Austin Bold FC's Sean McFarlane, New Mexico United's Amando Moreno and Hartford Athletic's Danny Barrera were among the players to make eye-catching assists in the 2020 Championship season.
As you may have noticed, voting is now under way for both the Championship’s Goal of the Year and Save of the Year competition. My friends over in the Digital department encourage you to cast your ballots as the bracket continues over the next few weeks.
Me, I like a great goal and a great save as much as anyone, but today I’d rather shine the spotlight on the players that make their teammates look good. For me, the perfect assist is the most beautiful part of the game, the moment where a player’s vision and technique come together to give their teammate the chance to shine.
And, boy, did we get some good ones this year. The group of 10 helpers I’ve picked out below are my favorites, but I’m sure you have some others that stuck in the memory. That said, here are my picks, hope you enjoy remembering them too.
Solomon Asante has created and scored consistently since he arrived in the Championship, and a lot of it has come thanks to his ability to deliver precise crosses for the likes of Chris Cortez, Adam Jahn and now Rufat Dadashov to finish off.
That’s not what we’ve got here, though. Instead, we’ve got the touch on the ball and the feel for the game surrounding him that sets up Sam Stanton’s beautiful finish. Asante cushions the Crossfield ball by teammate Darnell King perfectly, leaving you to exhale after the shot finds the back of the net.
See the Pass. Be the Pass.
Sean McFarlane has shown off his two-way ability over the past two seasons in Austin, but this slide-rule delivery to set up Aldo Quintanilla for his first goal in Bold FC colors was beautifully conceived and executed to split the Sporting Kansas City II midfield and defense.
Everyone loves a good hustle play, right? And you don’t get much better than this from San Diego Loyal SC’s Miguel Berry. There’s a whole lot to love about this play – including that it came a moment after Berry missed an absolute sitter to score himself – but I love the composure that Berry shows not only to weave past the two defenders that approach him after he slides to keep the ball in play and then picks out the right pass for an open Collin Martin to finish. Absolutely superb.
There’s nothing like a little bit of flash to make an assist tastier, and that’s what Fredlin Mompremier gave us here against Indy Eleven. Make no mistake, that’s a good defender in Indy’s Karl Ouimette that the second-year pro is squaring up to here, and he just doesn’t have an answer for Mompremier’s soft-shoe shuffle.
What makes this clever, though, is Mompremier’s quickness to use the disorienting feeling the stepovers have provided. His cross that follows is quick, crisp and delivered where only Wilson Harris can get to it. Before you know it, the ball’s in the back of the net.
Danny Barrera has been one of the league’s best playmakers for a while and it’s his sense of spacing that has made goals for teammates wherever he’s played. This might be a perfect example of that.
First, Barrera sneaks away from any potential marker into a little triangle of space just outside the penalty area, and just like a good chess player he’s already figured out his next move. As opponents pause for a moment to figure out what’s next, Barrera has seen the space behind them is open for Harry Swartz to run onto his lifted pass. Checkmate.
How do you pick out the best part of this? Start with the first touch that brings the ball beautifully under Moreno’s control as he glides forward on the counterattack. Go next to the little juke move that sends the ball one side of the defender while Moreno goes the other, picking up speed. Then how about the stare down of El Paso goalkeeper Logan Ketterer as the ball stays right where you want it, and then the quick square ball to teammate David Estrada with only a trailing defender to beat with his finish.
It’s fluid, it’s beautiful, it’s unselfish. Who could ask for anything more?
A lot of the assists on this list are the result of forethought, or anticipation. This one is just beautiful instinct. I mean, what else do you have to go on when your team is in the ninth minute of stoppage time and trying to find an equalizer and your last chance is to pump a long ball into the penalty area from your own half?
Inside in what ended up a pretty chaotic scene, though, Blake Frischknecht had the presence of mind to pull out a back-heel on a ball that was almost at his knee after coming off the turf at Cashman Field and sent it back toward the middle of the goalmouth. Ramon Martin Del Campo did the rest in one of the most memorable endings this season.
There are moments in games where the decisiveness elicits a reaction that represents what just happened. In this case it happens to be that of Birmingham’s Mikey Lopez, who just gets roasted by Tampa Bay’s Sebastian Dalgaard and absolutely knows it.
Overall, it’s a pretty great bread-and-butter, show me inside and I’ll snap to the byline and deliver. The decisiveness with which Dalgaard pulls off the move to outfox Lopez is brilliant, though, as is the delivery to the spot where the Dane knows captain Sebastian Guenzatti will be to finish it off. But Lopez’s reaction as he slaps the turf in anger more than anything sums up what’s just happened.
On the face of it, this looks like a pretty easy assist. There isn’t much pressure on Wal Fall as he picks his head up receiving the ball, and there’s a nice alley been presented to play through as Tyler Blackwood makes a nice run across the field toward the space.
But it’s the feel on the pass by Fall that makes it shine for me. You’ve seen this pass before, and it’s been under-hit to where the striker needs to take a touch to set it up, or it’s been over-hit and the goalkeeper’s quickly off his line to deny the chance. Not here. Blackwood’s first-time finish is a fine as Fall’s pass with the outside of his right foot as the pieces fall perfectly into place.
I think I’m saving the best for last here, because this piece of cheekiness by Bruno Lapa is the sort of thing that makes me laugh out loud when I’m watching a game. That’s partly because of the audaciousness to try and pull something like this off in the flow of a game and also because it’s just so rewatchable.
Lapa had a great first year as a pro in Birmingham, and his ability to slow the game – and opponents – down was one of the reasons he thrived in the manner he did. Here’s the teardrop pass sets up a cracking volley from Neco Brett and also results in an advertising board behind the goal being sent flying (as we’ve learned previously, that’s a tell). All in all, it’s just magic.