Snubs? 5 players who deserved to make this year’s USL Championship’s All-League teams
- As the USL Championship’s season comes to a close, we’ve now entered everyone’s favorite time of year: the time when we argue about Best 11s
Image courtesy of Memphis 901 FC
As the USL season comes to an end, the league has started to announce distinctions like the All-League Teams. Distilling hundreds of players into two 11-man squads is a challenge, and the results (which I admittedly had a vote for) were mostly solid. Still, a few players stand out as snubs.
Let’s run through some of those snubs.
Nate Steinwascher, GK, Detroit City FC
Detroit allowed the second fewest goals in the Eastern Conference, and Nate Steinwascher’s performance in net is the reason why. The defense in front of him, while strong, suffered from injuries and mistakes in the channels. As a result, Steinwascher finished fourth in the league for saves and topped the leaderboard for Goals Saved Above Average. Further, he finished fourth for goals against per 90 minutes and clean sheets alike.
For a player to come along with an expansion team and anchor an elite defense is no small feat, and Steinwascher should’ve been rewarded for it.
Connor Maloney, FB, San Antonio FC
There’s a tendency to honor attacking-minded players with awards, and Connor Maloney is the primary casualty of that trend across the All-League Teams.
Filling in as a right and left wingback with spot minutes in the central midfield, Maloney garnered no goals and only four assists in 2022, but his impact was immense. Between his precise, transition-starting passes into the channels and his ability to leverage a bulldog-like physique to cover behind aggressive center backs, Maloney was arguably the most important piece in a West-leading San Antonio team.
Jeremy Kelly, AM, Memphis 901 FC
Memphis was the surprise titan of the East this year, and Phillip Goodrum (2nd in the league in goals) and Aaron Molloy (2nd in assists) were recognized for their team’s success.
Still, Jeremy Kelly is as important as either of those players. The left winger finished one spot behind Molloy on the assist leaderboard and contributed eight goals during the season. Moreover, his slaloming runs from the touchline towards the center of the field consistently wreaked havoc and gave his 901 teammates the space to thrive. I understand the impetus to spread the love across clubs, but Kelly deserved notice.
Juan Azocar, FB, Oakland Roots
For a defender to score double-digit goals at any level is unheard of, and Juan Azocar did so without taking a single penalty kick this year. Oakland’s late-season climb into the playoff race was capped by Azocar’s three strikes in the team’s final three games, but his tireless, end-to-end style of play kept the Roots afloat during their worst stretches of the season.
Moreover, the outside back rated in the top half of the league for his aerial win rate and put in three defensive actions per 90 minutes. Elite offense and a solid overall profile rendered 2022 a breakout year for Azocar.
Dan Casey, CB, Sacramento Republic
Even if their run in the U.S. Open Cup defines this year’s Sacramento team in the eyes of history, Dan Casey’s performance in the back line in that tournament – and in the league – should be more than a footnote.
Casey played as the rightmost center back in a back three for most of the campaign, combining a brilliant sense of timing and a penchant for last-ditch interventions with a powerful ability to carry the ball into the opposing half. The Republic were offensively challenged outside of Rodrigo Lopez’s magical moments, but Casey’s set piece threat and open-play marauding were often the second best route to success for a team that hosted a playoff match.