Jack Elliott has been the Union's best defender this season, immediately making an impact when he first entered the starting XI in April.
Elliott, the fourth-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, is one of the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year because of how strong of a rookie campaign he's had. While his stats certainly show he's been one of the top defenders in MLS, what really separates Elliott is his soccer IQ.
Take the most recent game against New York Red Bulls this past weekend. Elliott was defending Gonzalo Veron for a majority of the match, and in the 74th minute, the two engaged in a footrace. Elliott maintained his positioning, keeping pace with Veron while not allowing him to cut into the middle of the pitch with the ball. Elliott forced Veron to take a no-angle shot, which Andre Blake easily made after coming off his line.
ESPN's Taylor Twellman took notice of the play, and commended Elliott for the play.
What makes Elliott successful is his positioning when defending opposing players. There is rarely a time when he is not marking his man when facing an attack. Moreso, when play is away from him, he stays in a position to where he can disrupt scoring chances.
There was the play against New England Revolution, where Elliott tracked back after attempting a tackle and blocked should have been a clear Revolution goal. Or, in his first MLS start against NYCFC, when he sent away a shot destined for twine. Against LA Galaxy, Elliott made a point-saving stop in the dying seconds to preserve the 0-0 draw, kicking off a four game shutout streak and continuing an eventual six-game unbeaten streak.
Sporting Director Earnie Stewart and Head Coach Jim Curtin have talked about how smart of a player Elliott is a multitude of times. The game slows down for him, and he's able to see the game a little differently than others do. This allows him to think through problems, and as a result, puts him in the position where he needs to be at the right time.
Soccer IQ isn't something you can teach, and Elliott has a vast amount of it. It's tough to quantify; but when you see someone with it, you know it. Elliott is a leading Rookie of the Year candidate, and should be Rookie of the Year, because of his knowledge and ability to be at the right place at the right time.