By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
The 2016 USL Kickoff Weekend is just days away as we continue to put the spotlight on players who could be difference-makers in the USL this season.
After Monday’s look at goalkeepers, today we take a look at the defenders who will likely play a key role in their club’s success this season.
- Austin Berry, FC Cincinnati – The former MLS Rookie of the Year returns to his hometown to lead what appears to be a strong expansion side into its inaugural season. Berry has the experience to be a major player for John Harkes, and has the chance to establish himself as one of the top defenders in the league.
- Mickey Daly, Bethlehem Steel FC – An All-League selection a season ago with Sacramento Republic FC, Daly arrives as a veteran presence for the Steel as it makes its debut in the USL. The tall center back helped Republic FC claim a championship in its inaugural season, and will provide a steady presence for Brendan Burke’s side this season.
- Bilal Duckett, Charlotte Independence – Duckett’s experience in the USL paid big dividends for Charlotte in its inaugural season, and with teammates Patrick Slogic and Henry Kalungi alongside him, the Independence’s defense looks set to remain solid this year. With that in place, Charlotte should be a strong playoff contender in its second year.
- Grant Van De Casteele, Rochester Rhinos – One of the major cogs in the Rhinos’ standout defense a season ago, Van De Casteele will again provide a strong presence in the center for Bob Lilley’s side. After some offseason departures, the All-League First Team selection’s leadership will help integrate the new faces as the Rhinos aim to emulate their undefeated home record in 2015.
- William Yomby, Richmond Kickers – The 31-year-old veteran has been the rock on which opposing attacks have foundered at City Stadium over the years, and Yomby shows no signs of slowing down as he now teams with Hugh Roberts on the Kickers’ back line. With his combination of speed and power, Yomby will remain likely remain one of the top defenders on one of the better defenses in the USL.Also to watch: Josh Phillips, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC; Conor Shanosky, Louisville City FC; Shawn Ferguson, Charleston Battery; Bruno Perone, Wilmington Hammerheads FC; A.J. Cochran, Saint Louis FC