USL Preview: Twenty key offseason moves

The USL kicks off its sixth season this weekend after a flurry of activity on the player front. Players on the move include a former MLS Cup champion, the USL's all-time leading scorer, the 2015 USL Goalkeeper of the Year and a highly touted Nigerian midfielder who won the 2013 Under-17 World Cup.


Brandon Miller (Orange County Blues). The 2015 USL Goalkeeper of the Year helped the Rochester Rhinos win the 2015 USL title. Miller had 13 shutouts and posted a 0.54 goals-against average for the Rhinos.

Evan Newton (Sac Republic FC). The 2015 finalist for USL Goalkeeper of the Year helped OKC Energy FC reach the Western Conference final and will replace Patrick McLain, who joined the Chicago Fire, in goal.

Joe Smits (Wilmington Hammerheads). The 6-foot-4 Canadian won the NASL’s 2014 Golden Glove award with FC Edmonton for the lowest goals-against average in the league.


Austin Berry (FC Cincinnati). The 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year spent last season on loan from the Philadelphia to South Korea's FC Anyang but returned home to Cincinnati FC, where he joins two other former Union players, Jimmy McLaughlin and Antoine Hoppenot.

Tommy Meyer (Swope Park Rangers). Meyer played four seasons at LA Galaxy, where he started on the MLS championship team in his rookie year. Swope Park coach Marc Dos Santos is counting on Meyer's experience (57 games with the Galaxy in all competitions) to help settle the youngsters on Sporting Kansas City's first-year team.

Chris Schuler (Real Monarchs). Schuler was one of the most dominating defenders in MLS with Real Salt Lake and was even tipped to join the U.S. national team but injuries limited him to 80 games in six seasons. A foot injury kept him out of action after July, and RSL didn't re-sign him. Schuler hopes a successful comeback puts him back in the picture with the Monarchs' parent club.

Carlos Alvarez (San Antonio FC). The former UConn star was the second overall pick by Chivas USA in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft and played 50 games in his first two MLS seasons but only one in 2015 with the Colorado Rapids. A move to expansion San Antonio FC should revitalize his career.

Vincent Bezecourt (New York Red Bulls II). The tiny Frenchman spent the preseason with the MLS Red Bulls and impressed enough to be picked up for the second Red Bulls II season. He had 10 goals and nine assists in 38 games for St. Francis (N.Y.).

Villyan Bijev
(Timbers 2). Bijev signed with Liverpool out of high school in Fresno, California, but later moved to Fortuna Duesseldorf in Germany and Cherno More and Slavia Sofia in Bulgaria. He's still only 23.

Tony Cascio (Arizona United). The former soccer and football (placekicker for state champion Hamilton High School) star returned to his home state after four seasons in MLS with Colorado, Houston and Orlando City, where a back injury sidelined him in 2015.

Akinjide Idowu (Timbers FC 2). The big import of the USL season was Idowu, who helped Nigeria win the 2013 Under-17 World Cup and played on its 2015 U-20 World Cup team. Idowu, dubbed the "Human Shield" for his marking ability, comes to T2 from Nigeria Youth Soccer Academy.

Denzel Slager (LA Galaxy II). The Curacao youth international is considered one of the top young wingers in the USL. Slager, 22, scored six goals in 2015 for Orange County.

Corey Burke (Bethlehem Steel). The new Philadelphia Union second team is counting on a big season from the 24-year-old Burke, who arrives on loan from Rivoli United in Jamaica's Red Stripe National Premier League , where he scored 11 goals in 2014-15 and 12 in 2015-16.

George Davis IV
(Louisville City). With USL MVP Matt Fondy (22 goals) sold for what Lou City termed a club-record transfer fee to the NASL's Jacksonville Armada, help was needed up front, where Davis, a three-time All-USL selection, arrives from the Richmond Kickers and will join Chandler Hoffman.

Charly Flores (Rio Grande Valley FC Toros). The Houston Dynamo, who will provide players and technical staff for the new USL team, made the 18-year-old Flores its first RGVFC signing. He scored 25 goals in his last season in the Dynamo academy system.

Corey Hertzog
(Pittsburgh Riverhounds). The former Penn State star began his pro career with the New York Red Bulls but has jumped around clubs in MLS (Vancouver), the NASL (FC Edmonton and Tampa Bay) and USL (Wilmington and Orlando City).

Jason Johnson
(San Antonio FC). The Jamaican was the No. 13 overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft but he scored just three goals in 43 games with the Houston Dynamo and Chicago Fire. He joins an MLS contingent at San Antonio FC that also includes former Fire teammate Greg Cochrane, Manolo Sanchez, Danny Garcia and Alvarez.

Dane Kelly (
Swope Park Rangers). The Jamaican is the USL’s all-time leading scorer with 42 goals and recorded double-digit goals in each of the past three seasons with the Charleston Battery.

Marius Obekop (Orlando City B). Obekop is one of several players who have joined the New York Red Bulls via a pipeline from Cameroon's Rainbow Sports Investments but never played more than five games in a season in his three years with the Red Bulls. He's still only 21 and could rebound with new Orlando City B.
Andrew Wiedeman (FC Cincinnati). The former Cal star played 44 games in five MLS seasons with FC Dallas and Toronto FC before moving to the NASL, where he scored four goals for the Ottawa Fury, the surprise fall champion.
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