Orange County SC's Milan Iloski, El Paso Locomotive FC's Luis Solignac and the Charleston Battery's Augustine Williams will all be aiming to lead their club's back to the playoffs this USL Championship season.
Goals change games.
Hang around enough Head Coaches and it’s a phrase that you’ll inevitably hear.
That’s for good reason, though. If you have ambitions of claiming silverware, having a player that can consistently deliver in the final third is essential. Just look at Santiago Patiño’s success for San Antonio FC a season ago, or some of the players listed below.
As always, this isn’t a definitive list of the Best 11 attackers in the league, but these players are almost certain to be pivotal to their club’s chances of success this season.
In first four campaigns, Hartford Athletic has only had one player record double-digit goals in a regular season – Juan Carlos Obregon Jr., who scored 10 times in the 2021 season. In Elvis Amoh, the Athletic might have the player who can solve those finishing woes and help deliver a playoff berth at the end of the campaign. The 31-year-old Ghanaian has scored 32 goals in 77 regular season appearances in the league since his arrival at Loudoun United FC in 2019, including 24 goals over the past two seasons spent at Rio Grande Valley FC (2021) and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (2022) respectively. With a Championship strike rate of a goal every 169.6 minutes, Amoh has finished consistently to this point. With Danny Barrera and Antoine Hoppenot as his wingmen, it could mean he reaches even greater heights this year.
Here are the leading regular-season goalscorers for Sacramento Republic FC over the past three seasons.
2020 – Dariusz Formella, 8 goals
2021 – Cameron Iwasa, 8 goals
2022 – Rodrigo Lopez & Maalique Foster, 7 goals
Not pretty. Enter Russell Cicerone, who over the past two seasons at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC has recorded 29 goals and 14 assists. He’s now going to be the player tasked with being the centerpiece of an attack that has ended up being Sacramento’s Achilles’ Heel over the past three seasons. The 28-year-old has been one of the most prolific attacking pieces in the Championship in recent years, and what’s more his underlying numbers indicate none of this is down to good fortune. In its 10th anniversary season, Republic FC will be hoping he can be the remedy to what has ailed the side up front.
Phillip Goodrum’s 2022 season was a breakthrough as the Nashville, Tenn. native returned to his home state to lead 901 FC’s best season in club history. There was plenty to like about Goodrum’s campaign as well, most of all that according to his underlying numbers he delivered almost exactly in the manner he should have with a 22.58xGoT mark. With Memphis looking to remain among the Eastern Conference’s contenders, the side’s addition of Bruno Lapa as another creative option could keep Goodrum in position for another bumper season in the final third.
At the end of last season, it might have seemed unfathomable that Sebastian Guenzatti would be in another club’s colors than those of the Tampa Bay Rowdies to start the 2023 campaign. And yet, here we are, with the veteran forward now part of a revamped Indy Eleven attack aiming to charge back into the postseason for the first time since 2019. Tied for 10th in regular season goals in the Championship’s history – his 59 regular season tallies for the Rowdies are second only to Cam Lancaster’s 69 for LouCity at an individual club – Guenzatti is likely to get plenty of service as the No. 9 for the Boys in Blue. Early returns in preseason have been promising, too, and that could lead to another big season for the two-time Championship All-League selection.
Having recorded five goals the prior season, Milan Iloski came out of nowhere to claim the Championship’s Golden Boot with 22 goals in the 2022 regular season in what was maybe the lone bright spot for the defending title holders last year. Now the pressure will be on the 23-year-old to come close to matching that total, and the good news is while Iloski’s numbers were well above his underlying numbers, the fact he ended the season with an Expected Goals on Target mark of 16.36xGoT shows what a high-quality finisher he can be. As OCSC looks for a big rebound season, Iloski should be a major part of that effort.
The third-leading goalscorer in the Championship’s regular season history, Lancaster was limited to only six regular season appearances, and one start, a season ago. While he bagged three goals it wasn’t the year he was hoping for after a preseason injury hindered him for most of the year. The silver lining for LouCity fans? When he’s had difficult years in the past, Lancaster has typically gone off. In 2018 he produced the first 25-goal regular season in league history, and then across 2020 and 2021 he bagged 30 goals after being hindered by injury at Nashville SC in 2019. Are we about to see more fireworks from one of the greatest players in league history?
After his Championship All-League season in 2021, nothing quite seemed to go right for Santi Moar last season. In a way, it mirrored Phoenix Rising FC’s overall struggles, with the Spaniard’s six goal contributions (two goals, four assists) the lowest of his career. That makes his return to New Mexico United after an offseason transfer a move to watch this season, most of all because you can guarantee Moar won’t be happy until he’s contributing again consistently in the final third. With 43 goals and 32 assists in the Championship’s regular season, the 29-year-old is in elite company in the league’s history and can burnish that reputation with a rebound year. Should he do so, it could push New Mexico toward a first home playoff game in club history and the closest it has been to being a serious contender in the postseason.
After his first season at Indy Eleven in 2018, you might not have seen what was coming next for Tyler Pasher. Recording one goal and one assist in 10 appearances, and still primarily operating as a left-sided defender or midfielder, the Canadian had only eight goals in the Championship to his credit at that point. Then, in 2019, Pasher moved into the forward line and very quickly everything changed. Two seasons with a combined 23 goals and six assists saw him become one of the most threatening attacking pieces in the league with his speed proving an ideal fit for the Boys in Blue’s counterattack. After two seasons in Major League Soccer, Pasher is now aiming to pick up where he left off with new club Birmingham Legion FC, which is hoping the 28-year-old can be a player that pushes the club over the top this season. If he can come close to matching his 2020 strike rate of a goal every 120.9 minutes, Birmingham is going to be a serious challenge to defensively withstand.
Luis Solignac had his best season since arriving in the USL Championship in 2020 last year for El Paso Locomotive FC, putting up 16 goals at a strike rate of a goal every 136.3 minutes and five assists. That tied him for fifth in goals and eighth in goal contributions, but there was little buzz for the Argentine to show for it. That was thanks to Locomotive FC’s overall struggles last season, which saw the side miss the postseason for the first time. If El Paso is going to drive back into playoff contention, Solignac – who has 34 goals in 73 regular season appearances in his career – is going to need be in the middle of it.
One of the big questions of the offseason was where Danny Trejo might land. The answer is a Phoenix Rising FC side that is looking for a return to winning ways, and for whom Trejo could play a major part after his breakout 2022 campaign. Trejo’s 18 goals for Las Vegas Lights FC at an average of a goal every other game and six assists showed how good the 24-year-old can be at this level, and even saw him get a shot with Los Angeles FC before his release at the end of last season. In Phoenix, where the expectations have been to not only win, but do so with an attack that brings speed and precision in the final third, Trejo might be in the ideal spot to carry his own career forward as well as help the title-hungry squad to success.
In two of the past three seasons, Augustine Williams has been voted to the USL Championship All-League team. This year, he might have the supporting cast to make a run at the Golden Boot. A Sierra Leone international, Williams has bagged 53 goals in the Championship since his debut in 2016, including a career-best 16 goals last season in his first with the Battery. After what Ben Pirmann’s system provided for Philip Goodrum in Memphis last season, the Battery’s new Head Coach could have a similar impact on Williams’ chances of major individual hardware.
Tag(s): Features Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Sacramento Republic FC Charleston Battery Louisville City FC Cameron Lancaster Santi Moar Augustine Williams Russell Cicerone Tyler Pasher Sebastián Guenzatti Birmingham Legion FC Indy Eleven Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC Hartford Athletic Elvis Amoh Luis Solignac Phillip Goodrum Milan Iloski Danny Trejo