skip navigation

USL Top Five – Midfielders to Watch

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/23/17, 6:18PM EDT


Who are the men who will need to make their club tick this season?

Photo courtesy Terry O'Neil / Pittsburgh Riverhounds

The midfield is often thought of as the place where games are won and lost. Establish supremacy over your opponent there, and you will have the upper hand in terms of controlling the pace of the game, and earning a victory at the end of the 90 minutes.

From the ability to break up opposing attacks before they begin, to finding productive means to use the ball afterward, and providing the secondary scoring any successful team needs, the demands on the best midfielders in any league are diverse. As previously shown in this series, this isn’t a group of the best five midfielders in the USL, but they are five players who could prove pivotal to their club’s chance of success this season.

Vincent Bezecourt, New York Red Bulls II

French midfielder Vincent Bezecourt may have not had the attention his fellow New York Red Bulls II teammates did during the club’s run to the USL Cup last season, but his impact was undeniable as his performances throughout the season pushed the side on toward a remarkable season. Bezecourt recorded six goals in the regular season, and then notched a league-high four assists in the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs as his ability to deliver when it mattered most came to the fore.

The former St. Francis (Brooklyn) standout will have a bigger spotlight this season with the likes of Derrick Etienne Jr. and Tyler Adams now expected to shine on Major League Soccer’s stage, but alongside fellow Frenchman Florian Valot the 23-year-old Bezecourt could take another big step forward as the Red Bulls II defend their championship.

Photo courtesy Ben Solomon / New York Red Bulls II

Photo courtesy Brian Zimmerman / Richmond Kickers

Yudai Imura, Richmond Kickers

In his second season in the USL, Imura broke through in a big way to lead the Kickers to a sixth consecutive berth in the USL Cup Playoffs. Imura’s 10 goals were the most of any midfielder in the league as his ability to find the net both from open play and set pieces proved crucial in the Kickers’ success.

Now, with some key departures this offseason, the spotlight will be trained on Imura even more than before. If he can maintain his productivity in front of goal, and help coax out increased production from players like former PDL Golden Boot winner Anthony Grant, another strong season should be on the cards in Richmond.

Enzo Martinez, Charlotte Independence

The driving force behind the Charlotte Independence’s first trip to the USL Cup Playoffs a season ago, Enzo Martinez was one of the players who you had to see to appreciate what he brought to every game he appeared in. Martinez’s nine goals and five assists were good, but it wasn’t the reason he was named to the USL All-League First Team and as a finalist for the USL Most Valuable Player award. The drive he brought to the field was.

This season the pressure will be on Martinez to continue the high standard he’s set for himself. Surrounded by a familiar group with the Independence, including younger brother Alex, Martinez will be the focal point for Charlotte as it moves into a beautiful new home at the Matthews Sportsplex. With the local standout as its focal point, the Independence should remain a team that is on the rise over the course of the new season.

Photo courtesy Terry O'Neil / Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Photo courtesy Charleston Battery

Justin Portillo, Charleston Battery

Entering his fourth season with the Battery, Portillo has become the fulcrum for the club’s midfield. An unexpected bout with acute appendicitis late in the season derailed what had become a standout year. His six goals and six assists backed up what a critical player Portillo has become since joining the club from Coastal Carolina University and a wide experience in the PDL, including time with Reading United AC and K-W United FC.

Portillo’s value goes beyond just what he does on the field, though, as he has continued the Battery’s philosophy that has seen it maintain its position as one of the USL’s most consistent clubs. The lessons Portillo learned from Jarad van Schaik and Zach Prince as a rookie are now being passed on to the newcomers to the team, which have been a key to the club’s continued success.

Kris Tyrpak, San Antonio FC

The 2013 PDL Most Valuable Player, Kris Tyrpak has been consistently good over the past two seasons in the USL, helping lead the Swope Park Rangers to the USL Cup Final a year ago in their inaugural season. Now back in his native Texas, where he claimed the PDL championship with the Austin Aztex four years ago, Tyrpak may be one of the key pieces added by San Antonio FC for its second season in the USL.

After scoring 16 goals in the past two USL regular seasons, and notching three goals and one assist in the USL Cup Playoffs a season ago, the 25-year-old joined SAFC this offseason with the goal of helping the side earning its first postseason berth. Teamed with the likes of fellow new additions Cyprian Hedrick and Ben Newnam in defense, Billy Forbes in midfield and Aly Hassan in attack, Tyrpak’s creativity could help the side take a big step forward.

Photo courtesy Nick Tre. Smith / Swope Park Rangers

Five Others to Watch: Jose Barril, OKC Energy FC; Kevin Kerr, Pittsburgh Riverhounds; Rony Argueta, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC; Joe Cole, Tampa Bay Rowdies; Aodhan Quinn, FC Cincinnati

Follow the USL Championship

Most Recent News

Most Read News

Latest Videos