Every team remaining in the USL Championship Playoffs presented by Hisense boasts a key starter that spent some of their playing career in USL League Two’s ranks. These difference-makers will be pivotal in deciding who lifts the silverware at the end of the tournament.
For the eight teams remaining in the playoffs, we’ve highlighted a key contributor to keep your eye on, that was previously putting in minutes in USL League Two. Some are only a couple years removed from their League Two playing days – others have fashioned decade-long careers from their experience. All, however, have capitalized on their #Path2Pro opportunity.
A stalwart defender for the best regular season team in USL Championship, Taintor is sure to be a contender for an All-League spot and Defender of the Year. He scored five goals for San Antonio in the season, and is waiting to play his first playoff match of the season after helping them in a bye in the first round.
Dennis was the only first-half goalscorer in Oakland’s conference quarterfinal upset of second-seeded San Diego Loyal. Scoring four goals in 15 games from the midfield for Tormenta in 2018, Dennis took those lessons straight to the professional ranks. In his first full season playing matches in USL Championship, Dennis is showing his mettle when it matters most.
One of the most seasoned USL League Two alumni on the list, Aaron Wheeler scored two goals all regular season for the Switchbacks. Stepping in at 77’ with a playoff match against Rio Grande Valley Toros still in the balance with a 1-0 lead, Wheeler took the game over at the death. He equaled his season total in goals with a brace, with both goals in the 90th minute or later.
Lopez is the prime representative of the defending League Two Champion Ventura County Fusion. An All-League hopeful, Lopez put in seven goals and eight assists for a humming Sacramento midfield over the course of the season. Lopez notched assists on both of the Republic goals in their Conference Quarterfinal win over New Mexico United, as his Path 2 Pro has turned into a professional career that’s spanned over a decade long.
Conceding just 0.74 goals on average and walking away with the Golden Boot, Morton will be in contention for USL Championship’s Goalkeeper of the Year award. Now in his fifth USL Championship season, Morton made the direct jump from League Two to the professional ranks of USL Championship. A dominant season for Louisville City helped them achieve the top seed in the East, and he’ll be hoping to anchor them for a Playoff Final run.
Cicerone was built for playoff competition. In the 2016 League Two Championship, he was involved in all three Flint City Bucks goals, scoring two and assisting one to lift the trophy. He capped off the performance, which saw the Bucks trailing at 74’, with a match-winning unassisted goal in the 87th minute. Now, he’s the leading scorer on a Riverhounds squad that is coming off a dramatic win over Birmingham Legion in the Conference Quarterfinals. He’ll be important to any run they make heading forward.
Both Molloy and Phillip Goodrum have been dominant for Memphis 901 – and both played matches in USL League Two. The pair combined for 29 goals and 15 assists over the course of the Championship season, easily the club’s two most influential players as they secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They embraced the Path 2 Pro and are hoping it’ll lead them to the mountaintop in USL Championship.
Fernandes is the Rowdies’ leading scorer and MVP candidate this season, with a series of delightful goals over the course of the season. 12 years removed now from his 7-goal contribution season in 13 games with Brooklyn Knights, Fernandes is ready to set the Championship playoffs ablaze.