Strikers on the move

April 23, 2006
By Gerald Barnhart, USL Communications

Established strikers proved to be the hot commodity this offseason with five of the top seven scoring leaders from last year finding new homes. Third-leading scorer Mauricio Salles moved from Puerto Rico to Montreal while Portland's Dan Antoniuk, who ranked fourth, went to Vancouver before being traded to Montreal. They both joined Rochester's Kirk Wilson, who finished fifth in the table, giving the Impact scorers three through five. Also ranked fifth, Corey Woolfolk made the biggest move physically possible leaving Puerto Rico for Vancouver while veteran Minnesota striker Johnny Menyongar headed to Rochester after finishing seventh.

The big changes around the league include the addition of expansion side Miami FC and the Richmond Kickers move down to the USL Second Division.

Antoniuk
Other / Andre PeriardHigh-scoring forward Dan Antoniuk starts this season with the Impact.

TEAM CAPSULES

Atlanta Silverbacks

2005 in review: The Silverbacks, despite a midseason coaching change, clung to playoff hopes until the final weekend of the season. They finished the season at 10-15-3, just six points back of the final playoff spot. More than half of Atlanta's losses (eight) came by one-goal margins. Forward Fabian Dawkins was one of the bright spots on the '05 squad, notching 15 goals and 34 points on the season, both good for second in the USL First Division while earning All-League honors. Additionally, Rodrigo Rios was named All-League.

Offseason moves: The team stayed primarily intact, including interim coach Jason Smith landing the job permanently. Additions include Matthew O'Toole from Richmond, who moved down to the USL Second Division, and Josh Smith from the Charleston Battery. Goalkeepers Josh Barton and Christian Fegler are both gone, leaving a lot in the hands of Mexican newcomer Felipe Quintero.

First Five: 4/21 at Puerto Rico, 4/23 at Puerto Rico, 5/5 at Virginia Beach, 5/14 at Miami, 5/27 at Charleston

Charleston Battery

2005 in review: After winning the championship in 2003, the Battery have gone two seasons without reaching the playoffs. The '05 squad went 9-14-5. They were led by midfielder Ben Hollingsworth, an All-League selection with four goals and one assist for nine points. Alon Lubezky also finished with nine points for the team lead.

Offseason moves: Defensive stalwarts Dusty Hudock and Mark Watson return to the squad this year after stints in Rochester and Vancouver, respectively. The team also brought in defensive-minded players in Chris Brunt (Minnesota), Shane Crawford (Harrisburg, USL-2) and Brandon Curran (New Hampshire, USL-2) along with Jamaican international midfielder Omar Daley and two-time PDL champion Luke Vercollone (Cape Cod).

First Five: 4/29 v Virginia Beach, 5/7 v Miami, 5/13 v Montreal, 5/20 v Puerto Rico, 5/27 v Atlanta

Miami FC

2005 in review: The club was announced as an expansion team in early November.

Offseason moves: Every single player is a move for Miami in their first season, but the rookies on the block came out swinging with several big international signings which is led by the acquisition of Brazilian 1994 World Cup champions Romario and Zinho. Romario joins the club after leading the Brazilian first division in scoring last season. Other key internationals the club has brought in include Jamaican Sean Fraser, Haitian Stephane Guillaume and Guatemalan Mario Rodriguez. Miami also signed Chris Doyle, who was the starting goalkeeper for Charleston last season.

First Five: 4/23 v Montreal, 5/5 v Rochester, 5/7 at Charleston, 5/12 v Portland, 5/14 v Atlanta

Minnesota Thunder

2005 in review: Sixteen-year head coach Buzz Lagos called it a career at the end of last season. While his Thunder had a disappointing 7-11-10 regular season, Minnesota went on a tear in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, defeating three Major League Soccer sides on their way to the semifinals. Forward Melvin Tarley recorded seven goals and one assist in the USL-1 season and added another four goals in US Open Cup play, parlaying it into a stint with MLS Real Salt Lake through the rest of the season.

Offseason moves: Former Thunder standout and assistant coach Amos Magee was named head coach. Melvin Tarley was released by RSL during the preseason, prompting a move back to Minnesota where he will team back up with fellow Liberian international Aaron Paye. The two trailed Johnny Menyongar, who has gone to Rochester, in scoring on the team. Also returning from a stint in MLS is defender Dustin Branan, who will rejoin goalkeeper Joe Warren in the back.

First Five: 4/23 v Seattle, 5/6 at Portland, 5/13 at Seattle, 5/14 at Vancouver, 5/21 at Montreal

Montreal Impact

2005 in review: The Impact captured the Commissioner's Cup as the regular season USL First Division champions last year with a 18-3-7 season. Montreal opened the season on a 15-game unbeaten streak (10-0-5), setting club and USL-1 records. All three losses were by only one-goal margins as they finished with a remarkable 15 goals allowed in 28 games, earning Goalkeeper of the Year honors again for a third straight year for Greg Sutton and another All-League selection for two-time Defender of the Year Gabriel Gervais. On the offensive end, veteran Mauro Biello led the team in scoring with nine goals and three assists from his attacking midfield position.

Offseason moves: With a little instability up front last year, the club made most of its moves to shore up a potent attack. The club added Rochester's Kirk Wilson and then picked up Puerto Rico's Mauricio Salles. They then made a switch with Vancouver, sending Eduardo Sebrango west in exchange for former Timber Dan Antoniuk. The trio ranked fifth, third and fourth, respectively, in the scoring table last year.

First Five: 4/23 at Miami, 4/30 at Puerto Rico, 5/13 at Charleston, 5/14 at Virginia Beach, 5/21 v Minnesota

Portland Timbers

2005 in review: The Timbers played their way into the playoffs with two wins and a draw in their final three games before being blanked by rival Seattle in the First Round 3-0 on aggregate. Dan Antoniuk led the squad with 13 goals and two assists for 28 points, earning All-League honors. Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar led the league in assists for a second straight year while Scot Thompson was honored as an All-League selection on defense.

Offseason moves: The biggest move was the change in the front office and on the bench where Chris Agnello of the former Utah Blitzz was named general manager and head coach. Agnello won two USL Second Division championships while his team dominated the west and spent 2005 as an assistant with Real Salt Lake. Building around a core group of players, Agnello has brought in some familiar faces like former Blitzz midfielder Alejando Gutierrez and former RSL midfielder Luke Kreamalmeyer along with former PDL standout Mubarike Chisoni.

First Five: 4/22 at Vancouver, 5/5 v Vancouver, 5/6 v Minnesota, 5/12 at Miami, 5/14 @ Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Islanders

2005 in review: The second-year squad won twice as many games in 2005 as they did in their inaugural year, but missed out on a playoff spot by just one point to the Portland Timbers. They won their final three games to finish the season 10-10-8. Forward Mauricio Salles recorded several highlight-reel goals throughout the season as he earned All-League honors for his team leading 14 goals and 29 points. Corey Woolfolk was not far behind with nine goals and five assists and rookie goalkeeper Dan Kennedy proved a key addition, finishing with a 1.54 GAA and five shutouts as the lone goalkeeper for the campaign.

Offseason moves: The club lost a number of key players as Salles went to Montreal and Woolfolk to Vancouver. Midseason acquisition Sebastian Rozental joined the MLS Columbus Crew and rookie forward Drew McAthy left for Portland. Third and fourth in team scoring, Petter Villegas and Noah Delgado return with new additions from Argentina and Chile with impressive resumes: Gustavo Barros, Hugo Cicamois, Arturo Norambuena, Mauricio Segovia and Kormac Valdeberito.

First Five: 4/21 v Atlanta, 4/23 v Atlanta, 4/30 v Montreal, 5/7 v Rochester, 5/14 v Portland

Rochester Rhinos

2005 in review: The Rhinos started off 1-4-0 but turned it around by winning eight of the next 10 and finished with a 5-1-3 run in their last nine en route to earning the number two seed and a bye to the Semifinals, where they were upset by the Richmond Kickers 4-2 on aggregate. Midfielder Kirk Wilson was an All-League selection after leading the Rhinos with nine goals and five assists. Jonathan Bolanos was the second leading scorer with five goals and four assists while veteran goalkeeper Scott Vallow finished fourth in the league with a 0.92 GAA that was accompanied by a 13-7-5 record and nine shutouts.

Offseason moves: Veterans Scott Schweitzer and Rene Rivas retired while Wilson headed north to Montreal. Wilson's move prompted the acquisition of veteran Minnesota Thunder forward Johnny Menyongar, who finished seventh in league scoring in 2005, and Richmond Kickers striker Matthew Delicate, who was tied for 10th. The club also added Charles Gbeke, who split last season with Toronto and Montreal as well as Aaran Lines from Portland and Chad Severs from the USL Second Division Harrisburg City Islanders. The biggest move was to their new home PAETEC Park, which opens for competition June 3.

First Five: 5/5 at Miami, 5/7 at Puerto Rico, 5/13 at Toronto, 5/17 at Seattle, 5/19 at Portland

Seattle Sounders

2005 in review: The Sounders finished a solid regular season with an 11-6-11 record, earning the fourth seed in the playoffs. The team went on to blank rival Portland 3-0 on aggregate in the First Round and avenge their 2004 championship loss to Montreal on the Impact's own soil in the Semifinals with a 4-3 aggregate win at the conclusion of the second leg. Seattle downed the Richmond Kickers for their third USL-1 title (1995, 1996) in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. Roger Levesque led the team in scoring on the year with six goals and three assists, but it was Cuban defector Maykel Galindo who provided a late spark on the year. Meanwhile, the Sounders defense garnered some attention with Taylor Graham earning the Defender of the Year honor and goalkeeper Preston Burpo finishing second in the league with a 0.85 GAA.

Offseason moves: Seattle sent Burpo and second leading scorer Brent Whitfield (5 goals, 3 assists) to Chivas USA of MLS and saw Graham return to MLS for the New York Red Bulls. Burpo's departure leaves the goalkeeping duties in the hands of relatively inexperienced duo of Chris Eylander and James Ward. Danny Jackson was slated for a return from a knee injury only to injure the opposite one in the preseason for a second straight year, although not as seriously, delaying his return. The team remains relatively unchanged outside of the MLS departures with the exception of former Columbus Crew midfielder Jamal Sutton.

First Five: 4/23 at Minnesota, 5/13 v Minnesota, 5/17 v Rochester, 5/20 v Toronto, 5/26 at Vancouver

Toronto Lynx

2005 in review: Although the Lynx have typically been in the lower half of the table, the club had an atypical season last year, going 13 games before getting their first victory (0-8-4). It appeared to be a turnaround for the team as they went on to go unbeaten in four straight at 3-0-1 before Montreal brought it to an end. Jamie Dodds impressed on free kicks, tallying five goals and three assists to lead the scoring for team.

Offseason moves: The club returns most of its veteran players and is bringing in a few young local stars that have excelled in the CPSL like Matthew Palleschi and Jeremy Shepherd. Joining the team in the back with veteran keeper Theo Zagar is Canadian international defender Tony Menezes.

First Five: 4/22 at Virginia Beach, 4/29 at Vancouver, 5/13 v Rochester, 5/20 at Seattle, 5/21 at Portland

Vancouver Whitecaps

2005 in review: The Whitecaps locked up the third seed in the playoffs with a 12-7-9 record on the season only to be eliminated in the First Round by the Richmond Kickers via penalties at the conclusion of a scoreless series despite possessing the league scoring champion Jason Jordan. Jordan led the league with a stunning 17 goals and three assists for 37 points. He had nearly twice the points of Steve Klein, who had seven goals and four assists.

Offseason moves: Both goalkeepers Josh Wicks and Mike Franks left the club, but the 'Caps brought in Newcastle reserve Tony Caig, who has plenty of experience playing in England. Other additions include Montreal's Eduardo Sebrango and Adrian Cann as well as Toronto's Sita-Taty Matondo and former Columbus Crew forward David Testo. The biggest move may have been the addition of Puerto Rico's Corey Woolfolk, a USL-1 veteran.

First Five: 4/22 v Portland, 4/29 v Toronto, 5/5 at Portland, 5/14 v Minnesota, 5/22 v Rochester

Virginia Beach Mariners

2005 in review: The Mariners showed promise in the second half of the season after a coaching change, however, it wasn't enough to propel them into the playoffs at 7-14-7. The squad's inability to find the back of the net left them tied for the lowest scoring total for the campaign.

Offseason Moves: In an effort to increase the offensive output, the Mariners have brought in several standouts in Gary Brooks out of Atlanta, Greg Simmonds of Charleston and McColm Cephas from former USL-1 rival Richmond. Setting up the attack will be Roland Aguilera, who returns to the team after a stint in Rochester.

First Five: 4/22 v Toronto, 4/29 at Charleston, 5/5 v Atlanta, 5/14 v Montreal, 5/21 at Miami