The 2011 season in Major League Soccer saw a big influx of new talent. Between the 82 new players this season - 11 were Designated Players - meaning to beat out one of the big money makers would be tough.
As the season went on it was fairly clear that the Newcomer of the Year Award would be a three horse race between Seattle Sounders midfielder Mauro Rosales, New York Red Bulls striker Luke Rodgers and Vancouver Whitecaps' Designated player Eric Hassli.
In any award race consistent is king. Rodgers battled with injuries in the middle of the summer before making a big come back late in the season to help push the Red Bulls into the playoffs. Hassli scored quality goals here and there while picking up an early reputation of getting as many red cards as he did goals.
But it was Rosales who was steady throughout the entire season.
Rosales started 22 games for the Sounders in 2011. He scored five goals but his assists were more important to the Rave Green - as he chipped in 13 assists on the season - good enough for third best in the league.
At one point in the season Rosales was considered a front-runner for the league's MVP award. Had it not been for a late season MCL injury, he probably would have been high in the voting in that as well.
For the stat geeks out there, Rosales was a big time catch for the Sounders. He had more goals than any other leading assist-man in the league. His game-winning assists had him pegged for third-best in the league. But the most telling stat may have been the number of times he was fouled this season. He ended up fifth in the league in fouls suffered with 59.
Another telling stat in Rosales' case is his club's record with him in the lineup as opposed to him out of the lineup. Seattle was a decent 5-5-3 without him in the lineup but when he started the Sounders went a whooping 12-3-6. That's as many wins in a shorter amount of time than MVP candidate Brad Davis had with the Houston Dynamo.
One final number to throw out for Rosales was his salary figure. The Sounders got a bargain out of Rosales with his $42,000 contract. That is a major return on someone who barely had an impact on a team's salary cap as compared to a Designated Player that had a little impact.