Today, Jeff Carlisle of ESPN.com rated the top 10 U.S. Soccer players under 21 and placed D.C. United midfielder Perry Kitchen at #3 on the list.
Every year in MLS, first-year players hit the dreaded rookie wall, when legs and the mind get heavy thanks to the increased workload of games and travel. According to D.C. United coach Ben Olsen, there has been one exception. “The guy who really didn't go through it was Perry Kitchen,” Olsen said during last year's playoffs. "He went through it for like an hour one day." When Olsen made that statement, Kitchen was well into his second season with the Black-and-Red, but the comment is telling. While the midfielder's skill on the ball, heading ability, and tackling are all excellent, Kitchen's consistency, presence, and leadership are what coaches around MLS talk about most often. It's what allowed him to make the holding midfield spot his own last season, one that looks to remain in his hands for the foreseeable future. Not bad for a guy who is still only 20. “For me, he's been fantastic," Philadelphia Union coach John Hackworth. "As a young player, establishing himself, he's so mature for his age. He's always been that way.”
Kitchen, a 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year runner-up, eluded the rookie wall and experienced no sophomore slump during his first two seasons in the League. In his inaugural MLS campaign, Kitchen became the only first-year player in United history to lead the team in minutes played (2, 726). And in 2012, the University of Akron product came up one minute shy of tying the club’s previous single-season record for minutes (2,805), held by Jeff Agoos in 1996.