Thursday, 25 Jul 2024

The USL and NASL Combined Team of the Decade: A Look at the Best Lower Division Players and Coaches

Throughout the last decade, the North American Soccer League (NASL) and the United Soccer League (USL) have produced some of the finest talent in the United States. While the USL focused on player development in collaboration with Major League Soccer (MLS), the NASL aimed to challenge MLS as the premier league. Although the USL ultimately won what became known as “the SoccerWarz”, the collective quality of players and coaches from the second and third divisions cannot be denied.

As the USL enters its 10th season, it is worth taking a look back at the best the leagues had to offer in the 2010s, and where those players and coaches are today. This combined team of the decade prioritizes longevity and consistency over one-off exceptional seasons.

Coach: Marc Dos Santos

Marc Dos Santos stands out as the coach of the decade. With both a USL title (Montreal Impact, 2009) and an NASL title (San Francisco Deltas, 2017) to his name, Dos Santos brings a wealth of experience and success. Known for his motivating style and experience working in Portugal and Brazil, Dos Santos has left a mark on the lower divisions. He currently serves as the head coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS.

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Goalkeeper: Jimmy Maurer

Jimmy Maurer takes the spot between the posts due to his impressive performances in the NASL. With 120 NASL starts, primarily for the New York Cosmos, Maurer played a significant role in the team’s two NASL championships. He is currently with FC Dallas as a deputy to Jesse González.

Right back: Ryan Richter

Ryan Richter, known for his time with Ottawa Fury, is a standout right back. He played a crucial role in the Fury’s impressive run in the NASL, making it to the final despite a limited budget. Richter retired after the 2017 NASL season and is currently coaching in the Philadelphia Union academy.

Center backs: Taylor Mueller and Connor Tobin

Taylor Mueller holds the record for the most minutes played in the USL, showcasing his longevity and consistency. He was a key member of the Charleston Battery for eight years, making the USL postseason in each year from 2012-2019. Connor Tobin, known for his competitive drive and physicality, played for several lower division teams, including Minnesota Stars and Carolina RailHawks. Mueller recently signed with Tacoma Defiance, while Tobin is the club captain for Forward Madison.

Left back: Justin Davis

Justin Davis was a standout left back for Minnesota Stars and later for Minnesota United in the NASL. He played a crucial role in the team’s success, including winning the first Soccer Bowl in 2011. Davis is currently weighing his options on and off the pitch after leaving Nashville SC.

Center midfielders: Aodhan Quinn and Richie Ryan

Aodhan Quinn and Richie Ryan make up the center midfield duo. Quinn, known for his time with Louisville City and Orange County SC, was a regular starter and made the USL best XI in 2018. Ryan played a key role for Ottawa Fury, Jacksonville Armada, and FC Cincinnati before joining El Paso Locomotive. Both players continue to play in the USL Championship.

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Right wing: Jamie Watson

Jamie Watson, known for his time with Austin Aztex and Minnesota United, earns the spot on the right wing. Watson was a key player for both clubs and now pursues a career in broadcasting.

Attacking midfielder: Nazmi Albadawi

Nazmi Albadawi, a product of the NASL era, made a name for himself with the Carolina RailHawks and later with FC Cincinnati. Albadawi is currently back with his hometown club, North Carolina FC.

Left wing: Miguel Ibarra

Miguel Ibarra, despite playing in multiple positions, was too impressive to be left out. He made history as the only player to earn caps for the U.S. men’s national team while playing in the lower divisions. Ibarra left Minnesota United for the Seattle Sounders and looks set for a key role in the defending champions’ plans for 2020.

Striker: Christian Ramirez

Christian Ramirez, the all-time leading goalscorer for Minnesota United (NASL+MLS), rounds out the team. Ramirez’s goalscoring ability and his partnership with Ibarra were unmatched in the lower divisions. He currently plays for the Houston Dynamo.

This combined team of the decade showcases the talent and dedication present in the lower divisions. These players and coaches have left a lasting impact on the game, and their contributions should not be overlooked.

FAQs

Q: Are there any other notable players or coaches that almost made the team?

A: Yes, there were several notable players and coaches who narrowly missed out on making the team. Some honorable mentions include Evan Newton, Matt van Oekel, Matt Pickens, Hunter Freeman, Kevin Venegas, Luke Vercollone, Paco Craig, Forrest Lasso, Carlos Mendes, Ayoze, Victor “PC” Giro, James Kiffe, Kenardo Forbes, Aaron Pitchkolan, Devon “Speedy” Williams, Solomon Asante, Emmanuel Ledesma, Wálter Restrepo, Kevin Molino, Brian Ownby, Kwadwo Poku, Kharlton Belmar, Austin da Luz, and Lance Laing.

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Q: Is there any specific reason why certain players were chosen over others?

A: The selection of players was based on their performances and impact in the lower divisions over the last decade. Longevity, consistency, and their influence on their respective teams were key factors in the decision-making process.

Conclusion

The combined USL and NASL team of the decade highlights the incredible talent, dedication, and success that have flourished in the lower divisions of American soccer. These players and coaches have made their mark and left a lasting legacy. As we look forward to the future of the game, it’s important to recognize and appreciate the contributions of these individuals.