USL PRO Feature
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The 2014 Major League Soccer Playoffs kick off on Wednesday night as the Vancouver Whitecaps visit FC Dallas in the Western Conference Knockout Round. In recent years former USL PRO players have played key roles in their clubs’ success in the postseason, so here are five players to watch during the next month as a champion is crowned.
Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City (Orlando City)
After helping lead both Orlando and Sporting Kansas City to championships in 2013, Dwyer’s first full season of action saw him finish with 22 goals, good for second in MLS. Dwyer started 31 of SKC’s 34 games in the regular season, and despite SKC’s struggles overall, scored six goals in his final eight games. With one win in its past five games, Sporting will look to re-set as it visits the New York Red Bulls on Thursday night in the Eastern Conference Knockout Round. Dwyer will need to be at his best to help his side start the defense of its MLS Cup in winning fashion.
Taylor Kemp, D.C. United (Richmond Kickers)
Kemp recorded three assists in five games at the start of the season, providing a consistent threat down the left flank for Richmond before his recall by United. Since then, he has become a fixture in Ben Olsen’s back line, making 13 starts in United’s last 15 games of the regular season as the side finished top of the Eastern Conference standings. Kemp also picked up his first MLS goal and two assists, and will aim to help D.C. maintain a defensive solidity that saw it concede the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference during the regular season.
Lamar Neagle, Seattle Sounders FC (Charleston Battery)
After becoming a key figure in the Sounders attack in 2013, the 2010 Most Valuable Player took things to another level this season as the Sounders won the Supporter’s Shield for the first time. Fitting into an attack that also included U.S. National Team captain Clint Dempsey and MLS Most Valuable Player candidate Obafemi Martins, Neagle had a career-high nine goals and nine assists. He also helped the side claim the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and will be hoping to help Seattle make history as the first club to claim the treble this postseason.
Robbie Rogers, LA Galaxy (LA Galaxy II)
Rogers’ road back to the Galaxy began earlier this year with the LA Galaxy II, where he made four appearances to gain fitness after injury. Los Dos was also where Rogers began to learn the position of left back, a role that he has grown into quickly. Rogers was rated the top left back in MLS by player ratings site WhoScored.com, with an average rating of 7.2, as he made 15 starts to help the Galaxy earn the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, and a big clash with Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Aaron Schoenfeld, Columbus Crew (Dayton Dutch Lions)
A standout performer during his time with the Dutch Lions at the start of the season, Schoenfeld earned All-League honors after recording 12 goals in 18 games for Dayton. Since being recalled, he has also fared well for a Columbus side that made a late surge up the standings to claim the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. After eight appearances as a substitute, Schoenfeld made seven consecutive starts before being rested for the final game of the regular season, and had a Man-of-the-Match performance in a decisive 3-1 win against New York in the penultimate game of the season. The 6-foot-4 striker will hope to have a similar impact as Dwyer a year ago as his side, which won five of its last six games in the regular season, faces the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.