2012 USL Championship Golden Boot-winner Dennis Chin joins the Richmond Kickers after spending last season with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. | Photo courtesy Nick Gates / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
We've already looked at the goalkeepers, defenders, and midfielders to watch in the 2019 USL League One season, which means it's now time to highlight five forwards who will look to light up the scoreboard in the league's inaugural campaign. From experienced veterans to young standouts, there is plenty of attacking talent to get excited about.
Eamon Zayed brings a wealth of experience to Chattanooga, where he will reunite with Red Wolves SC Head Coach Tim Hankinson after previously working together at Indy Eleven. The 35-year-old forward recorded 26 goals in 59 games for the Eleven over two seasons and will look to produce a similar return after a solid 2018 campaign in the USL Championship with the Charlotte Independence. Zayed scored eight goals and added two assists in 25 appearances for the Independence last year but missed out on a trip to the USL Cup Playoffs. If the well-traveled veteran, who has recorded over 200 career goals along stops in England, Iran, Ireland, Libya and the U.S., can continue to show his keen eye for goal, then the Red Wolves should be postseason contenders.
The first Wisconsinite to sign for Forward Madison FC, JC Banks brings local pride to Head Coach Daryl Shore’s squad as well as the ability to lead the line. The 29-year-old forward, who played high-school soccer in Milwaukee and collegiately at UW-Green Bay, has featured in more than 150 games during his professional career and produced 25 goals and 20 assists. Banks also has soccer in his bloodlines, as his father Jimmy played in the 1990 FIFA World Cup for the United States alongside Greenville Triumph SC Head Coach John Harkes. The younger Banks hasn’t quite reached those heights, but he can create chances as well as take them and will likely play a big role in Madison’s inaugural campaign.
If you haven’t heard of Ricardo Pepi yet, you will soon enough. The 16-year-old is set to make his debut at the professional level for Head Coach Eric Quill’s side after racking up the goals for the FC Dallas Academy. During the 2016-17 Academy season, Pepi appeared in 15 games and scored 18 goals for the club’s U-13 side and added 12 more tallies in 13 appearances for the U-14 side. The 6-foot-1 forward, who is internationally eligible for the United States and Mexico, featured for the U.S. U-17 National Team at the 2018 Nike Friendlies, scoring the game-winner in a 1-0 win over Turkey. Pepi led North Texas with six goals in four preseason appearances – including this stunning turn-and-finish against Southern Methodist University – and will look to keep that form going into the regular season.
The second signing in Orlando City B’s new era, Luc Granitur is another 16-year-old looking for a share of the spotlight during his first professional season. The Vero Beach, Fla. native joined the Orlando City Development Academy at the age of 13 and, like Pepi, has found the back of the net with ease. In 2017-18, Granitur scored 33 goals in 32 games for the Academy’s U-15 side and added one goal in three games for the U-18/19s. If Granitur can make a smooth transition to the professional level, then OCB Head Coach Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita’s squad could be a playoff contender.
A two-time USL Cup champion and the 2012 USL Championship Golden Boot-winner for Orlando City SC, Dennis Chin arrives in Richmond knowing what it takes to achieve success. The 31-year-old Jamaican forward hasn’t found as much success since leaving Orlando in 2014 but will hope to find his form with the Kickers, who are looking to do the same after a pair of disappointing seasons in the Championship. If Chin can rediscover the eye for goal that saw him score 22 times over four seasons with Orlando, then Richmond could be in line for a strong season.