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USL Top Five – Defenders to Watch

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/13/18, 12:01PM EDT


Five defenders that may have prominent roles to play for their clubs in 2018

Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

Having a commanding leader in defense can be a key piece to the puzzle for clubs looking to contend for a championship, with last season’s USL Defender of the Year Sebastien Ibeagha – now of New York City FC – the most recent in that trend.

Continuing our look at players who could play a key role in the 2018 USL regular season, which kicks off on Friday night, here are five defenders to watch over the coming year.

Colin Falvey, Ottawa Fury FC

Photo courtesy Steve Kingsman / Freestyle Photography / Ottawa Fury FC

Returning for his second stint with Fury FC, the 2013 USL Defender of the Year will be one of the new additions to the back line that will aim to provide more stability in front of either Callum Irving or Maxime Crepeau in goal. A fan-favorite from his prior time at the club, Falvey has helped bring success in previous stops in his career and has a 2012 USL Cup on his resume from his time with the Charleston Battery. After recording 93 clearances and 77 interceptions for Indy Eleven a season ago, while winning 82 percent of his tackles, the Irish veteran remains a daunting opponent for opposing forwards. 

Kai Greene, Rio Grande Valley FC

Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC

Greene went under the radar in 2017 but put up some very impressive numbers for a Toros defense that had its struggles in the club's second season, ranking second in the league in tackles won with 73 while also racking up 168 duels won, 75 clearances and 51 interceptions. Greene maintaining his level will be crucial to the side rebounding back into playoff contention this season, but the 24-year-old should be one to watch over the course of the season regardless as he's reunited with former Seton Hall University Head Coach Gerson Echeverry.

Joe Greenspan, Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Photo courtesy G. Evans / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Greenspan was a massive hit for Riverhounds SC when he joined the club on loan from Minnesota United FC during the 2017 season, and more of the same will be expected as the former Naval Academy standout joins the club on a permanent basis. Greenspan's size allows him to handle aerial threats from opponents, but his technical ability also allows him to help a side build from the back after the ball has been won. Serving as the lynchpin for Head Coach Bob Lilley’s defense, Greenspan’s organizational ability should also come to the fore as the Hounds look to make a major move up the Eastern Conference standings.

Forrest Lasso, FC Cincinnati

Photo courtesy Zach Bland / Charleston Battery

Lasso had a breakout season for the Charleston Battery in 2017, leading the side to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference thanks to both his solid defensive work and the threat he posed opposition from set pieces, from which he scored six goals, second-most by a defender in the league last season. The 6-foot-5 center back will be expected to fill the gap left by Harrison Delbridge in the heart of the FCC defense, and having finished with 149 clearances a season ago, a 68-percent success rate in aerial duels and 60-percent success rate in regular duals, the 24-year-old still appears to have more ahead of him in terms of potential.

Paco Craig, Louisville City FC

Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

Craig took a major step forward in his second professional season to earn USL All-League Second Team honors after leading Louisville in both interceptions (71) and clearances (116) as the club sported one of the best defensive records in the league. Maintaining that upward trajectory will be the goal this year for the 25-year-old after earning a bigger spotlight through last season’s honor and given the exacting nature of Head Coach James O’Connor you would imagine there’s still more to come from the 25-year-old former Premier Development League standout.

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