Hailstorm hoping for special sophomore season with deep, talented squad | Image Credit: Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC
WINDSOR, Colo. - A rough start to the Hailstorm’s inaugural season gave way to a frantic finish in the second half of the campaign that saw Northern Colorado finish just one spot below the playoff line on the total wins tiebreaker. The Hailstorm will hope to start a little bit quicker in 2023 with a squad composed of a good collection of proven veterans and rising stars. Hungry to avenge their narrow exclusion from the 2022 USL League One Playoffs, one of the league’s most complete rosters will look to make noise in its second season.
A stellar start in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play wasn’t exactly matched in league play for Northern Colorado. The Hailstorm took down in-state USL Championship foe Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in its first-ever match – while down a man for the majority of the match, mind you – before going to Utah and blanking Real Salt Lake to become just the second team in league history to defeat Major League Soccer opposition. That Open Cup success wasn’t mirrored early in league play as the Hailstorm picked up just two wins in their first nine matches. Following an up-and-down middle of the 2022 campaign, Northern Colorado racked up five wins in their final seven, falling just short of postseason play.
The Hailstorm will welcome back the majority of their playmakers in 2023; MVP finalist and Defender of the Year Arthur Rogers returns, leading scorer and All-League Second Team selection Irvin Parra is back, captain and veteran defender Rob Cornwall returns to Windsor, and reliable goalkeeper Johan Peñaranda is back between the sticks. Head Coach Éamon Zayed has also brought in a promising batch of newcomers highlighted by former Hearts and Rangers winger Billy King, versatile midfielder Valentin Sabella and decorated collegiate star Ryan Wittenbrink. Pairing both parties with returning emerging playmakers Brecc Evans, Trevor Amann and Danny Robles should present Northern Colorado fans with an exciting on-field product.
Irvin Parra | Image Credit: Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC
Veteran USL Championship forward Irvin Parra scored 12 goals in his first season with the Hailstorm to record his third season in either the USL Championship or USL League One with 10 or more goals. In addition to scoring or assisting three match-winning goals, Parra racked up the third-highest combined expected goals and expected assists mark (14.30) this season. Parra’s career took the Inglewood, Calif. native to Europe where he recorded 18 goals and nine assists in 102 appearances for lower-tier German sides FC 08 Homburg, SVN Zweibrücken and 1. FC Kaiserslautern II between 2012 and 2016. From Germany, Parra joined the Seattle Sounders FC organization where he recorded a combined 16 goals and assists in 26 appearances for the Tacoma Deﬁance and made two starts for the Sounders’ senior team in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. From Seattle, Parra went on to suit up for Orange County SC, Las Vegas Lights FC, San Diego Loyal SC and the Charlotte Independence, accumulating 32 goals and 14 assists amongst the clubs from 2017 to 2021.
Arthur Rogers | Image Credit: Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC
Arthur Rogers returns to Northern Colorado following an objectively insane season for a defender. Rogers set a new single-season league record with 80 chances created in an incredibly productive first season in Windsor. The 26-year-old Englishman’s nine assists – three of which resulted in match-winning goals – were the second-most on the season and most by a defender in a single season in league history. Defensively, Rogers excelled with a team-high 121 duels won and 25 tackles won. Rogers began his career back in London with semi-professional sides Hanwell Town FC and Wealdstone FC before playing collegiately in the United States with Kentucky Wesleyan College and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Rogers signed his first professional contract with USL Championship side Hartford Athletic in Dec. 2019 with whom he amassed 41 appearances and three goals over a pair of seasons.