It’s that time of the year again, and as in years past, MLS fans are anxiously waiting to see which one of their favorite young players has made the cut for MLSsoccer.com’s annual '24 Under 24' list.
This year, with a slightly altered announcement structure, the league has put out a 50-player shortlist (in advance of the official announcement) that includes Rapids forward Deshorn Brown, midfielders Dillon Powers and Dillon Serna, and defender Shane O’Neill.
“These four players really exemplify the different types of skillsets that I think are important on any team, but more importantly the different personalities that bring this whole group to life,” said Pablo Mastroeni.
Powers and Brown, if named to the list, would repeat the feat achieved in 2013. There was a bit of disagreement from Colorado fans that both players could have, and should have, been ranked higher, especially as Brown (#20) finished the season at the top of all rookies in goals scored (10), and Powers (#23) went on to win the MLS Rookie of the Year award.
Additionally, 2013 was the first year since the inception of the series in 2010 that any Rapids player had been included on the list. Argument could have been made that players like Chris Klute and Shane O’Neill deserved to join their two teammates on the roster. Klute, who established himself early in the 2013 season as Oscar Pareja’s go-to left back, earned several nods from the U.S. men’s national team, and was even named as the 'best U.S. left back' by at least one media outlet.
O’Neill earned his chance in March last year, and played nearly every game thereafter, having become the club’s first Homegrown Player to start for the Rapids.
As for this year, the final list will be announced on Thursday via MLSsoccer.com at 11 a.m. MT. Now, with the inclusion of the shortlist, it’ll be a waiting game to see which of them make the final cut. If it were up to Mastroeni, all four would be deserving of the honor.
“They’ve been integral to the team this year; they’ve played a very significant amount of games and they are guys that we continue to build our team round. There have been a lot of very bright moments from each of them.”
“Shane continues to learn what I think is one of the most difficult positions in the game: central defense,” Mastroeni noted about O’Neill. “One of the greatest attributes about him is that he’s a competitor … and I think you’ll continue to see him get opportunities with the Olympic team and the full men’s national team.”
About Serna, Pablo commented on his ethic in practice. “He trains like he’s going to be the best. He has self-belief and works his tail off, and sets the tone for those around him. ”
As for Powers and Brown, Mastroeni feels that this has been an important and positive season for their growth as MLS professionals.
Regarding Powers: “I think he’s a very talented young player with a great soccer brain, hence the reason he’s able to play proficiently in quite a few spots in the upper part of the formation. He’s taken on more of a leadership role, even at his young age. I think his performances have spoken for themselves and he continues to show signs of a player that will be very good in this league for years to come.”
And lastly, about Brown: “I think Deshorn has been our most consistent striker up top as far as durability and being available, and being threatening beyond that. Opportunities on goal – he leads the league, so he continues to put himself in really good spots and creates a lot of havoc for opposing teams.”
As for the 10 other Rapids players that are eligible but didn’t make the shortlist, Brian Crookham, the club's Senior Director of Soccer Development, suggested that it could even be a good sign.
“I think it’s definitely a representation of where we are today,” Crookham said of Colorado for having four on the shortlist. “But now this '24 Under 24' list has grown so much in quality that even eligible players, getting meaningful minutes and making contributions - such as Marlon Hairston and Jared Watts - will have a tough time getting onto the list. That’s a testament to the group of young players that we have in the league; I think those lists will be harder and harder to come up with in the future.”
Stay tuned to ColoradoRapids.com and MLSsoccer.com this week for exclusive content, and find out who makes the top 24 at 11 a.m. MT on Thursday.