TAMPA, Fla. – The USL Championship announced on Tuesday that Louisville City FC midfielder Elijah Wynder had been voted the 2022 USL Championship Comeback Player of the Year presented by Shift4, capping a remarkable campaign that saw the 19-year-old deliver in key moments for the league’s Eastern Conference title winner after a devastating injury a year ago.
The first player to sign professionally with LouCity from the club’s academy late in 2020, Wynder suffered a season-ending injury the following preseason that ruled him out of the 2021 campaign in its entirety. After coming back from two surgeries and an extensive rehab stint this preseason, Wynder went on loan to USL League One club FC Tucson to gain minutes, and made 12 appearances for the side, but was recalled midseason as injuries hit Louisville’s midfield group.
Wynder went on to make 13 appearances for LouCity and recorded his first two goals in the professional ranks. The second provided the extra time game-winner in the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs presented by Hisense, earning LouCity victory against the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the club’s fourth Eastern Conference title in its history.
“It’s been a long year, and this means a lot because of all the work I had to put in,” said Wynder. “It felt great to get back on the field because last year was hard going through two surgeries. Then to start this year, it was my first experience away from home on loan. The season ended a lot better than I expected. I proved a lot to myself the last few games, and I feel like there’s a lot more I can do to help the team moving forward.”
Wynder is one of five current LouCity Academy graduates who have signed professional terms with the club. Suffering a major setback just weeks after signing his first professional contract provided an early uphill battle, but for LouCity Head Coach Danny Cruz the mental strength Wynder exhibited to return to the field and resume his pathway to a potentially even brighter future was what stood out the most.
“It was a terrible injury and timing for him,” said Cruz. “But to put in the work to rehab and try to get back to a good spot physically, but even more so mentally, was impressive. When you look at how he finished the season here, there was a lot to be proud of because he went through so much. The talent he is, it was never a surprise he was playing well. It was more about him getting back to where we believed he could be, and he certainly did that.
“What’s important for him is he continues to take the offseason to work on the areas of improvement we talked about in his end-of-year meeting. When you look at the way he ended the season flying high with confidence and believing in his quality, he needs to take that and roll with it in preseason. I think he’s going to do that, and it means a big year ahead for him.”
Wynder received 38 percent of the ballot to earn the award, finishing ahead of San Antonio FC’s Santiago Patiño on 31 percent after the Colombian overcame a series of in-season injury setbacks to help SAFC claim the 2022 USL Championship title. New Mexico United’s Amando Moreno, whose late-season comeback from a torn ACL in the 2021 season saw him help United reach the postseason and earned recall to the El Salvador Men’s National Team, finished third on 14 percent.