TAMPA, Fla. – USL League One today announced the Team of the Week for Week 1 of the 2023 regular season with One Knoxville SC midfielder Jimmie Villalobos named Player of the Week presented by Konami eFootball after becoming the first goalscorer in Knoxville’s professional history.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to be the first goalscorer in One Knox history,” Villalobos said. “I am always grateful to the man upstairs for giving me this opportunity to make history.”
In the first-ever professional match for both sides, One Knoxville SC downed rival Lexington SC by a final tally of 2-1 in front of a raucous crowd of nearly 3,000 in downtown Knoxville on Saturday evening. Defender James Thomas, Knoxville’s captain during its inaugural 2021 USL League Two season, drew a penalty early in the first half of his and OKSC’s first professional match. Villalobos, the former Chattanooga Red Wolves SC man, put away the penalty in the 17th minute to confirm Knoxville’s first professional goal before former Greenville forward Jake Keegan scored the match-winner in the 40th minute.
“We're not overjoyed with the performance on the ball, but there were positives in our defending, and we didn’t concede in open play,” Knoxville Head Coach Mark McKeever said. “The main objective was three points, so we're excited for the players, the owners and all the fans that we got off the mark in the first game.
“What was good enough to get points today won’t be good enough in the coming weeks, so we're getting back to work as soon as possible to continue our growth and keep pushing on.”
Defending champions South Georgia and newcomers Knoxville place a joint-high three players on the Team of the Week following their respective Week 1 victories. All six clubs in action see players placed on the Team of the Week or the Team of the Week Bench.
GK – Akira Fitzgerald, Richmond Kickers: League One’s all-time leader in clean sheets and saves, Fitzgerald recorded another clean sheet in his league-record 100th regular season appearance on Saturday, reeling in a league-high four saves on the week.
D – Clay Dimick, Charlotte Independence: One of the longest-tenured Jacks, Dimick helped the Independence to an opening-day clean sheet with his six duels won, five recoveries and two clearances. Dimick’s 81% passing accuracy was good enough to earn the week’s top passing score from American Soccer Analysis.
D – Daniel Navarro, North Carolina FC: One of NCFC’s handful of star offseason arrivals, Navarro completed 88% of his 77 passes, won five of six duels and recorded two interceptions and eight recoveries.
D – James Thomas, One Knoxville SC: Making his professional debut alongside his club and coach, Knoxville’s 2021 captain looked at home in the professional ranks. The 25-year-old defender won 100% of his 11 duels and 86% of his tackles to go along with his 10 recoveries. Thomas also provided the most goals added on the week according to American Soccer Analysis.
M – Mukwelle Akale, South Georgia Tormenta FC: Akale was just one of two players to score from open play in Week 1, bagging the match-winner in the 34th minute. Returning for his second season in Statesboro, Akale reeled in six recoveries, completed 18 of his 21 passes and won 75% of his duels.
M – John Murphy Jr., South Georgia Tormenta FC: The only player with an assist in Week 1, John Murphy Jr. hit the ground running in his Tormenta FC debut. Along with his assist on Akale’s match-winner, Murphy Jr. gathered five recoveries, completed 20 of 26 passes and won six of eight duels.
M – Jaden Servania, North Carolina FC: Servania created a pair of chances, completed over 80% of his passes and won 10 of his 15 combined duels and tackles in his side’s narrow defeat to South Georgia in Friday’s season opener.
M – Tobias Otieno, South Georgia Tormenta FC: Aiming to become the first League One player to claim three consecutive league titles, Otieno extended his form of consistency with the Ibises on Friday, winning 100% of his duels and 86% of his tackles to go along with 10 recoveries.
M – Jimmie Villalobos, One Knoxville SC: Villalobos netted the first professional goal in One Knox history via his 17th-minute penalty conversion and added on to Knoxville’s victory with his 93% passing accuracy and nine recoveries.
F – Jake Keegan, One Knoxville SC: Scoring the match-winning goal in Knoxville’s first-ever professional match, Keegan became the fifth player in league history to score for three different clubs and is now tied for second all-time with his 23 League One regular season scores.
F – Gabriel Obertan, Charlotte Independence: Kicking off his first full season in Charlotte, Obertan completed over 80% of his 52 passes, created a pair of chances and won a combined nine duels and tackles.
Bench: Pablo Jara (TRM), Nick Akoto (TRM), Kaelon Fox (LEX), Michael Hornsby (RIC), Rafa Mentzingen (NC), Matthew Bentley (RIC), Tresor Mbuyu (CLT)