Jack Elliott has been a bright spot for the Union his rookie season, and has staked the best claim for Rookie of the Year.
Elliott entered the year as a player who was not expected to be a main contributor. Selected in the fourth round at 77th overall, Elliott was seen as a player who would get consistent minutes at Bethlehem Steel FC and occasionally chip in with the first team.
During the beginning of the season, Elliott played one game with Bethlehem Steel FC, earning 75 minutes while also chipping in with an assist. He also found himself in the game day 18 for the Union in two of the team's first three matches.
Against DC United on April 1, Elliott made his MLS debut, playing 45 minutes after Richie Marquez was forced to miss the second half with a head injury. Elliott played well, but was outside the starting lineup next week against Portland.
Elliott earned his first MLS start against New York City FC. He hasn't looked back since.
Elliott has started 24 consecutive matches for the Union since his first start against NYCFC, playing 2,127 minutes out of a possible 2,160 minutes during that stretch. His 2,172 total minutes during the season is the most of any Union defender and third-most on the team.
What's been impressive isn't just the minutes Elliott has been playing, but what he's done with them. He ranks first among all Union defenders in goals conceded per 90 minutes (1.16), clearances (129), blocks (20) and clean sheets (7), second in recoveries (106) and interceptions (38) and third in duels won (85). His 20 blocks are third most among all MLS defenders, and his 129 clearances are seventh.
All of his defensive stats are impressive, but he's also getting it done offensively. Elliott frequently jumps up into the play, and has added a goal and an assist to his resume.
At 22 years old, Elliott stepped into the Union's starting XI and solidified his spot with smart, consistent defending. In just his third start, the Union went on a run of four consecutive clean sheets and a six-game unbeaten streak. Even in non-league games, Elliott still finds his way onto the pitch and makes an impact.
It's tough for a defender to be named Rookie of the Year, but in Elliott's case, it's an easy call. He's been the backbone of the Union defense, and a cornerstone franchise player.
Not bad for a kid selected 77th overall.