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USL Top Five – Forwards to Watch

By Staff, 03/15/18, 1:01PM EDT


Which marksman could be key to their club’s chances at success in 2018?

Photo courtesy Real Monarchs SLC

Twenty-seven players recorded double-digit goals a season ago in the USL, the most in a regular season in the league’s modern history, and for 21 of those players it meant helping their side earn a place in the USL Cup Playoffs last fall.

While it’s not absolute, having a player who will consistently find the net can make a major difference for a side in its pursuit of not only the postseason, but also a championship. After our previous looks at goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders who could make a difference this season in the USL, here are five forwards who could prove key for their respective clubs.

Jose Angulo, OKC Energy FC

Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC

Angulo arrived midseason from Saint Louis FC, and while there was a period of adaptation to his new squad, once the 2013 USL Most Valuable Player found his footing it helped propel Energy FC to a place in the playoffs. Angulo’s 15 goals matched his regular-season total from that MVP season, and with the chemistry with his surrounding cast now established he could be aiming higher this year as Energy FC takes aim at replicating, or even bettering, its second-place Western Conference finish in the 2015 season.

Juan Pablo Caffa, Fresno FC

Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC

“El Violinista del Viaducto” made a massive impression in his first season in the USL, leading Tulsa Roughnecks FC to its first visit to the USL Cup Playoffs. Now the 33-year-old Argentinian playmaker will look to do the same with the Foxes. Caffa’s feel for the game saw him record nine goals and eight assists a season ago, with the potential for a goal ever-present if he’s offered a chance to shoot from a set piece from 30 yards or in. That kind of production, and experience, could allow the Foxes to become a highly entertaining side quickly.

Corey Hertzog, Saint Louis FC

Photo courtesy Ben Solomon / New York Red Bulls II

With back-to-back USL All-League Second Team honors, Hertzog has become one of the most consistent strikers in the league, and Saint Louis is hoping his arrival will help propel an attack that can carry the side to the postseason for the first time. Hertzog has scored 40 regular-season goals in the USL over four seasons, including a standout year in 2012 when he led Wilmington Hammerheads FC to a USL Cup appearance. If Hertzog and returning forward Christian Volesky click in the attacking third, STLFC’s lofty goals will become that much closer to realization.

Chandler Hoffman, Real Monarchs SLC

Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC

Already one of the league's all-time leaders in goals, Hoffman had a career season in leading the Monarchs to the 2017 USL Regular Season Championship with 16 goals and seven assists and earned All-League First Team honors for a second time in the process. Hoffman needs only three goals to become the third player to reach 50 regular-season tallies in the league's modern history and will be expecting another big year as the Monarchs move into Zions Bank Stadium for the new season. 

Soony Saad, Indy Eleven

Photo courtesy David Calvert / Reno 1868 FC

The former Sporting Kansas City forward brings a strong attacking edge to Indy, and his creativity will be key for the side to have success in the new season. A Lebanese international, Saad made 70 appearances across two spells with SKC, while also playing in Thailand for two seasons, but at only 25 years old he is now entering his prime with the chance to be a major focal point in Rennie’s side and has been productive already for his new club throughout the preseason.

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