The United Soccer League named it’s All-League Teams on Tuesday. I know I don’t report nearly as much about the USL as I should, especially given the league’s recent success in the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League, but here is a chance to get a look at the best the USL has to offer.
You will surely recognize some of the names, but some may be new to you. Led by recent Red Bulls signing Macoumba Kandji and former Columbus Crew goalkeeper Bill Gaudette, here are the USL All-League first and second teams (player capsules provided by the United Soccer Leagues):
USL FIRST DIVISION ALL-LEAGUE
Goalkeeper of the Year – Bill Gaudette (Puerto Rico Islanders)
Gaudette helped guide the Islanders to the USL First Division regular season title, finishing the campaign as the league leader in victories with 14 on the season – two more than Jay Nolly of Vancouver. He finished second in the league behind Montreal’s Matt Jordan in goals against average with a mark of 0.851 to Jordan’s 0.760 despite the Islanders finishing with the league’s fewest goals conceded (23). In addition, he tied for second in the league in shutouts with 10 along with Seattle’s Chris Eylander and Rochester’s Scott Vallow behind Miami’s Josh Saunders (13).
Defender – Cristian Arrieta (Puerto Rico Islanders)
While helping guide the Islanders to the best defensive rank in the league with only 23 goals allowed, Arrieta proved to be just as much of a threat on the offensive end of the pitch with a team leading seven goals on the season for the league’s most productive offense. Arrieta also chipped in with two assists in his 26 matches played this season.
Defender – Taylor Graham (Seattle Sounders)
The Seattle back received his third selection as an All-League player (2005, 2007). He helped guide the defending champions back to the postseason, playing in 26 matches on the year and contributing one goal.
Defender – David Hayes (Atlanta Silverbacks)
The veteran player earned his second straight All-League selection despite playing on the league’s worst defensive-ranked team. His all-around contribution to the Silverbacks, who were tied for third in offense, included three goals and two assists in 28 games.
Defender – Nevio Pizzolitto (Montreal Impact)
Earning his fourth All-League selection in five years (2004, 2005, 2006), Pizzolitto helped guide the Impact to a tie for the league’s second best defensive rank, matching Vancouver with just 28 goals allowed. He returned from an early season shoulder injury to log 18 games for the Impact on the campaign, helping them move from the bottom of the table to third.
Midfielder – Osvaldo Alonso (Charleston Battery)
The Cuban defector’s first year as a professional turned out to be quite good from himself and the Battery as he helped lead Charleston to the postseason while finishing fourth on the team in scoring with four goals and two assists in 23 games.
Midfielder – Stephen deRoux (Minnesota Thunder)
Second on the team in minutes behind goalkeeper Nic Platter, deRoux helped guide the squad to the postseason despite being at the bottom of the table midseason. He tallied a goal and two assists in 29 games for the Thunder, who finished second in the league in offense.
Midfielder – Martin Nash (Vancouver Whitecaps)
The only Whitecap to play in all 30 games this year, he was one of nine players in the entire league to do so this season and was fourth in the league in minutes played. The four-time All-League selection (1996, 2000, 2007) finished the season with a goal and four assists while leading Vancouver to a second-place finish, one point back of regular season champion Puerto Rico.
Midfielder – Jonathan Steele (Puerto Rico Islanders)
On his third club in three years, Steele find found his stride to help guide the Islanders to the regular season championship and the league’s top offense while finishing as the league’s Assist Leader with 11 on the season in 26 games. He also chipped in for two goals and finished the year tied for 13th in points.
Forward – Alex Afonso (Miami FC Blues)
The Brazilian newcomer made quite an impact for Miami, finishing as the league’s Scoring (34 points) and Goal Scoring (15) Champion despite failing to reach the postseason. His strike tally on the year accounted for just over half of the team’s 28 goals on the campaign.
Forward – Macoumba Kandji (Atlanta Silverbacks)
The fast-rising talent was among the league leaders in scoring the first half of the season and would finish fourth in goals (11) and tied for third in points (27) over the course of his 21 games played due to late season injury and eventual loan to New York of MLS. Despite finishing 10th, the Silverbacks were tied for the league’s second best offense.
Goalkeeper – Matt Jordan (Montreal Impact)
Honored as an All-League selection for the second straight year, Jordan was previously honored as the GAA Champion for finishing as the league leader with a goals against average of 0.760. He also finished tied for fourth in wins (10) and tied for fifth in shutouts (9) while leading Montreal to third and a tie for the league’s second-best defense.
Defender – Wesley Charles (Vancouver Whitecaps)
The St Vincent and the Grenadines international joined the club in July from Ireland’s Galway United and helped guide the Whitecaps to a second-place finish and a tie for the league’s second-best defensive performance. Charles saw action in 13 games of the club’s 17 games since signing July 11, tallying one assist.
Defender – Takashi Hirano (Vancouver Whitecaps)
The former Japanese international joined the club after a 15-year career in the Japanese top flight and helped lead the Whitecaps to a tie for the second best defensive rank in the league and a second-place finish in the table. He tallied one goal in 22 games played.
Defender – Cameron Knowles (Portland Timbers)
Earning All-League honors for the second straight year, Knowles helped lead the Timbers to the league’s fifth-ranked defensive performance on the season despite finish at the bottom of the table with only 33 goals allowed. He saw action in 29 games on the season, finishing tied for sixth in the league in minutes played (2610).
Defender – Scott Palguta (Rochester Rhinos)
Palguta helped guide the Rhinos from slow start to a fourth-place finish in the table and in defensive ranking, allowing just 32 goals on the year. He saw action in 25 matches and contributed two goals offensively.
Midfielder – Leonardo Di Lorenzo (Montreal Impact)
Earning his third consecutive All-League honors, Di Lorenzo helped lead the Impact to third in the table. He was third on the club in scoring with three goals and two assists on the year in 24 games played.
Midfielder – Johnny Menyongar (Rochester Rhinos)
Earning his second consecutive All-League honor and fifth overall (2000, 2002, 2005, 2007), the diminutive midfielder/striker was a critical element to the Rhinos attack as the team finished fourth in the league table and fifth in offense. With six goals and five assists, he led the team in goals and was tied with Luke Kreamalmeyer in points. Both were among the nine players in the league to see action in all 30 games.
Midfielder – Ricardo Sanchez (Minnesota Thunder)
Sanchez helped guide the Thunder to the playoffs for the first time in four years by leading the league’s second-best offensive unit in points with 10 goals and four assists, finishing tied for the team lead in goals, good for fifth in the league, and league’s fifth-best point total (24).
Midfielder – Matt Watson (Carolina RailHawks)
The newcomer from the Richmond Kickers, where he was a USL-2 All-League selection last year, helped lead the club to an eighth-place finish, just two points shy of the postseason, with a goal and four assists in 25 games on the campaign.
Forward – Sebastien Le Toux (Seattle Sounders)
The 2007 USL-1 Most Valuable Player and co-Goal Scoring Champion increased his scoring output from 10 goals and 22 points to 14 goals and 32 points in 2008, but came up second in both categories as he helped lead the defending champions back to the postseason.
Forward – Eduardo Sebrango (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Earning his second All-League selection six years after his first while playing for Montreal in 2002, Sebrango led the Whitecaps in scoring handily with 12 goals and three assists, ranking third in the league in goals and tied for third in points (27).
Red Bull fans may not remember by USL goalkeeper of the year Bill Gaudette was actually in camp with the Red Bulls this winter, as was second-team all-USL defender Scott Palguta. All-USL first-team defender Taylor Graham was with the Red Bulls last season.
What do you think of this group? Are there any players who you think could step into MLS and make an impact? Do you see some of these players finding their way to MLS rosters in 2009?
Share your thoughts on these teams below.