers in their first two seasons in MLS, and with his former college coach Caleb Porter set to join the side in 2013, the future looks bright for the Liberian native.
Former Carolina Dynamo standout Sheanon Williams was named at No. 18, as the key member of the Philadelphia Union continued his remarkable ascent into the spotlight. Undrafted out of college, Williams spent the 2010 season with USL PRO’s Harrisburg City Islanders, impressing the Union scouts as he played for their affiliate and earning a shot in MLS. From there, Williams has gone from strength to strength, earning a long-term deal from the club as he has become a pillar for the Union’s defense.
Bunbury, who along with Wenger, Nagbe and former Carolina Dynamo player Marcus Tracy, is another MAC Hermann Trophy Award-winner, and earns a place at No. 20 in the list. The former Rochester Thunder standout and PDL All-Central Conference Team selection in 2009 has established himself as part of Sporting Kansas City’s dangerous front line alongside Sapong and fellow PDL alum Kei Kamara.
Former Orange County Blue Star standout Luis Silva sits one place behind Bunbury, with the rookie making a solid start to his professional career with Toronto FC after being taken with the fourth selection in this year’s MLS SuperDraft. With four goals and four assists this season, Silva is just scratching the surface of his professional potential.
Rounding out the PDL alumni is former Ventura County Fusion standout Andy Rose, who has earned his playing time this season on a star-studded Seattle Sounders outfit. After being acquired during the MLS Supplemental Draft by Seattle from Real Salt Lake, Rose has proven a reliable performer in his rookie season, finding the back of the net this season in not only MLS but also the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League.