On the rise: Three breakout USL stars you should be watching

Quick Hits
  • As we near the end of the 2022 USL regular season, it’s time to look back at a handful of players who have truly excelled this season
  • These players may have gone under-the-radar, but make no mistake: they’re ones to watch going forward
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In a league like the USL Championship with 27 teams and limited interconference play, it’s easy to miss out on bright talents playing for lesser teams. Today, we’re dusting off a few of those players who slipped through the cracks by highlighting three under-the-radar stars in the USL.

Let’s get to it.

Augustine Williams, Charleston Battery

Age: 25

Position: ST

The Charleston Battery have the fifth-worst offense in the USL Championship this season, but that hasn’t stopped Augustine Williams from scoring 16 goals and cracking the top five of the Golden Boot race. Williams made his international debut for Sierra Leone last year and has solidified himself as a regular in 2022, but his contributions in the USL have gone under-the-radar given his previous stints coming for rarely-covered teams like Portland Timbers 2 and LA Galaxy II. 

Still, Williams is one of the most natural, agile finishers in the league.

Early in 2022, Charleston relied on a route-one style, and Williams led the forward line by making runs into the channels to meet long passes. Later, they switched to a back three and began relying more on crosses into the box. In fact, Charleston rely on crosses as a higher percentage of their passes than all but one team in the Eastern Conference. To that end, Williams is in the 85th percentile for forwards in terms of his aerial win rate. His sharp first-touch finishing and well-rounded skill set mean that Williams should be leading the line for a contender.

Hey, there’s always next year.

Enoch Mushagalusa, Louisville City

Age: 22

Position: LW

After two seasons ripping down the wing for Sporting Kansas City II, Enoch Mushagalusa has emerged as an unsung but crucial player for Louisville City in 2022. The left winger has 10 goals and three assists so far this year and his expected goals per 90 minutes rank in the 98th percentile among USL attackers. Mushagalusa can take your breath away with his audacious dribbling and his movement and energy define Louisville’s high press.

The Congolese star also provides some useful variation for Louisville. Their longstanding attacking group of players like Cameron Lancaster, Brian Ownby, and Corben Bone is cerebral and skillful, but Mushagalusa is a bolt of lightning. As a two-footed attacker, he can hug the touchline or cut inside and all of his actions are instinctual and instant. Mushagalusa’s partnership with fellow SKC alum and Golden Boot contender Wilson Harris has breathed life into Danny Cruz’s squad and assured Eastern home-field advantage for Louisville in the playoffs.

Jack Gurr, Sacramento Republic

Age: 26

Position: RWB

Rodrigo Lopez attracts much of the attention given to the Sacramento Republic, but their five-man defensive line also played a huge part in powering their run in the U.S. Open Cup. Jack Gurr is the heart and soul of that defense at the right wingback spot. 

Just like with Williams and Mushagalusa, Gurr has shined this year after a stint with an MLS affiliate: he spent two seasons with Atlanta United 2 before a cameo in Scotland. Gurr’s immense work rate and partnership with center back Dan Casey have defined the Republic this season.

Gurr has earned the third-most minutes for Sacramento in 2022 and he’s garnered three assists and a goal along the way. Still, those numbers underrate Gurr’s importance for Sacramento. He rates in the 96th percentile of USL outside backs for shot attempts and leads that group in crosses per 90 minutes. The Republic are a middling attacking side, but their best moves come when a creator like Lopez shows into the midfield, draws the opposing defense up, and blasts a switch to Gurr on the flank. He’s the pressure release valve for this team, and his dynamism may well decide Sacramento’s playoff fate.