When he scored a goal in his first professional match, it was clear C.J. Sapong intended on doing big things his rookie year.
The James Madison product didn't come into the league with much fanfare, but once he settled into the Sporting Kansas City starting lineup, and played a key role in the team's turnaround from a 1-6-4 start, it was clear Sapong was a special player.
Sapong finished the season with five goals (six counting his goal in the playoffs) and five assists, both MLS rookie highs, to run away with SBI MLS Rookie of the Year honors.He was the top choice on all seven SBI staff ballots, a dominant showing that repeated itself with Sapong also being named the official MLS Rookie of the Year on Tuesday.
The 2011 MLS rookie field was a solid one, with eight different rookies making their way onto SBI Rookie of the Year ballots. Here were the other rookies to be honored among the best in MLS in 2011:
New England Revolution central defender A.J. Soares finished second in the SBI voting. While the Revs endured a terrible season, and the defense let in the second-most goals in MLS, Soares impressed observers throughout the league with his poise, strength and technical ability. He led rookies in starts and minutes played this season.
Chicago Fire defender Jalil Anibaba finished third in the SBI voting. The North Carolina product stepped in at right back, and while it wasn't his natural position (he is a centerback), Anibaba handled the position with steady performances and he helped the Fire come within striking distance of a playoff spot.
Among the other rookies to receive votes were Philadelphia teammates Zac MacMath and Michael Farfan, Houston striker Will Bruin, Portland forward Darlington Nagbe and D.C. United defender Perry Kitchen.
Sapong ran away with the official MLS Rookie of the Year voting as well, finishing with a weighted total of 106.28, while Kitchen (34.56) and Farfan (33.50) finished second and third, respectively.
Who got your Rookie of the Year vote? If Sapong was your pick, who do you think was the best of the rest?
Share your thoughts below.