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ARLIA: Five Signings that will Shape the Stretch Run

By JOHN ARLIA - john.arlia@uslsoccer.com, 08/15/19, 9:30AM EDT

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New faces looking to boost playoff hopefuls, bolster title contenders in season's final two months


Frank Lopez has scored four goals in his first five games with San Antonio FC since joining the club on loan from the LA Galaxy II in July. | Photo courtesy David Calvert / Reno 1868 FC

Teams across the USL Championship are charged with doing most of their roster building in the offseason, but it takes time to see how a squad truly fits together and what positions – if any – weren’t properly addressed over the winter months.

With the league’s roster freeze in September starting to draw near, we’ve seen a good bit of player movement over the past month with playoff contenders and title hopefuls alike trying to add a piece or two that might push them over the line come October.

Given the flurry of significant moves made over the past week, I decided to look at the five most significant midseason deals we’ve seen since July 15.

Frank Lopez | Forward

LA Galaxy IISan Antonio FC

Lopez just makes the cut having joined San Antonio FC on loan from the LA Galaxy II on July 15 and has arguably been the most important in-season signing outside of El Paso Locomotive FC’s addition of Jerome Kiesewetter back in April. Like the former USMNT forward, Lopez has brought instant production to his new side, scoring twice in a debut win against El Paso and recording four goals in five appearances for SAFC overall. That offensive boost has helped Head Coach Darren Powell’s squad to a 3-1-1 record since acquiring Lopez and moved it into a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Forrest Lasso | Defender

FC Cincinnati (MLS)Nashville SC

The 2018 Championship Defender of the Year joined Nashville on loan from Major League Soccer’s FC Cincinnati and has stepped right into the starting lineup alongside fellow loanee Jimmy Ockford to create a formidable pairing in the center of defense. In his four games for NSC, Lasso has won 17 of 22 duels, made nine clearances and five interceptions while conceding just three fouls. More impressively, Nashville has yet to concede a goal with Lasso (or Ockford) on the field as the club has solidified its backline in a big way as it pushes for a top-two finish over the final stretch of the season.

Thomas Enevoldsen | Forward

Indy ElevenSacramento Republic FC

A return to the high-scoring Western Conference will be a welcome one for Enevoldsen, who fell short of expectations in Indy by recording just five goals on a conversion rate of 11.4 percent. But after seeing the Dane record 20 goals and 10 assists last season with Orange County SC, there will be hope amongst Republic FC fans that Enevoldsen can come in and strike up a productive partnership with leading scorer Cameron Iwasa right away. My colleague Nicholas Murray believes that this move is a statement of intent from Sacramento as it pursues a fourth-place finish in the West, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this move is the one that helps Republic FC separate itself from the pack.

Tyler Blackwood | Forward

Sacramento Republic FCSaint Louis FC

A corresponding move to the addition of Enevoldsen saw Sacramento send forward Tyler Blackwood to Saint Louis FC. The 28-year-old hasn’t cracked the lineup much of late and managed just one goal this season in 13 appearances for Republic FC. While that isn’t anything to write home about, a change of scenery could prove to be beneficial for both sides as Blackwood is a proven attacking threat in the Championship – he recorded 14 goals and six assists across the past two seasons for the Swope Park Rangers in 2018 and Republic FC in 2017 – and Saint Louis ranks 30th in goals scored this season with 25 in 21 games.

Hadji Barry | Forward

Ironi Kiryat Shmona (Israeli Premier League)Ottawa Fury FC

Ottawa Fury FC General Manager Julian de Guzman focused heavily on improving his side’s attack over the offseason by bringing in Christiano Francois and Mour Samb, and he continued that focus at the end of July with the addition of former Swope Park Rangers forward Hadji Barry. Barry scored 19 goals in 36 games across the regular season and playoffs for Swope Park in 2018, while also recording five assists. His debut for Fury FC didn’t yield much after he entered as a halftime substitute in Fury FC’s 0-0 draw with Birmingham Legion FC on Aug. 2, but with 15 days between league games I’d expect Barry to have built up some more chemistry with his teammates for this weekend’s trip to Loudoun United FC and the home stretch of the campaign.

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