TAMPA, Fla. – The USL Championship announced on Wednesday the nominees for the 2022 Championship Comeback Player of the Year presented by Shift4, honoring five nominees who made notable contributions to their squads after returning to the field during the 2022 season.
The five nominees were selected by the USL Technical Panel after nominations by clubs conducted after the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Aaron Wheeler: The veteran forward retired as a player in 2017 but made his return to the professional ranks for the first time in five years after signing midseason with the Switchbacks. Despite limited minutes with the team, Wheeler recorded two goals and two assists in the regular season, including a stoppage-time equalizer against El Paso Locomotive FC on Aug. 12. Wheeler also scored twice in the final minutes in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs and has been a leader on and off the field for his new club, making a notable and positive impact on the team’s play.
Louisville City FC – Elijah Wynder: LouCity’s first academy player to complete the path to pro suffered a severe leg injury when absorbing a red card tackle days before the First Team opened 2021 preseason training. He spent all of 2021 on the sidelines as a result and only played limited minutes on loan to League One’s FC Tucson the first half of 2022. Since the loan ended, the 19-year-old has seen his career resume its prior trajectory. Wynder scored his first professional goal in a win on Sept. 3 against Sacramento Republic FC, and then with LouCity down a man in extra time of the Eastern Conference Final, Wynder got on the end of a corner kick to score the game-winning goal and send LouCity back to the Championship Final.
New Mexico United – Amando Moreno: The attacking playmaker saw his 2021 season come to a premature end due to a torn ACL last October. After making a recovery that encompassed the first two-thirds of this season, Moreno returned and recorded three goals and two assists in 12 games to help New Mexico return to the playoffs. In November, he also made his return to the El Salvador Men’s National Team having competed at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup and in 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying the previous year.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Albert Dikwa: His 2021 season was cut short as a result of a groin injury that required surgery; he missed all of August and September last season, and he was eventually ruled out for the year after attempting to come back with a nine-minute appearance off the bench on Oct. 10. After rest and rehab for his leg, Dikwa had his best year as a professional in 2022 with 11 goals and four assists as he appeared in 33 of 34 games (2,206 minutes), all of which were career highs for the 24-year-old in his sixth pro season.
San Antonio FC – Santiago Patiño: The Colombian was hurt for an extended period during the 2021 USL Championship season, as well as a large part of the 2022 campaign, but upon each of his returns to the field Patino made an impact. He scored a late game-winning goal in his first match back from injury twice this season (at Monterey Bay F.C. and Birmingham Legion FC) before going on to record five goals in three games to lead San Antonio FC to its first USL Championship title during the postseason.
The 2022 USL Championship Comeback Player of the Year presented by Shift4 will be voted upon by the USL Championship National Media Panel and the USL Championship Technical Committee, with each group responsible for 50 percent of the overall vote.