Last week began the unveiling of the USL Championship’s All-Time Hispanic Team, with the goalkeeper and defenders that have made their mark in the league earning their place in the lineup.
This week, we’re continue that path as we reveal the players that have earned a place in the midfield of the Championship’s All-Time Hispanic Squad, featuring four players that have shone brightly over the league’s first 11 seasons.
Included in the quartet are a former Championship MVP, a former Championship Final MVP, and two other standout attacking playmakers that have written themselves into the league’s record book.
Click on each player below to learn more about their Championship careers.
Check back in next Friday as we complete the squad with the Forwards.
Emmanuel Ledesma spent only one prior season in the Championship before his recent return to join Indy Eleven this month, but it was one of the most memorable individual campaigns in the league’s history. The native of Quilmes, Argentina arrived to bolster an FC Cincinnati squad prior to the 2018 season and more than lived up to his billing, recording 16 goals and 16 assists – then a Championship record – as he helped the side claim the Championship’s regular season title and compile a league record 23-game undefeated streak during the regular season.
Ledesma’s performances twice earned him the Championship’s Player of the Month award and culminated in him being voted the 2018 Championship Most Valuable Player. He remains one of only two players to record at least 15 goals and 15 assists in a campaign individually in league history.
While a native of Montevideo, Uruguay, Enzo Martinez became a local standout competing in Rock Hill, S.C. and as part of the Charlotte Independence has written himself into the Championship’s history book. Twice named to the USL Championship’s All-League First Team in 2016 and 2017 – years in which he was also nominated for the league’s Most Valuable Player award – Martinez produced standout moments that saw him earn a move to Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids for the 2018 season.
The 31-year-old has since returned to Charlotte and has now made 144 regular season appearances for the club, recording 40 goals and 28 assists for the Jacks. With two more helpers, he would become only the third player in the Championship’s history to record at least 40 goals and 30 assists in the league’s history, accomplishing it all in the same club’s colors.
A standout in USL League Two early in his career, Rodrigo Lopez competed in the USL Championship for Orlando City SC in 2012 before a breakthrough season in 2013 with Orange County SC from which he has reached the top of the North American game in Liga MX in addition to his on-field accomplishments in the Championship. The midfield playmaker finished second in the league with 11 assists during his lone season with Orange County before being announced as the first signing in Sacramento Republic FC history ahead of its inaugural 2014 campaign. From there, Lopez became the talisman that Republic FC coalesced around as he earned his first Championship All-League honors and was nominated for the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
The Guadalajara, Mexico native has recorded 119 regular-season appearances in the Championship in his career as he currently competes for Rio Grande Valley FC, with 26 goals and 32 assists to his name. Beyond those numbers, though, were the moments that Lopez has produced, particularly in Sacramento’s colors. A hat trick in the Semifinals of the 2014 USL Championship Playoffs to lead Republic FC’s comeback in a 3-2 victory against the LA Galaxy II in a game now remembered as the Miracle at Bonney was followed by earning the Championship Final MVP award as Sacramento claimed the league title in its inaugural season, burnishing his status as one of the league’s most notable names.
As a standout in both the college ranks and USL League Two – say nothing of a memorable U.S. Open Cup run with amateur side Cal FC in 2012 – Danny Barrera showed off his ability as a playmaker. Since arriving in the USL Championship with Sacramento Republic FC in 2015, though, he’s put himself among the top creators in the league’s history, ranking tied for second in the league’s history with 41 regular season assists as well as 19 goals that have brought fans for the clubs he has competed at to their feet.
A native of Bogota, Colombia, Barrera was voted to the Championship’s All-League First Team in 2016 with Republic FC and recently surpassed 150 regular season appearances in the league at his current club Hartford Athletic. Currently tied for the Championship lead this season with nine assists entering the Athletic’s Thursday night contest with the Charlotte Independence, the 31-year-old’s ability on the ball at set pieces and in open play seems unlikely to slow down anytime soon.
Oscar Jimenez’s story is one of persistence. The Washington state native had a cup of coffee with FC Tulsa in its inaugural season in 2015 but had to continue to pursue his goal of the professional ranks in USL League Two with Mississippi Brilla FC the following year. Then he broke in at Louisville City FC and has established himself as one of the notable players in the club’s remarkable run over its first seven seasons.
Jimenez was nominated for the Championship’s Defender of the Year award in 2019 and is LouCity’s all-time leader in regular season assists with 24 in 113 appearances going into this weekend’s action. The full back has become one of the best dead-ball specialists in the league, too, with his 157 chances created from set plays more than double the total of any other defender in the league since the start of the 2017 season.
If there’s one thing that immediately comes to mind when you think about Indy Eleven’s Ayoze, it’s that left foot. You know, the one that’s delivered countless passes, through-balls and deliveries to help fuel the attack for the Boys in Blue for the past four seasons, racking up eight goals, 18 assists and 178 chances created in 87 regular-season appearances in the Championship since the start of the 2018 season.
But there’s more than just creativity in the Spanish veteran’s game. He wins his battles, recording a 57.6 percent success rate in duels as well as 99 interceptions, 512 recoveries and a 66.2 percent tackle success rate. A 2018 Championship All-League selection, Ayoze has been one of the league’s most entertaining and consistent talents in recent years.
Coming through the FC Dallas Academy after moving from El Paso, Texas when he was 12, Aaron Guillen has become one of the leading defenders in the Championship in the past two years for one of the league’s all-time best defenses at the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Ever-present for the side since the start of the 2020 season, Guillen has contributed to 20 shutouts in 40 regular season games, including the Rowdies’ current 801-minute shutout streak that has set a new mark in the league’s history.
But there’s more to the native of Chihuahua, Mexico than just his time in Tampa Bay. Competing on loan for FC Tulsa after signing as a Homegrown Player with FC Dallas and at North Carolina FC, Guillen has shown his individual strengths consistently over the past five seasons. In that span, he’s been a +16.52 in G+ according to American Soccer Analysis, putting him in the Top 15 among Center Backs in that span. The reliability he’s shown earns him a place here.
Here’s something you may not remember about the Charleston Battery’s stalwart Cuban shot-stopper; He was the first goalkeeper in the Championship’s history to reach 40 regular-season shutouts for his career, and did so in 110 appearances, posting a clean sheet at a rate of better than one every three games for the Battery.
One of three players that joined Charleston after defecting prior to a World Cup Qualifier for the Cuba Men’s National Team game in October 2012 Canada alongside Maikel Chang and Heviel Cordoves, Cooper was an All-League selection and Goalkeeper of the Year Finalist in 2015. He posted a 1.07 goals-against average for his career while helping the Battery reach the USL Championship Playoffs every season, including a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference in 2017 while recording 10 shutouts in 24 games, a career high.
Tag(s): Hispanic Heritage Month