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Zlatan Ibrahimović named MLS Newcomer of Year

Los Angeles Galaxy's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, left, of Sweden, celebrates his goal during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Los Angeles FC Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Carson, Calif. The Galaxy won 4-3. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimović is the 2018 MLS Newcomer of the Year, narrowly beating other finalists Wayne Rooney of D.C. United and LAFC’s Carlos Vela.

The Newcomer of the Year award is given to a player who previously played in other professional leagues before joining MLS and making an impact.

Voting for the year-end award includes MLS players, staff and select media.

Ibrahimović earned an average of 36 percent of the votes, while Rooney earned 32 percent. Ibrahimović got more votes from both players and media, while Rooney earned more votes from MLS clubs.

Newcomer of Year Player Vote Club Vote Media Vote Average %
Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA) 34.99% 28.43% 45.65% 36.36%
Wayne Rooney (DC) 30.90% 34.31% 31.53% 32.25%
Carlos Vela (LAFC) 12.54% 17.65% 10.21% 13.47%
Darwin Quintero (MIN) 6.41% 2.94% 4.20% 4.52%
Alejandro Romero Gamarra “Kaku” (RBNY) 1.46% 4.90% 3.00% 3.12%
Diego Rossi (LAFC) 2.33% 4.90% 1.80% 3.01%
Johnny Russell (SKC) 4.08% 1.96% 1.50% 2.51%


During the 2018 regular season, Ibrahimović, 37, notched 22 goals — a third of the team’s total goals scored — and 10 assists in 27 appearances for the Galaxy (13-12-9, 48 points), who fell just short of the playoffs by finishing seventh in the Western Conference. 

Ibrahimović had the league’s best-selling jersey in 2018 and became the third player in MLS history to post a 20-goal, 10-assist season. His combined 32 goals and assists puts him at sixth all time in MLS history. He also scored his 500th career goal during the year, joining Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the only active players to have reached that milestone. 

The race was tight because Rooney, 33, also made an immediate impact for D.C. United after joining the team mid-July and helping it rise from last place in the table to a playoff position.

These two veteran icons stood out among league newcomers in more ways than just their performances. The rest of the 2018 newcomers averaged 25 years of age, according to MLS, and “skewed heavily” toward Latin Americans.

Most notable among the young crop were Kaku, a 23-year-old Paraguay National Team midfielder, and Rossi, a 20-year-old forward from Uruguay. Others included 24-year-old Peruvian World Cup contender Andy Polo, who played for Portland, and Argentine Milton Valenzuela, 20, who emerged as one of the top young players in the league this season with the Columbus Crew.

MLS Newcomer of the Year Winners:

2018: Zlatan Ibrahimović – LA Galaxy

2017: Miguel Almirón – Atlanta United

2016: Nicolás Lodeiro – Seattle Sounders FC

2015: Sebastian Giovinco – Toronto FC

2014: Pedro Morales – Vancouver Whitecaps FC

2013: Diego Valeri – Portland Timbers

2012: Federico Higuaín – Columbus Crew SC

2011: Mauro Rosales – Seattle Sounders FC

2010: Álvaro Saborío – Real Salt Lake

2009: Fredy Montero – Seattle Sounders FC

2008: Darren Huckerby – San Jose Earthquakes

2007: Luciano Emílio – D.C. United

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