As we near the halfway point of the 2020 League One season, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 newcomers who have made the biggest impact at their respective clubs so far in the league’s second year. For the purposes of this list, we defined a newcomer as any player who registered his first League One minutes during the 2020 season, meaning players like Ricky Lopez-Espin, Alex Morrell, and Greg Hurst are all ineligible.
We had 139 newcomers to choose from, here’s our top ten:
Elivelton has somewhat flown under the radar since he arrived in Tucson in mid-March, but after six matches he has our attention. The Brazilian defender hasn’t done anything flashy necessarily, but he’s consistently shown his quality on the ball week in and week out. Elivelton’s delivery from from the left flank is second to none, which is the main reason why he ranks in the top five in League One in chances created with 13. Tucson Head Coach John Galas has played Elivelton as a left back and an attacking midfielder so far this season and the 24-year-old has proven himself an effective playmaker from both spots.
Redzic burst onto the League One scene, scoring three goals in his first three matches before suffering an injury early on in North Texas SC’s 3-2 loss to Fort Lauderdale CF on August 19. Despite being right footed, the FC Dallas Academy player spends most of his time as an inverted winger on the left, looking to cut in on his favored foot. His ability to find the ball in space and run at defenders paired with his pace when he has the ball at his feet makes him one of the league’s most dangerous attacking players at just 17 years old. With North Texas Head Coach Eric Quill already trusting him over the ball on set pieces, if Redzic finds his way back onto the pitch soon, we could see Arturo Rodriguez-like production out of him.
Being a physically dominant outside back must run in the family. Ian Antley had the opportunity to watch his brother Conner tear apart League One in his first professional season on his way to claiming the Defender of the Year award, and, with that blueprint in-hand, Ian has done tremendously well for the Kickers through the first half of the season. Antley leads the league in duels won, which should come of little surprise to anyone who watched his brother play in 2019, and has shown his ability to contribute in the attack with two assists. The 25-year-old’s physicality has brought new bite to a Richmond defense that has helped the club to four consecutive wins.
Clearly we’ve had an influx of quality left backs this offseason, with Viader becoming the third on the list already and one more still to come. The Barcelona, Spain native has been the most consistent member of Union Omaha’s back four through the club’s first six matches. In addition to his ability to close down opposing wingers, Viader leads the league in successful crosses with 18 and ranks in the top two in chances created with 14. The 22-year-old runs the flank with ease and should see his assist numbers tick up in the back half of the season if his teammates can start converting.
Forward Madison found what it was missing in attack and his name is Michael Vang. The Flamingos struggled out of the gate this season, scoring one goal and earning one point in their first three matches before Vang introduced himself to the League One world. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder scored his first goal eight minutes into his debut and hasn’t looked back. In the three matches he’s appeared in, Vang has a goal, two assists, and five chances created while maintaining an 89.39-percent passing accuracy rate. With Vang involved, Madison has earned seven points from a possible nine and moved up the League One table into a position to contend for a place in the League One Final.
The fourth and final left back on the list, Ruiz has played every minute for Chattanooga this season. The Lake Elsinore, California native has put up Tyler Polak-like numbers through the first half of the season which speaks volumes about his quality when you consider that Polak was named to the All-League First Team in 2019. Like the other left backs on this list, Ruiz is more than happy to move up into the attack, tallying two assists and nine chances created. In addition to being his side’s minutes leader, Ruiz leads the Red Wolves in duels won, tackles, and chances created and leads the league in interceptions.
Like Vang in Madison, Sosa seems to hold the keys to the Fort Lauderdale CF attack. After missing the club’s first two matches, Sosa quickly showed why he’s Head Coach Jason Kreis’ first choice attacking midfielder with an assist and four chances created in Fort Lauderdale’s first win in club history. With three assists in four matches played, Sosa is one of the league’s assist leaders. Comfortable picking out the final pass or beating a defender on the dribble, Sosa also ranks second among all outfield players in dribbles completed with 13. The Venezuelan playmaker has brought new life to the Fort Lauderdale attack as he and striker Ricky Lopez-Espin look to be forming one of the best attacking duos in the league.
Pilato had big shoes to fill in Greenville’s midfield when Paul Clowes missed the first few matches of the season due to injury, and the former Loudoun United man grabbed the opportunity and ran with it. Much of what Pilato does won’t show up on the stat sheet, spending the majority of his time patrolling the middle of the park and breaking up play to spring quick counter attacks. A workhorse midfielder, Pilato has a motor, a nose for the ball, and the ability to time a tackle. He looks to be the perfect compliment to Aaron Walker in the Triumph midfield and already has a wonder-goal to his name in his short time in the league.
Vanacore-Decker has played a part in seven of Union Omaha’s eight goals in its club history -- if we’re talking impact, it doesn’t get much bigger than that. The 25-year-old winger has two goals and four assists in six matches and was brought down for a penalty that led to a Sebastian Contrares goal. Vanacore-Decker is the catalyst of Omaha’s attack, constantly seeking the ball and relishing opportunities to take players on. If the first seven weeks of the League One season are any indication, Los Buhos will go as Vanacore-Decker goes -- a notion the former Sporting Kansas City II player seems to be very comfortable with.
Speaking of teams going as its players go, Emiliano Terzaghi has scored in all but one of the Kickers’ matches this season and is firmly in the race for the Golden Boot with five goals. Joining Richmond from a club in his native Argentina, Terzaghi hasn’t taken long to adapt to the American style of play. Head Coach Darren Sawatzky has used Terzaghi in a classic No. 9 role as well as underneath the striker in more of a facilitator role, but either way he’s found the back of the net. The veteran attacker is a poacher, scoring all five of his goals from inside the penalty area and in some cases turning nothing into something. Terzaghi has turned Richmond from cellar dwellers to playoff contenders, and that’s why he’s at the top of our newcomers list.
Other players who received consideration: Dylan Castanheria (FTL), Jonathan Ricketts (CHA), Marky Hernandez (CHA), Ricardo Zacarias (CHA), Wilfredo Rivera (ORL), Abdi Mohamed (GVL), Stefan Mueller (TRM), Isaac Anking (NE), Evan Conway (OMA), Azaad Liadi (TUC), Shak Adams (TUC), Luca Mayr (TRM).