The maturation of Earthquakes rookie JJ Koval in the second month of the 2014 MLS season challenges the notion of an adjustment period for first-year players in the league.
The 21-year old Stanford product has become a fixture in the Quakes midfield in the month of April, logging 295 minutes in six games as a rookie, second only to Chicago Fire rookie Harry Shipp (448). After recording 120 minutes in a CONCACAF quarterfinal loss to Toluca on March 19, Koval transitioned from a gameday substitute in the first four MLS fixtures to a starting midfielder in the last two matches against Colorado on April 19 and Chivas USA on April 26.
In light of the rookies’ emergence, Major League Soccer bumped Koval to number two in the MLS Rookie Rankings, up from number five just a week earlier. After earning a 1-0 win against Chivas USA in Week 8, Soccer By Ives named Koval the SBI MLS Rookie of the Week, only the second rookie in the 2014 season to be honored.
For the ninth overall selection in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, success has derived from an unshaken poise on the field, a quality habitually absent in first-year players. Koval’s veteran savvy is a direct result of his vocal leadership, unshaken versatility both in the midfield and defense, and growing reputation as a hard-nosed defensive juggernaut.
After a strong showing in the month of April, Koval is positioned for a bright month of May. The Quakes open the third month of the season with three matches in eight days, two of which will be played at Buck Shaw Stadium. After conceding only one goal in the last three games, Koval will look to anchor the Quakes midfield in search of consecutive three point matches, all in a day’s work for one of the most promising rookies in MLS.