Jacen Russell-Rowe (right) and MLS NEXT Pro president Charles Altchek. (Photo courtesy of MLS NEXT Pro)
Columbus Crew 2 forward Jacen Russell-Rowe was named the MLS NEXT Pro Most Valuable Player presented by adidas for his performance in the league’s inaugural season.
Russell-Rowe received his award Friday morning in Columbus, Ohio from MLS NEXT Pro president Charles Altchek.
The MVP honor caps off a recent string of league-wide recognition for Russell-Rowe, who was crowned MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot Winner at the conclusion of the regular season after scoring 21 goals. He was also named one of the Best XI players in the League.
Russell-Rowe was a key contributor to Crew 2’s success, lead the team to a league-best record of 16-3-5 (55 points) and the top seed in the Eastern Conference entering the playoffs. He played a significant role in Crew 2 finishing the regular season first in goals (62) and goal differential (+40).
The 20-year-old Toronto native signed with Crew 2 on March 18 and scored 11 goals in a nine-game span – after which he signed a first team contract with Columbus, becoming the first Crew 2 player to sign with the first team. Russell-Rowe has since spent time with both the MLS and MLS NEXT Pro teams, appearing in 19 matches for Crew 2 in the regular season, starting all but the first two. He has also played in six MLS games, earning three starts and recording two assists in 227 minutes.
Russell-Rowe had five multi-goal games for Crew 2, including a four-goal outing against FC Cincinnati 2 in the final game of the regular season on Sept. 18, to secure his Golden Boot title. He also recorded braces against NYCFC II, FCC2, Orlando City B and Inter Miami II.
The other finalists for MVP were: St Louis CITY2’s Kyle Hiebert, North Texas SC’s Bernard Kamungo, Orlando City B’s Jack Lynn and Tacoma Defiance’s Marlon Vargas. Regular season awards were voted on by the head coaches and Chief Soccer Officers at MLS NEXT Pro Clubs as well as league content and broadcast teams.
Russell-Rowe and Crew 2 will host St Louis CITY2 in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Cup on Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET, Lower.com Field). The championship match will be broadcast live on mlsnextpro.com.