Union

Newcomer of the Year: Jack Elliott

Photo by Paul Rudderow

Normally when a drafted player has this kind of impact in their first year, it results from one of two things. Often times the drafting team had a high draft pick and was able to pick up obvious talent before anyone else got a chance to, like Andre Blake in 2014. Or sometimes good scouting leads a team to find value in a players other weren’t considering, like Fabian Herbers in 2016. But that’s not what happened for Jack Elliott. He was picked in the fourth round, after the Union had already picked Marcus Epps, Aaron Jones, and Chris Nanco. Clearly Elliott was not a priority target for the Union going into the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. It appears he wasn’t a target for other teams either, as on three separate instances teams chose to pick no one, and forfeit their turn, rather than pick Jack Elliott. (It should be noted that there would be three more passed turns before the Union selected future-Bethlehem Steel FC forward and close runner up for “Newcomer of the Year”, Santi Moar.)

So it’s safe to say that expectations were low for the 6’5″ Englishman going into preseason. With Richie Marquez, Josh Yaro, Ken Tribbett, and Oguchi Onyewu all ahead of him on the depth chart, it appeared the best he could hope for was time to prove himself in Bethlehem. Then, a string of injuries and illnesses meant that he had found the opportunity to start for the Union by early April. But the story of Jack Elliott isn’t about those illnesses and injuries. The story is what he did with that opportunity once he found it.

This fourth round draft pick, for whom fans’ expectations were low and their hopes small, could play. His formidable height gave him an obvious advantage in the air, and while not exactly a speed demon, his build allowed him to cover a lot of ground with little trouble. That was a valuable trait when he was paired with veteran Oguchi Onyewu. The older centerback provided an anchor for the back line and a physical presence that kept plenty of aggressive MLS players in line. Then Elliott was able to use his natural gifts to fill the rest of the space, making for one of the bright spots of the 2017 season.

But even that fails to give Jack Elliott credit for the work he did to become the player he was for the Union this season. He never worked at being tall, that’s something that just happened. But clearly he worked at being surprisingly skilled with the ball at his feet. Usually with young defenders, the impulse is to just get the ball away as quickly as possible, but Elliott showed maturity beyond his years and a skillset worth building a career around multiple times this season when he found himself in possession.

Beyond that, there’s the mental fortitude he showed. He knows when he was picked in the SuperDraft, and he knew or quickly found out what the Union’s depth was like when he got there. Still, he persevered, training hard and preparing for any opportunity he could find. Because preparing like he did was the only way he was able to turn in the performances he did from the very first time he stepped on the field for the Union.

And that’s why he’s Philly Soccer Page’s 2017 Newcomer of the Year.

8 Comments

  1. Was there even a runner up?

  2. Can’t wait to see his second year ruined by Jim Curtin.

  3. What’s the definition for the award? If it is new to the Union organization I would this Haris deserves consideration.

  4. He had a great year!
    Not that the U would change shape, but I think Jack would be even better as the center of a back 3 with his great size and passing ability. Having Marquez and Yaro on either side of him would also help mitigate his speed limitations.

  5. Lets hope his mental attitude keeps him from regressing. I feel like Rosenbury had all the success and thought it would be easy the next year. Heres to hoping!

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