As league play hits full speed for the 2011 edition of Big Ten men's soccer, the 2011 Major League Soccer (MLS) season is winding down. In looking back at the MLS regular season, which will come to a close on October 23rd, some of the Big Ten's brightest stars from last year have been contributing on the pitch for their respective MLS clubs this year. Here are a few examples:
Last year's Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Will Bruin (Indiana), netted a hat trick for the Houston Dynamo in a 4-1 win over D.C. United on April 29th, a feat that earned him MLS Player of the Week honors. In filling the net three times, Bruin joined two fellow former Hoosiers, Brian Maisonneuve and Pat Noonan, on the list of only four MLS rookies to have recorded a hat trick.
· 2010 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Soony Saad (Michigan), scored a goal in his MLS debut--9 minutes into his MLS debut, to be exact--on August 17th to help lead Sporting K.C. to a 3-1 win over the Portland Timbers. Saad was second in the NCAA in scoring a year ago with 43 points on 19 goals and five assists.
· Incidentally, Saad was second in scoring to Corey Hertzog (Penn State), who led the NCAA in 2010 with 46 points on 20 goals and 6 assists. Hertzog has seen action in 5 matches this season for the New York Red Bulls, playing behind world-renowned superstars Thierry Henry and Juan Agudelo.
· One of the more exciting connections (to date) between the 2010 Big Ten season and the 2011 MLS season was a connection between All-Conference performers Justin Meram (Michigan) and Rich Balchan (Indiana), who are now teammates on the Columbus Crew. Down 1-0 with only 30 seconds left in the June 4th match against the New York Red Bulls, Balchan hit a one-timer on a brilliant pass from Meram to secure a tie and earn a point for the Crew. Balchan has started each of the 18 matches in which he has played; Meram has seen action in 17 matches, starting 4.
In all, seven All-Conference performers from a year ago (the five mentioned above plus Matt Gold and Konrad Warzycha from Ohio State) are currently on MLS rosters, bringing the total number of former Big Ten student-athletes in the MLS up to 25. The complete list is below.