We have arrived at the midpoint of the USL PRO season. I thought it would be fitting to look back on the first half of the season and give some recognition to some of the players and performances that have grabbed our attention. I and most of the Reckless Challenge staff have come up with a mid-season starting XI, assembled from what we perceive to be the most talented and productive players from around the league. We’ve decided to hand out honors in some other categories as well, including MVP and best coaching performance.
So, pop the top of your favorite adult beverage, prop up your feet, sit back, and enjoy the list. After all, this isn’t a black-tie awards show. When you’ve finished, let us know what you think.
All-USL PRO Mid-Season Starting XI
Nicholas Noble, Harrisburg City Islanders: Noble was nearly a unanimous selection to start in goal for our team of all-stars. Noble has been in net for all 1080 minutes of the 12 games for the City Islanders, who sit it second place in the league standings. He is tied for the league lead in shutouts with 4. He is second in the league with 49 saves. His goals-against average sits at an impressive 1.083.
Others Receiving Votes: Molvin James, Antigua Barracuda
William Yomby, Richmond Kickers: Yomby received the most votes among all defenders. His outstanding defensive efforts are part of the reason that Richmond has given up fewer goals per game than any other team in USL PRO.
Colin Falvey, Charleston Battery: Falvey leads the Battery in minutes and has turned in one solid defensive performance after another for the defending champions.
Shay Spitz, Los Angeles Blues: Of all the names in our starting lineup, Spitz’s may be the must unrecognized. Trust us when we tell you that he has been consistently excellent on the the Blues’ back line.
Others Receiving Votes: Shawn Ferguson, Charleston Battery; Shintaro Harada, Dayton Dutch Lions; Bryan Burke, Orlando City; Richard Costanzo, Pittsburgh Riverhounds; Sascha Gorres, Richmond Kickers
Jamie Watson, Orlando City: Watson is second in the league in assists and third in the league in goals. It’s no wonder that he was the only unanimous selection to our midfield.
Nicholas Paterson, Charleston Battery: Paterson is once again leading the Battery to a successful season. He is among the top goal-scorers in the league with 5.
Matthew Dallman, Pittsburgh Riverhounds: Dallman leads the league in assists. If it weren’t for the several Dallman to Angulo scoring plays, the Riverhounds might be near the very bottom of the standings.
Joseph Ngwenya, Richmond Kickers: Ngwenya is the biggest goal-scoring threat for the undefeated Kickers. With six goals in eight appearances, he sits in a tie for fourth place in the league in that statistical category.
Others Receiving Votes: Andriy Budnyy, VSI Tampa Bay; Gibson Bardsley, Dayton Dutch Lions; Nate Robinson, Richmond Kickers; Yann Ekra, Harrisburg City Islanders; Christian Hernandez, Harrisburg City Islanders
Dom Dwyer, Orlando City: Dwyer was a unanimous pick at forward for obvious reasons. Through just 13 games, he has amassed 15 goals, which is a USL PRO single-season record. He is also the league-leader in points and shots. Dwyer will own the record book by the end of this season.
Jose Angulo, Pittsburgh Riverhounds: Angulo is in the top 5 in USL PRO in goals and points. He has scored nearly half of the Riverhounds goals this year. Angulo was also a unanimous selection to the Reckless Starting XI.
Sainey Touray, Harrisburg City Islanders: Touray rounds out our list of starting forwards. The Isle Guy ranks in the top five in the league in goals, assists, and points.
Others Receiving Votes: Christopher Cortez, Los Angeles Blues
In a unanimous decision, the Reckless Challenge staff have chosen Dom Dwyer as the MVP of the first half of the 2013 season. What more can be said about the show that Dwyer is putting on in Orlando? There aren’t enough superlatives to describe it.
Coach of the First Half
Our selection for the best coaching performance of the first half ended up in a tie between Richmond’s Leigh Cowlishaw and Los Angeles’ Jesus Rico-Sanz. Cowlishaw has been recognized for guiding his team to an undefeated record through 10 games. Rico-Sanz has his Blues well-positioned for a run at the playoffs, which LA missed last season.
Others Receiving Votes: Bill Becher, Harrisburg City Islanders
Surprising Team of the First Half
The voting in this category for the team that is outperforming prior expectations also resulted in a tie. The winners are VSI Tampa Bay and the Dayton Dutch Lions. Tampa Bay currently sits in fourth place with 22 points through 11 games played. That has to be better than even the most optimistic supporter could have hoped for the expansion club. The Dutch Lions are off to the best start in team history and have already equaled their win total from all of last season.
Others Receiving Votes: Richmond Kickers
Disappointing Team of the First Half
The overwhelming pick as the most disappointing team was the Rochester Rhinos. Despite several off-season acquisitions and loans from New England, the Rhinos can’t get it going. They can neither score goals, nor defend against them. There don’t seem to be any good explanations for why this is happening on a team that finished second in the regular season standings just a season ago.
Others Receiving Votes: Wilmington Hammerheads