The USL Championship is kicking off its first ESPN2 game of the season this Friday, April 30 at 10 pm EST in a match between Phoenix Rising FC and San Diego Loyal SC. As the clubs prepare to take the pitch for the first time this season, fans may want to keep their eyes peeled for these USL League Two alumni.
Here are the 20 players who played in League Two to keep an eye on in this Friday’s match (in alphabetical order by last name).
Be sure to catch the game on ESPN2 tonight at 10 pm EST!
Adekoya began his professional career as a homegrown signing for Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders FC prior to the 2017 season after three collegiate seasons at UCLA. He made two appearances for the Sounders that year before joining Vendsyssel FF in the Danish first division in 2018. Adekoya found the back of the net three times in 22 appearances, prior to stops in the Maltese first division with Balzan FC and back in Denmark with Thisted last season. Before making the jump to the professional realm, Adekoya spent one season with USL League Two’s FC Golden State Force. As Adekoya prepares for his first season with Phoenix, fans should be prepared to see his attack first mentality come into play.
League Two Club: FC Golden State Force
Center back Adewole signed with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and made his professional debut in July 2017. From 2017 to 2019, Adewole appeared 74 times for Pittsburgh, scoring three goals. Prior to his time with Pittsburgh, Adewole played two collegiate seasons at George Washington University and earned Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team honors in his first season with the Colonials and amassed 64 appearances and five goals from 2013 to 2016. The defender led a back line that finished with league-best 0.62 GAA his senior year and set a program record with nine clean sheets. Most recently, Adewole appeared in 12 matches for Saint Louis FC in 2020, helping the team to an appearance in the Eastern Conference Semifinal. Adewole’s pre professional career saw him play one season with a League Two club. As the defender prepares for his first season with Phoenix, it should be interesting to watch how his style of play evolves with his new team.
Before making the move to professional play, Jon Bakero wrapped up his four-year Wake Forest career as one of the most decorated Demon Deacons in program history. Bakero became the third-ever Deacon to win the MAC Hermann Trophy, given to the top player in college soccer, and became the fourth Deacon to reach the 100-point mark in his career. He finished tied for fourth all-time with 37 goals and sixth with 26 assists, while starting 80 of the 88 career games he played in, scoring a total of 16 game-winning goals. Bakero then took his talents to League Two’s North Carolina Fusion U23 during his summer season where he was a major standout adding five goals in the 2017 season. Off the strength of his senior season, Bakero was selected fifth overall in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by the Chicago Fire. Bakero had his first touchpoint with Phoenix in 2019 on loan from Major League Soccer side Toronto FC. He appeared in 24 matches, logging 1,646 minutes in route to scoring three goals and dishing out five assists in the 2019 season. The savvy midfielder is looking to prove he has what it takes to be one of the top players in the USL Championship this season as he prepares to take the field for the first time against San Diego.
League Two Club: North Carolina Fusion U23
Calistri will be going into his third season in the Valley after signing with Phoenix ahead of the legendary 2019 season. The stealthy attacker had amassed six goals and two assists over 47 matches en route to winning both the 2019 regular season title and 2020 Western Conference Final, the former of which was clinched thanks to the clutch foot of Calistri. Calistri has been a long-time vet of the USL playing with FC Tulsa, St. Louis FC, FC Tucson and a USL League Two club. With combined USL and MLS experience, the left winger has locked in his style of play and continues to be a strong offensive force for Phoenix.
Following an accomplished youth soccer career with Santa Barbara SC, Delgado played four seasons at NAIA side, Westmont College. The goalkeeper compiled a record of 40-15-7, with a 0.87 GAA in 64 career matches. After graduating in 2019, Delgado signed with the USL Championship’s Las Vegas Lights FC for his first professional career debut. The keeper was formerly a standout in League Two playing four seasons with Ventura County Fusion and adding a major brickwall presence out of the back. Delgado is currently in the prime of his career and looking to make a few appearances with Phoenix this season.
League Two Club: Ventura County Fusion
The former League Two New York Red Bulls U23 defender, Farrell is returning for his fourth season with Phoenix. During his 2019 campaign, Farrell appeared in 26 matches and started 21 of them (1,891 minutes) while scoring two goals and tallying one assist and six key passes. Defensively, he led the team in clearances (91) and was third on the team in aerial duels won (77). In his three seasons with the club, he’s scored a total of eight goals. It is no secret that Farrell is a Phoenix team leader when it comes to versatility of play out of the back. His presence on the field Friday night should be a key element of Phoenix’s defense as they look to clinch a win over San Diego.
League Two Club: NYRB U23
A former United States U-20 international, Kelly recently joined the Phoenix squad after a 2020 season with the MLS’s Colorado Rapids where he played 246 minutes in two starts among eight appearances during the 18-game regular season. Before being called up to the pros, Kelly played four years at UNC Chapel Hill, starting 59 matches among 79 appearances and scoring six goals and adding 12 assists from 2016-2019. During his collegiate off seasons, Kelly spent time with USL League Two’s North Carolina FC U23 and San Francisco City FC. In his 2019 season with North Carolina, Kelly posted two goals. Heading into the 2021 season, Kelly is looking to put up more minutes in his professional career and show off his growth on the pitch.
League Two Clubs: North Carolina FC U23, San Francisco City FC
Veteran defender King is joining the Rising FC squad for his second season with the club after a 2019 season with USL side Nashville SC where he appeared in 21 matches and added one assist on the season. The powerhouse defender also spent time with San Antonio FC in 2018 where he appeared in 32 matches, scored two goals and added five assists while earning All-League team honors. The Path 2 Pro alum has been a consistent player in his time with USL and continues to show off his grit on the pitch with Phoenix.
Lubin is kicking off his fourth season with Phoenix this Friday against San Diego in the club’s home opener match. The Rising FC vet has been instrumental to the team in his four seasons adding five clean sheets in 2020 and averaging a 74.2 percent saves success rate. Lubin also brings to the team some international experience as he has appeared for both Swedish side Ljungskile SK and IFK Lulea. As this Path 2 Pro alum gears up for the 2021 season, the fans should expect to see his presence in goal be a major win for the defensive side as he looks to pursue a personal-best season.
2019 Player of the Month for New Mexico United, Moar joins the Phoenix side this season for his second year with the club. The 25-year-old Spaniard lived up to his billing in NMU’s opening five games of the season in 2019, recording four goals and one assist while also notching seven key passes to rank second on the side in that category. A former standout for Bethlehem Steel FC over the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Moar was one of New Mexico’s marquee signings as it prepared for its inaugural season. Moar also recorded time with USL League Two’s Charlotte Eagles in 2016 where he put up eight goals and four assists for the season. As Moar prepares to enter his second season with Phoenix, he is looking to improve on his 2020 record of two goals and eight assists. Moar is expected to be a key component of Phoenix’s attacking side this Friday against San Diego.
League Two Club: Charlotte Eagles
A native of San Ramon, California, Rawls played three years of college soccer at Saint Mary’s College and was named West Coast Conference Goalkeeper of the Year in 2014. The keeper is entering his sixth professional season after being drafted by New York City FC in the third round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft after spending some time on the USL League Two side. Since then, Rawls has made 66 appearances in the USL Championship with Orange County SC and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. Rawls joined the MLS’s Colorado Rapids ahead of the 2019 MLS season, however he is currently on loan with Phoenix Rising FC for the entirety of 2021 season. The question remains whether Rawls MLS experience will earn him some extra playing time with the Phoenix side this season.
The Ghanaian player comes to San Diego after playing his first professional season with San Antonio FC. Ackon boasts 33 regular season appearances in the USL Championship, 2,970 minutes, 101 clearances and 47 interceptions. He was a standout during his college career at Bowling Green State University and was originally drafted by MLS side Chicago Fire during the 2019 MLS SuperDraft after playing the 2018 season in USL League Two. Prior to coming to the United States, he had a short stint at Ebusua Dwarfs in the Ghana Premier League. As Ackon prepares to take the field for the first time in 2021 in this Friday’s match, he is looking to add more meaningful minutes to his sheet and improve upon his style of play out of the back for San Diego.
Guerrero returns to his home city where he began his soccer career playing in the local youth leagues throughout San Diego County. Guerrero joined the San Diego side just before the start of its 2020 inaugural season, coming from former USL Championship side Reno 1868 FC. Guerrero also played in Panama’s top-tier league with Alianza FC. He then was part of Puebla FC’s reserves after getting most of his professional playing time with Mexican second division side Altamira FC of Chiapas. He went there on loan from LIGAMX side Tigres UANL. In the United States, Guerrero played for Portland Timbers U-23 squad in 2009-2010 and played in 10 matches for the USL League Two side. He’s a product of Portland University where he was a three-time All-WCC First Team performer. He had the most WCC league shutouts for a career (16) and single season (6 in 2007) in league history. Guerrero is in the Portland Pilots' record book with prominent goalkeepers Kasey Keller and Luis Robles as the all-time leader in saves (346). He also was second in appearances (82), third in shutouts (22), and seventh in goals against average (1.17). Guerrero was also part of the United States team in 2008. This year the keeper is looking to step into goal and get some meaningful playing time with his new USL Championship side.
League Two Club:Timbers U23
Hackworth joined SD Loyal in February 2020 after spending the 2019 season playing for Memphis 1901. He played in 16 games with seven starts with Memphis in 2019 totaling 661 minutes. Before making the move to the USL Championship, Hackworth played in USL League Two for Peachtree City MOBA adding one goal and one assist in five games played. He was also a member of the U-16 and U-18 Philadelphia Union Academy teams and led his team to fifth-place finish at 2014 Generation Adidas Cup. The young midfielder is looking to get some valuable minutes in this season with San Diego in an effort to improve his versatility of play on the pitch.
League Two Club:Peachtree City MOBA
Hertzog came to San Diego after spending the 2019 and 2020 seasons with Reno 1868 FC. Hertzog has totaled 64 goals and 18 assists in the 155 appearances of his USL career. The striker was drafted by MLS side New York Red Bulls 13th overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Hertzog also had stints at various other professional teams including Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and Saint Louis FC in addition to his time with USL League Two side Reading United AC. Most recently, Hertzog was with Reno 1868 FC for two seasons, scoring 27 goals and assisting on 10 others, which led to consistent selections to USL’s Team of the Week. Hertzog scored eight goals for Reno in 2020, leading the team to first place in Group A and a playoff run. His incredible speed and eye for the back of the net should be a consistent threat to Phoenix’s defensive side on Friday.
League Two Clubs: Reading United AC
Martin started the SD Loyal inaugural season as part of the club’s first 11 players, working the left side of coach Landon Donovan’s three-man defensive backline. He is an experienced defender at the USL Championship level, playing 31 games for Fresno FC in 2019. He started in 28 of those games, logging 2,550 minutes that year. Martin spent the previous seasons with two clubs at the USL League Two level. Martin returned to the USL Championship for the first time since he spent two seasons with LA Galaxy II, playing in 17 matches in 2014 and 2015. Martin has also represented the United States as a youth, having played for the U-17 U.S. Boys National Team during the 2013 CONCACAF U-17 Championships in Panama. Martin now looks to improve on his defensive play in 2021 after adding 15 clearances, ten blocks and 24 interceptions to the San Diego side in 2020.
Metcalf scored the first ever goal for SD Loyal at its home field at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium. It came in a 1-0 win against Panama’s Costa del Este in a friendly match. It was SD Loyal’s final preseason match before beginning play in the USL Championship. Metcalf joined SD Loyal prior to the start of the inaugural season, coming from Atlanta United 2 where he played in 2018 and 2019. He started in 31 games in 2019 and in 28 the year before. After trials with several clubs in England, Metcalf signed with Charlotte Independence in February 2015. He also had a stint with Welsh side Bangor City in January 2017 before returning to play in the United States in the USL Championship. Previous to his time in the pros, Metcalf also played for League Two’s SC United Bantams in 2013. As Metcalf gears up for the 2021 season, he is looking to improve on his record of 25 clearances, seven blocks, 17 interceptions and four assists from his inaugural season with San Diego.
League Two Club: SC United Bantams
Muse, 21, signed with the Seattle Sounders FC as a homegrown player ahead of the 2019 season and the skilled rookie started in 21 of 22 appearances as the primary goalkeeper for the club’s USL Championship side, Tacoma Defiance. He produced one of the individual performances of the season in the Championship with a 13-save display against New Mexico United for Tacoma Defiance that tied a league record for the most saves in a single game.The collegiate All-American and National Champion at the University of Indiana was named one of the Top 10 goalkeepers to watch by the USL Championship in both 2020 and 2021. This League Two alum should be able to add some valuable minutes to his game in 2021 as he begins his first season with San Diego on Friday night.
Stoneman made his USL Championship debut while starting for SD Loyal in the team’s debut match. Stoneman was part of the club’s first 11 in the opener against Las Vegas Lights and earned himself a spot as the starting defender on the right side of Landon Donovan’s defensive line. In his 2020 season, Stoneman added 53 clearances, 17 blocks and 21 interceptions to his name for the San Diego side. Stoneman played in the USL League One and USL League Two before joining SD Loyal, playing in 23 games with Lansing Ignite and 18 with Chicago FC United of the USL League Two from 2017 to 2018. Stoneman also spent time with the Flint City Bucks during his 2017 season. This brickwall of a defender has big plans for the 2021 season and the fans will begin to see those plans unfold in Friday night's match against Phoenix.
League Two Clubs: Flint City Bucks, Chicago FC United
This versatile defender is one to watch in this Friday’s match as he is coming off of three successful seasons with the Championship’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. Primarily in the role as a center back, Vancaeyezeele made 75 appearances in three seasons with Pittsburgh, as he earned All-League First Team honors in 2020 and All-League Second Team honors in 2019 helping the team finish at the top of the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference in 2019. Even as a defender, Vancaeyezeele found a way to score some timely goals adding five in his career including two during the playoffs. The former USL League Two Mississippi Brilla FC alum, has totaled over 80 regular-season appearances, five goals and over 7,000 minutes in regular-season play and has proven to be an elite defender with 194 clearances and 170 interceptions. His dynamic play and composure in the back field is sure to boost the Loyal’s defensive presence against Phoenix Rising.
League Two Club: Mississippi Brilla FC