Harkes looks to take well-rounded squad to postseason glory once more | Image Credit: Greenville Triumph SC
GREENVILLE, S.C. - You know you’ve constructed a quality organization when a season ending in the League One Semifinals could be construed as a ‘down year.’ The 2020 champions and three-time league finalists failed to advance to the League One Final for the first time in club history a season ago as Triumph SC was ushered out of the playoffs by eventual champions South Georgia. Still, the league’s winningest club appears primed to repeat as a postseason power with a solid group of returnees once more under the direction of Head Coach John Harkes.
Starting slow – and actually hitting the bottom of the table early in the season – Greenville relied on its veteran leadership on the pitch to slowly but surely make its way back to the top of the table near the midway point of the campaign. A midseason surge – thanks in large part to an insane run of form from first-year pro Jacob Labovitz – saw Greenville record eight consecutive unbeaten matches to return to its typical position atop the league table. Five unbeaten matches helped Harkes’ squad lock up the two-seed heading into their fourth-consecutive postseason appearance but were shut out at home by eventual champions South Georgia.
The most notable offseason move is likely the retirement of goalkeeper Paul Christensen following a stellar run in Greenville. Additionally, the departures of productive veterans Don Smart and Jake Keegan to expansion sides Lexington and Knoxville, respectively, will certainly be felt. That said, the return of All-League defenders Brandon Fricke and Evan Lee and veteran midfielder Aaron Walker – all three in the top six in appearances in league history – will be massive for the perennial League One power. Welcoming back a group of young, electric playmakers in Jacob Labovitz, Allen Gavilanes and Venton Evans only adds to the excitement felt in Greenville ahead of the 2023 campaign.
Allen Gavilanes | Image Credit: Richmond Kickers
Allen Gavilanes enjoyed a sizeable increase to his production in the 23-year-old midfielder’s second professional season. Following a standout collegiate and pre-professional career at Marist and with New York Red Bulls U-23, respectively, Gavilanes penned his first pro contract with Triumph SC ahead of the 2021 season. Since then, Gavilanes has tallied six goals and eight assists in 59 appearances with Greenville. Gavilanes nearly doubled his goal and assist numbers from 2021 to 2022, and – despite some key departures – Greenville will return all but one of Gavilanes’ fellow joint goal participants.
Jacob Labovitz | Image Credit: Richmond Kickers
If there were a ‘USL League One Rookie of the Year’ award, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say Jacob Labovitz could’ve claimed it before the midway point of the season was even met. After a standout collegiate career at Farleigh Dickinson and Virginia Tech, Labovitz signed his first pro contract with Greenville ahead of the 2022 season. Labovitz averaged just over 21 minutes of play during Greenville’s first eight matches, and it wasn’t until that eighth match that Labovitz netted his first professional goal. Earning the trust of the coaching staff, Labovitz saw an increase in usage and had a summer a first-year pro could only dream of. In the span of 12 matches between May and July, Labovitz exploded for 11 goals and two assists, earning Player of the Week honors in Week 16. Labovitz’s five-goal Week 16 not only saw the 24-year-old bag his first professional hat trick, but it also marked the highest-scoring week a player has recorded in league history. Labovitz’s scoring proficiency did cool off a bit toward the end of the 2022 campaign, but the young forward is likely to continue his attacking success as Greenville’s go-to goalscorer in 2023.