Everyone knew it was coming, but now it’s official. Jack Elliott was named a finalist for the 2017 AT&T Rookie of the Year.
Elliott has had a phenomenal rookie season, especially so when you take into account the expectations Elliott had when the season started.
Elliott was selected by the Union in the fourth round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, drafted 77th overall. He wasn’t even aware he was drafted until his father told him the next morning he’d be heading to Philadelphia for his first MLS season.
Nearly a month after he was drafted, Elliott officially signed his contract with the Union on February 24, while he was with the team in preseason. Elliott was expected to spend much of his first year with the club with Bethlehem Steel FC, continuing to grow his game and adapt to the professional ranks.
Elliott started his first professional game with Steel FC and notched an assist in the match for his first professional point. With his commitment and hard work in practice, coupled with his impressive USL debut. the Union brass put Elliott into the game day 18 for the Union’s two matches following the season opener.
On April 1, Elliott made his MLS debut when he subbed on for an injured Richie Marquez at halftime in the Union’s match at DC United. He played for the full 45 minutes, but wouldn’t see the pitch again until April 15.
Against New York City FC, Jack Elliott found himself in the starting XI for the first time. He never relinquished his starting role for the rest of the season.
Elliott’s first task was containing world class players like David Villa and Andrea Pirlo. Elliott completed 42 passes in the match and had a 75 percent passing rating, and was key defensively, registering seven clearances, three recoveries and two blocks. He also made a key goal-line stop to keep NYCFC’s Rodney Wallace from scoring a goal.
Elliott followed up his impressive debut with helping the Union kick-off a six-game unbeaten streak, which included a four-game shutout streak and a four-game winning streak.
Elliott hit another major milestone when on the road against San Jose Earthquakes, when he registered his first career MLS point with a goal from inside the box. A pass from Haris Medunjanin led to a scramble in the box, where Elliott found the ball at his feet. He ripped a shot as hard as he could from close range and it found the back of the net.
Two games later, Elliott recorded his first MLS assist when he headed a service from Roland Alberg into the box, where Alejandro Bedoya biked in a shot for a goal against Atlanta United FC. The goal and assist were his only points of the season.
Despite not contributing much on the scoresheet, Elliott was an important cog for the Union all season. Elliott played 2,621 minutes during the course of the season, third-most on the team. Since his first start against NYCFC, Elliott has only missed 34 minutes of gameplay.
It’s not hard to see why Elliott is logged so many minutes, as he’s been the most important part of the Union backline all season. He ranks first among all Union defenders in goals conceded per 90 minutes (1.24), clearances (150), blocks (23), clean sheets (8), and recoveries (127) and ranks second in interceptions (45) and duels won (103). His 150 clearances are seventh among all MLS defenders, and his 23 blocks are tied for eighth.
Among rookies, those numbers look even more impressive, as he ranks either first or second in nearly every category among rookie defenders, and against the rookie class as a whole, he finishes in the top five for 10 relevant statistics.
Being selected 77th overall, if Elliott was able to make an impact in a handful of games it would be considered a solid season. But he showed not only can he be an everyday centerback in MLS, but also a player an organization can build around. Being named as a Rookie of the Year finalist is an honor, but Elliott’s resume shows he’s got a very real chance to be the first Union player to take home the award.