D.C. United had a massive overhaul last season, and so there are plenty of contenders for the Nelly Award, given to the best newcomer on the team. It is, of course, named after Ryan Nelsen, former D.C. United captain, MLS Cup winner, and former coach of Toronto FC. Past winners of this award include Luis Silva, Branko Boskovic, Louis Crayton, Dejan Jakovic, and Lionard Pajoy.
1. Fabian Espindola: Picked up by D.C. United in last season's Re-Entry Draft, Fabian was coming off of a disappointing season with the New York Red Bulls. When he got to United, however, he had an immediate impact, throwing himself into the fringes of the MVP conversation before Felipe knocked him out for two months and earned the scorn of D.C. United fans forever. 11 goals, nine assists, and always a threat to pull something amazing out of his hat.
2. Sean Franklin: First up for the most underrated player, Sean Franklin is also up for best newcomer. He was an All Star, he was a very good defender, and he was able to get into the attack in ways that D.C. United just hasn't had recently. He also gave Ben Olsen options, playing in midfield a number of times and playing well there too.
3. Chris Rolfe: The magic headbanded one was traded to D.C. United from the Chicago Fire for
GarberBucks allocation money. Before he arrived, the team had two losses and one draw; after that, the rest history. Rolfe gave the team creativity on the left and allowed them to move Davy Arnaud to the middle of the field, rather than playing on the left. When necessary, he moved up to striker and played well with Fabian Espindola. But more than just the six goals and six assists, he gave the team a needed level of flair that was missing in 2013.
4. Bobby Boswell: Six years after trading him to the Houston Dynamo for Zach Wells, D.C. United brought Bobby Boswell back and immediately made him captain. He played in every regular season and postseason game, survived a partner switch, and helped bring along a rookie centerback, all while playing some of the best soccer of his career. While some of us worried that Boswell might be too slow, he made up for it (and more) with savvy play, positioning, and awareness.
5. Davy Arnaud: D.C. United got Arnaud for an international roster spot, and at first we didn't know what to make of him. An attacking midfielder most of his career, he started the first few games on the left side of midfield, before an injury to Luis Silva forced him central. It turned out to be one of the best moves of the season, as he flourished next to Perry Kitchen as a box to box midfielder, echoing the move that Ben Olsen pulled years ago. The partnership between Arnaud and Kitchen drove the team, and the team's winning record with one of them out was dire.