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Which club has the best current attacking trio in the Championship?

By Staff, 01/27/23, 3:00PM EST


Offseason moves have brought together players with major firepower, which one will shine brightest in 2023?

It’s been a big offseason for attackers in the USL Championship.

Seven players who have scored at least 40 goals in the league’s regular season have joined new clubs for 2023, as have four of the top 10 goalscorers in the past three seasons.

On top of that, there are some exciting talents returning to the league, or getting set to make their debut.

That got us thinking – of the attacking trios currently available to clubs across the league, which is going to provide the most firepower during the new season?

We’ve picked out nine attacking groups that have our attention for you to vote on. Disagree? Let us know who you think will light up the Championship this season on our social media channels.

Birmingham Legion FC - Tyler Pasher, Juan Agudelo, Neco Brett

The return of Neco Brett, currently sixth in the Championship's all-time goalscorers list, to Birmingham Legion FC should be a major boost to the Eastern Conference contender. | Photo courtesy Birmingham Legion FC

When Legion FC introduced both the return of Neco Brett to the club after a year at New Mexico United and the re-signing of former United States international Juan Agudelo on January 19, one local observer predicted the club would score “a billion goals.”

That would, of course, be a global single-season record, but it’s hard not to be as optimistic as Legion FC fans are about their front line. The prior addition of Tyler Pasher to offer a left-sided element after his time in Major League Soccer in December gives Birmingham a combination of sterling finishing and speed that should give opponents fits.

Legion FC is vying to make a playoff breakthrough this season. This trio of attackers is more than capable of leading that charge.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Romario Williams, Maalique Foster, Jairo Henriquez

El Salvador international Jairo Henriquez notched 0.66 goals+assists per 90 minutes after arriving at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in 2022, which bodes well for the upcoming season. | Photo courtesy Isaiah J. Downing / Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

We’ve already talked about all of the changes that have occurred at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC this offseason, but there’s a lot to like about the new-look attack that will carry the mantle from the Hadji Barry and Michee Ngalina-led past two seasons.

For a start, El Salvador international Jairo Henriquez looked very bright in his half-season after joining the Switchbacks in 2022. He notched four goals and four assists in 1,092 minutes this past season, the latter being a pace that could put him in contention for the Assists Champion award over a full year.

The Jamaican duo of Romario Williams and Maalique Foster, meanwhile, offers a forward in Williams whose strike rate of a goal every 147.9 minutes currently ranks fourth all-time among players with at least 40 regular season goals, and in Foster a player with speed and confidence coming off his best year in the Championship so far.  

Hartford Athletic – Antoine Hoppenot, Elvis Amoh, Danny Barrera

New Hartford Athletic signing Elvis Amoh will take aim at his third consecutive season with double-digit goals for Hartford this campaign. | Photo courtesy Christian Inoferio / Rio Grande Valley FC

Hartford Athletic has reached 50 goals in a regular season once in its four prior seasons, and while that isn’t always a benchmark for playoff contention, it’s certainly a good level to take aim at if you want to be in that conversation.

To elevate the firepower at new Head Coach Tab Ramos’ disposal, the Athletic have been aggressive this offseason. First they added Antoine Hoppenot, who is not only coming off winning the Assists Champion award in 2022 with Detroit City FC but also ranks in the Top 10 in Championship history with a combined 82 goals and assists.

Then they went and acquired Elvis Amoh from Colorado Springs, bringing aboard a player who has notched double-digit goals in the past two seasons at Rio Grande Valley FC and the Switchbacks. Add that to Danny Barrera, who ranks second all-time in regular-season assists in league history, and you’ve got a strong starting point for a playoff-ready attack.

Indy Eleven – Sebastian Guenzatti, Solomon Asante, Aodhan Quinn

Indy Eleven's Solomon Asante is set to become the first player with 50 goals and 50 assists in the Championship's regular season if all goes to plan this year. | Photo courtesy Trevor Ruszkowski / Indy Eleven

Between the combination of Sebastian Guenzatti, Solomon Asante and Aodhan Quinn, there is a combined 267 goals and assists in the USL Championship’s history.

All three are in the Top 20 of the league’s history in combined goals and assists, with Asante and Quinn both in the top four in regular season assists and Guenzatti and Asante both having notched 50 regular season goals. On paper, it’s a formidable group each bringing their own outstanding resume.

So, now come the big question; will the combination work, and pull Indy back into the playoffs for the first time since 2019? For all three, there’s a major motivation beyond individual glory as they look to earn their first Championship titles. It’s going to be fascinating to see how this journey comes together.

Louisville City FC – Wilson Harris, Cam Lancaster, Brian Ownby

Louisville City FC's Wilson Harris became the youngest player in Championship history to record 40 regular season goals in his career last season. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

With the vast majority of the defending Eastern Conference title-winning squad returning – 22 players, to be precise – there’s a familiarity to the trio of Wilson Harris, Cam Lancaster and Brian Ownby.

At the same time, due to Lancaster’s challenges with injury last season, we haven’t quite seen what this group could accomplish together. With Harris having become the youngest player to reach 40 regular season goals in the Championship’s history this past season just before his 23rd birthday, there’s really no doubt that LouCity’s attack will be primed for action again.

If Lancaster is back to 100 percent, though, it could see the side challenge its club record of 71 goals in the 2018 regular season. Y’all remember what happened at the end of that campaign. 

New Mexico United – Santi Moar, Greg Hurst, Chris Wehan

New Mexico United fans will be hoping for many more celebrations like this from Santi Moar and Chris Wehan as Moar returns to the club for the 2023 campaign. | Photo courtesy Josh Lane / New Mexico United

New Mexico United’s high watermark for goalscoring came in its inaugural season, where it notched 59 goals to earn a postseason berth in 2019.

In that spirit, it’s hoping bringing together Chris Wehan and Santi Moar can spark a similar output with the latter returning to the club after three seasons with Phoenix Rising FC since then. Moar’s 11 goals for New Mexico that regular season are his second-most in a campaign, trailing only his Championship All-League First Team campaign in 2021 with 16 tallies, and coupling that with Wehan’s club-leading 33 regular season goals should produce dividends.

Hurst, though, could be one to watch this year. After notching six goals and five assists in Phoenix last season – his first in the Championship – the 2021 League One title winner at Union Omaha will have a chance to level up at Isotopes Park and help United push for a second consecutive playoff berth.

Phoenix Rising FC – Danny Trejo, Manuel Arteaga, Federico Varela

New Phoenix Rising FC signing Danny Trejo will look to build on his breakout 2022 season and help Rising FC back to the top of the Western Conference. | Photo courtesy Las Vegas Lights FC

No team has scored more regular season goals than Phoenix Rising FC’s 363 since the start of 2017. The club holds the single-season goals record from its remarkable 2019 campaign, and had averaged at least 1.86 goals-per-game in each regular season since 2018 before last year’s disappointing campaign.

With the signings of Danny Trejo, Manuel Arteaga and Federico Varela, the club is aiming to return to that level of productivity, and it certainly has a lot of promise. Trejo’s breakout year with 14 goals at Las Vegas Lights FC saw him earn a stint with Los Angeles FC last season, while Arteaga has shown sparks with 15 goals in two seasons.

Add Argentine playmaker Federico Varela, a league newcomer with pedigree from prior stops in Spain and Portugal, and you have a new-look attack that is going to hope to come together quickly and deliver the sort of attacking play Phoenix fans have been accustomed to.

Sacramento Republic FC – Russell Cicerone, Rodrigo Lopez, Douglas Martinez Jr.

New Sacramento Republic FC signing Russell Cicerone will be aiming to become the club's first regular season double-digit goalscorer since 2019 this season. | Photo courtesy Matt Hawley / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

In Sacramento Republic FC’s history, only Cameron Iwasa has recorded more than 11 goals in a Championship regular season, doing so three times. The last of those came in 2019 with 16 goals, and since then Sacramento has not had a double-digit goalscorer in its ranks in the regular season.

Enter Russell Cicerone, who has notched 29 goals over the past two regular seasons with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and could be the solution to that drought. The 28-year-old joins a group that also includes Honduran forward Douglas Martinez Jr. and the ageless Rodrigo Lopez, who continued to show what he can bring to the table in 2022 both finishing and creating in the club’s run to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final.

If Cicerone’s form continues, he could be the attacking piece that pushed Republic FC over the top in its 10th anniversary season. That could make Sacramento as dangerous as it has been since Iwasa graced Heart Health Park.

Tampa Bay Rowdies – Leo Fernandes, JJ Williams, Cal Jennings

After winning the USL Championship's MVP award in 2022, the Tampa Bay Rowdies' Leo Fernandes will be aiming for an encore with his new strike partners JJ Williams and Cal Jennings this season. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

The Tampa Bay Rowdies led the USL Championship with 73 goals in the 2022 regular season, the fourth-most in a single campaign. After numerous offseason changes, there will be plenty of new faces at Al Lang Stadium, but the trio of 2022 Championship MVP Leo Fernandes and newcomers JJ Williams and Cal Jennings could deliver more of the same.

Fernandes is, of course, coming off a career year in the Green and Gold, and his energy will continue to provide the catalyst for Tampa Bay to succeed. In adding a younger center forward in Williams – who will be looked at to fill the role played alternately by Steevan Dos Santos and Sebastian Guenzatti – and Jennings, who has been among the most productive forwards in the Championship over the past three seasons, there is plenty to like about where the Rowdies are headed.

Does that equate to a league title at the end of the season? That remains to be seen, but this should be one of the most exciting attacks in the league again.

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