If you’re looking for a way to win a Newcomer of the Year award in any league, being the leading scorer is probably the best way to go.
While the Chicago Fire took plenty of headlines in the offseason and early in the 2017 season after acquiring a trio of well-known midfielders in Bastian Schweinsteiger, former MLS Cup winner Juninho and MLS All-Star Dax McCarty, the signing of Nemanja Nikolic in December of 2016 flew somewhat under the radar.
The Hungarian international came in on a designated player contract with a big reputation as a goalscorer in some of Europe’s smaller leagues, but was far from a household name among MLS fans.
That all changed quickly.
After not scoring in the opening match of the season, Nikolic rolled to 10 goals in the next 10 games.
His season total of 24 was enough to win MLS’ Golden Boot and just three shy of the league’s single-season record.
MLS All-Star and Golden Boot winner @niko_nemanja has been named #cf97’s 2017 Most Valuable Player. Congrats, Niko! pic.twitter.com/zC1YCS1d74
— Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) November 7, 2017
Nikolic was named Fire Most Valuable Player in his first season with the club after helping the team to a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference. His goal total was a club record, six clear of the 18 Ante Razov scored in 2000, while he also became just the third player in Fire history to start 34 games in a season.
His reliability and scoring prowess helped the 29-year-old pick up four of the six first-place votes among Goal staff to take home our Newcomer of the Year award.
2. Miguel Almiron: Atlanta United’s playmaker had a stellar first season in MLS and quickly became one of the most valuable attacking players in the league. His nine goals and 14 assists helped his side to a fourth place finish in the Eastern Conference in the club’s expansion season.
3. Victor Vazquez: Toronto FC had one of the greatest regular seasons in MLS history, so it should be no surprise to see the club’s biggest offseason addition on this list. The former Cruz Azul midfielder racked up eight goals and 16 assists for the Supporters’ Shield winning side, helping to the club to an MLS record point tally.