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Rookie defender Ream the best value in New York

By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor

MLS Features Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Red Bull New York pays rookie defender Tim Ream $40,000 a year, or about $1.8 million less than striker Juan Pablo Angel, if that offers a better perspective. But the 22-year-old Ream has been just as valuable this season.

Even with New York tossing around millions of dollars recently to add Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez - two players with higher annual salaries than Angel - Ream has quietly developed into one of the top rookies in Major League Soccer.

Ream, selected with New York's third pick in the MLS SuperDraft, is one of two Red Bulls to start every match this season - Angel is the other - and the only one to play every minute.

Although Ream dropped into the second round of the draft, passed over by 12 other teams as well as twice by New York, he has proven to be a good all- around player.

Ream's technical ability is amazingly refined for a rookie, he's calm with the ball, an excellent passer and strong in the air. The 6-foot-1 central defender has contributed to six shutouts this season, helping New York to second in the Eastern Conference.

Tim Ream
Tim Ream has quietly developed into one of the top rookies in Major League Soccer.
Angel's English Premier League pedigree and scoring ability - he's second in MLS with 11 - and the additions of France star Henry and Mexican star Marquez will get all the credit if New York wins its first MLS title this season.

But that will only happen if Ream, whose job shouldn't be under threat even as Marquez moves into central defense or defensive midfield, continues to play as well as he has through 17 matches.

Ream is the only MLS rookie to play every minute for his squad this season. Considering the Red Bulls had to pay a $250,000 luxury tax just to add Marquez as its third designated player, Ream is easily the best value in New York.

Here are five more rookies who have made impacts in MLS this season and one to watch over the final three months:

Blair Gavin, Chivas USA

Gavin is another rookie who has started all of the matches he has appeared in, playing 1,369 of a possible 1,440 minutes in his 16 starts. New England's Seth Sinovic (12 games, 12 starts) and D.C. United's Jordan Graye (13, 13) are others rookies to start all their appearances, but Gavin is the best of a trio in which all members are playing for struggling squads. Gavin, a defensive midfielder who can also play as a central defender, has three goals and two assists.

Danny Mwanga, Philadelphia Union

Mwanga was the top pick in the SuperDraft, and after a bit of a slow start has proven he's a legitimate scorer. Mwanga has started six straight games for the expansion team and is tied with New England's Zach Schilawski for the lead among rookies with five goals. Mwanga has two goals and two assists during his current six-game starting streak, and he could easily finish the season as the top rookie in MLS with a strong second half.

Andy Najar, D.C. United

The lone player listed here who wasn't chosen in the SuperDraft, Najar joined D.C. United from its youth academy and has started 12 of the 15 matches he has appeared in. Although just 17-years-old, Najar has contributed three goals for struggling United, or one-fourth of the team's goals. Najar is getting a little too much hype, but if he continues to mature and develop with United, Honduras or the U.S. - Najar could play internationally for either - will come calling.

Ike Opara, San Jose Earthquakes

Opara was choose third in the SuperDraft, and opened the season as a starter. Although a defender, he scored two goals in his first four MLS matches to help San Jose win both matches. Opara was then sidelined with a hamstring injury in mid-April and missed all of May. He re-joined the starting lineup in June, and had a goal during a stretch of six straight starts. However, Opara's season is on hold again after he broke his foot Saturday against Seattle.

Michael Stephens, Los Angeles Galaxy

The last pick of the first round, Stephens has been a top pick for coach Bruce Arena all season. Stephens has played in all 19 of L.A.'s matches, helping the Galaxy to the best record in MLS. He has started 15 matches, including 13 in a row at one point. Like Ream, Stephens is overshadowed on a team including U.S. star Landon Donovan and MLS leading scorer Edson Buddle, but the midfielder is quietly tied for fourth in MLS with seven assists.

Teal Bunbury, Kansas City Wizards

Bunbury, the fourth pick in the SuperDraft, did not make his first start until Kansas City's eighth game of the season, but has since started six of his last nine appearances. In his last two games, the forward has scored twice, both in 1-0 wins over Columbus and Toronto FC. As long as Bunbury continues to see the field, the Hermann Trophy winner, as the top player in college while at University of Akron, will likely continue scoring and producing wins for K.C.



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Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com.

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