MLS Positional Rankings (Centerbacks, Right)

No team gets very far without a solid, reliable set of centerbacks, and in many cases the abilities of the individuals are not as important as how well they work together.

An increased popularity of three-man back lines changes the responsibilities and roles of those in that last line of defense in front of the goalkeeper, yet the basic attributes are unchanged. Centerbacks must be reliable tacklers, solid markers, and tough in the air at both ends of the field. Positioning and anticipation can make up for a relative lack of pace on balls played over the top or into an open channel.

Some players will toggle between the central slots in a four-man back line, yet most prefer one side or the other. The players listed here are primarily right-sided and have been most successful on that side of the defense. If a player appeared mainly as the middle man of a three-defender system, he is listed here.

SA Top 10: Centerbacks (Right)
1. Ike Opara (Sporting KC)
2. Kendall Waston (Vancouver)
3. Drew Moor (Toronto FC)
4. Adolfo Machado (Houston)
5. Johan Kappelhof (Chicago)
6. Jack Elliott (Philadelphia)
7. Roman Torres (Seattle)
8. Victor Cabrera (Montreal)
9. Victor Bernardez (San Jose)
10. Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United)

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Union Player of the Year Voting: Jack Elliott

“I just assumed that they were finished picking … I shut my laptop and stopped watching and 5, 10 minutes later my dad texted me ‘I see you’re going to Philly.'” 29 starts and over 2,500 on-field minutes later, Jack Elliott finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. The 77th-overall pick was brought on as a halftime sub at D.C. United in the fourth match of the season and started all but one game after that.

Elliott’s 2,621 minutes played put him third on the team, behind veterans Haris Medunjanin and CJ Sapong. He ranked second among our defenders in tackles with 56 on the year and led the team in clearances with 150 (the next highest on the squad was 105).

After a match late in the season, Jim Curtin made his vote for Rookie of the Year clear. “He’s been one of our best players this year. He is, for me again, the Rookie of the Year. He’s been great … whether it’s been on the right side or the left side of center back. He’s been a real rock back there for us and has been a leader,” Curtin said.

Curtin wasn’t the only one to see this in Elliott. Away at New York Red Bulls in a nationally televised September match, Elliott made a strong play on NYRB’s Gonzalo Verón to preserve a clean sheet. Taylor Twellman praised Elliott’s poise on the play, calling it “textbook defending” by the rookie and adding that Elliott showed “real composure for a young player.”

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Jack Elliott finishes third in MLS Rookie of the Year voting

For the second straight year, a Philadelphia Union player has been passed over for the Rookie of the Year award.

Jack Elliott finished third in voting behind Minnesota United striker Abu Danladi and Atlanta United midfielder Julian Gressel, who received an average of 53.86 percent of the votes from players, media and clubs. Elliott had an average of 7.86 percent of the vote, Danladi 16.22 percent.

Keegan Rosenberry finished second in voting in 2016 in a tighter race, receiving an average of 30.6 percent of the vote while Jordan Morris won the award with 44.95 percent.

Elliott proved to be the steal of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft this season, making 30 starts and finishing third on the team in minutes for a defender with 2,621 minutes after being drafted 77th overall in the fourth round out of West Virginia University.

The 22-year-old from London ranked first among all Union defenders in goals conceded per 90 minutes (1.24), clearances (150), blocks (23), clean sheets (8), and recoveries (127) and ranked second in interceptions (45) and duels won (103). His 150 clearances were seventh among all MLS defenders, and his 23 blocks were tied for eighth.

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Season review: The pleasant surprises

The 2017 MLS SuperDraft may have set the all-time bar for “Best Player Names: MLS Draft Edition.” Reagan Dunk and Colton Storm were both first rounders, while Brandt Bronico and Dakota “What in Tarnation?” Barnathan followed in rounds two and three. Peguy Ngatcha came soon thereafter, as did three instances where teams voluntarily skipped their chance to draft a player altogether, before the Union stepped up and selected Jack Elliott.

“Jack” was more highly ranked in’s baby boy name rankings (No. 3) than he was on the Union depth chart when the seasons started (at least No. behind Josh Yaro, Richie Marquez,  and Oguchi Onyewu).

By the end of 2017, not only had Elliott become the best former West Virginia Mountaineer on the roster (no small feat considering his able competition, Ray Gaddis), but he had also become among the top candidates for MLS Rookie of the Year. In 29 starts and 30 appearances after being forced into action April 1 because of an injury to Marquez, Elliott cemented his place in the Union defense and never looked back.

Though subsequent regression seems to be one of the hallmarks of Union draftees (see: Marquez, Josh Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry), Elliott has the tools to be the exception to this rule.

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Jack Elliott named finalist for 2017 Rookie of the Year

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.

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Jack Elliott, Andre Blake named finalists for MLS End of Year Awards

Jack Elliott and Andre Blake have been named one of three finalists for MLS end of season awards. Elliott was named as a finalists for Rookie of the Year, while Blake is named a finalist for Goalkeeper of the Year.

2017 marks the second straight season the Union have had a finalist for Rookie and Goalkeeper of the Year. Last season, Keegan Rosenberry was named a finalist for Rookie of the Year, and Blake won Goalkeeper of the Year in 2016.

The finalists for each award are listed in alphabetical order below, as well as the announcement schedule for the winner of each.

The finalists earned the most votes in polling of three voting groups:

  • Current MLS players
  • MLS Clubs (Coaches, Technical Directors/General Managers)
  • Media members who consistently covered the 2017 MLS Regular Season

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Union’s Jack Elliott an MLS Rookie of the Year Finalist

Union centerback Jack Elliott earned some well-deserved recognition on Tuesday for his strong debut season, as he was named a finalist for Major League Soccer’s Rookie of the Year award.

Elliott surprisingly became a stalwart of the team’s defense this year. He was drafted in the fourth round out of West Virginia, which is rare territory to find potential pros. Elliott was one of just two picks in this year’s fourth round who saw any playing time in MLS. None of last year’s fourth-round picks have broken through yet, and only four fourth-round picks from 2015 have done so.

The 22-year-old Englishman was quickly thrown into the fire, making his Union debut on April 1. He ended up playing in 30 of the Union’s 34 league games, making 29 starts, and played every minute in all but three of the starts. He also started and played every minute of the team’s two U.S. Open Cup games. His disciplinary record was sterling: just four yellow cards and one red card.

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By The Numbers: Jack Elliott’s Rookie Campaign

Jack Elliott is nominated for the AT&T MLS Rookie of the Year, and for good reason. He’s put together a season worthy of being named Rookie of the Year, but the odds are stacked against the defender, who’s aiming to become the first defender to win the award since 2012.

Here’s a deep dive into the numbers of Elliott’s Rookie of the Year caliber season, and where he ranks among all rookies and rookie defenders also nominated for Rookie of the Year.

Number Stat Rank, Rookies Rank, Rookie Defenders
1 Goals Scored T-6th T-2nd
1 Assists T-6th T-2nd
1.24 Goals Conceded/90 min 3rd 1st
8 Clean Sheets 1st 1st
23 Blocks 1st 1st
28 Games Started 1st 1st
29 Games Played 2nd 1st
44 Interceptions 1st 1st
98 Duels Won 2nd 2nd
126 Recoveries 1st 1st
143 Clearances 1st 1st
2531 Minutes Played 1st 1st


Elliott doesn’t finish lower than second for any category among all defenders up for rookie of the year, and has the best statistics in nine of the 12 categories. Stacked up against all 17 rookies, Elliott finishes in first seven times, places second two more times and doesn’t finish lower than sixth.

That’s a great resume for any rookie, let alone a player selected in 77th overall. Elliott has put together a Rookie of the Year campaign, and the numbers don’t lie.

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