Kandji, Gaudette headline USL All-League team

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The United Soccer League named it’s All-League Teams on Tuesday. I know I don’t report nearly as much about the USL as I should, especially given the league’s recent success in the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League, but here is a chance to get a look at the best the USL has to offer.

You will surely recognize some of the names, but some may be new to you. Led by recent Red Bulls signing Macoumba Kandji and former Columbus Crew goalkeeper Bill Gaudette, here are the USL All-League first and second teams (player capsules provided by the United Soccer Leagues):

USL FIRST DIVISION ALL-LEAGUE

FIRST TEAM

Goalkeeper of the Year – Bill Gaudette (Puerto Rico Islanders)

Gaudette helped guide the Islanders to the USL First Division regular season title, finishing the campaign as the league leader in victories with 14 on the season – two more than Jay Nolly of Vancouver. He finished second in the league behind Montreal’s Matt Jordan in goals against average with a mark of 0.851 to Jordan’s 0.760 despite the Islanders finishing with the league’s fewest goals conceded (23). In addition, he tied for second in the league in shutouts with 10 along with Seattle’s Chris Eylander and Rochester’s Scott Vallow behind Miami’s Josh Saunders (13). 

Defender – Cristian Arrieta (Puerto Rico Islanders)

While helping guide the Islanders to the best defensive rank in the league with only 23 goals allowed, Arrieta proved to be just as much of a threat on the offensive end of the pitch with a team leading seven goals on the season for the league’s most productive offense. Arrieta also chipped in with two assists in his 26 matches played this season.

Defender – Taylor Graham (Seattle Sounders)

The Seattle back received his third selection as an All-League player (2005, 2007). He helped guide the defending champions back to the postseason, playing in 26 matches on the year and contributing one goal.

Defender – David Hayes (Atlanta Silverbacks)

The veteran player earned his second straight All-League selection despite playing on the league’s worst defensive-ranked team. His all-around contribution to the Silverbacks, who were tied for third in offense, included three goals and two assists in 28 games.

Defender – Nevio Pizzolitto (Montreal Impact)

Earning his fourth All-League selection in five years (2004, 2005, 2006), Pizzolitto helped guide the Impact to a tie for the league’s second best defensive rank, matching Vancouver with just 28 goals allowed. He returned from an early season shoulder injury to log 18 games for the Impact on the campaign, helping them move from the bottom of the table to third.

Midfielder – Osvaldo Alonso (Charleston Battery)

The Cuban defector’s first year as a professional turned out to be quite good from himself and the Battery as he helped lead Charleston to the postseason while finishing fourth on the team in scoring with four goals and two assists in 23 games.

Midfielder – Stephen deRoux (Minnesota Thunder)

Second on the team in minutes behind goalkeeper Nic Platter, deRoux helped guide the squad to the postseason despite being at the bottom of the table midseason. He tallied a goal and two assists in 29 games for the Thunder, who finished second in the league in offense.

Midfielder – Martin Nash (Vancouver Whitecaps)

The only Whitecap to play in all 30 games this year, he was one of nine players in the entire league to do so this season and was fourth in the league in minutes played. The four-time All-League selection  (1996, 2000, 2007) finished the season with a goal and four assists while leading Vancouver to a second-place finish, one point back of regular season champion Puerto Rico.

Midfielder – Jonathan Steele (Puerto Rico Islanders)

On his third club in three years, Steele find found his stride to help guide the Islanders to the regular season championship and the league’s top offense while finishing as the league’s Assist Leader with 11 on the season in 26 games. He also chipped in for two goals and finished the year tied for 13th in points.

Forward – Alex Afonso (Miami FC Blues)

The Brazilian newcomer made quite an impact for Miami, finishing as the league’s Scoring (34 points) and Goal Scoring (15) Champion despite failing to reach the postseason. His strike tally on the year accounted for just over half of the team’s 28 goals on the campaign.

Forward – Macoumba Kandji (Atlanta Silverbacks)

The fast-rising talent was among the league leaders in scoring the first half of the season and would finish fourth in goals (11) and tied for third in points (27) over the course of his 21 games played due to late season injury and eventual loan to New York of MLS. Despite finishing 10th, the Silverbacks were tied for the league’s second best offense.

SECOND TEAM

Goalkeeper – Matt Jordan (Montreal Impact)

Honored as an All-League selection for the second straight year, Jordan was previously honored as the GAA Champion for finishing as the league leader with a goals against average of 0.760. He also finished tied for fourth in wins (10) and tied for fifth in shutouts (9) while leading Montreal to third and a tie for the league’s second-best defense.

Defender – Wesley Charles (Vancouver Whitecaps)

The St Vincent and the Grenadines international joined the club in July from Ireland’s Galway United and helped guide the Whitecaps to a second-place finish and a tie for the league’s second-best defensive performance. Charles saw action in 13 games of the club’s 17 games since signing July 11, tallying one assist.

Defender – Takashi Hirano (Vancouver Whitecaps)

The former Japanese international joined the club after a 15-year career in the Japanese top flight and helped lead the Whitecaps to a tie for the second best defensive rank in the league and a second-place finish in the table. He tallied one goal in 22 games played.

Defender – Cameron Knowles (Portland Timbers)

Earning All-League honors for the second straight year, Knowles helped lead the Timbers to the league’s fifth-ranked defensive performance on the season despite finish at the bottom of the table with only 33 goals allowed. He saw action in 29 games on the season, finishing tied for sixth in the league in minutes played (2610).

Defender – Scott Palguta (Rochester Rhinos)

Palguta helped guide the Rhinos from slow start to a fourth-place finish in the table and in defensive ranking, allowing just 32 goals on the year. He saw action in 25 matches and contributed two goals offensively.

Midfielder – Leonardo Di Lorenzo (Montreal Impact)

Earning his third consecutive All-League honors, Di Lorenzo helped lead the Impact to third in the table. He was third on the club in scoring with three goals and two assists on the year in 24 games played.

Midfielder – Johnny Menyongar (Rochester Rhinos)

Earning his second consecutive All-League honor and fifth overall (2000, 2002, 2005, 2007), the diminutive midfielder/striker was a critical element to the Rhinos attack as the team finished fourth in the league table and fifth in offense. With six goals and five assists, he led the team in goals and was tied with Luke Kreamalmeyer in points. Both were among the nine players in the league to see action in all 30 games.

Midfielder – Ricardo Sanchez (Minnesota Thunder)

Sanchez helped guide the Thunder to the playoffs for the first time in four years by leading the league’s second-best offensive unit in points with 10 goals and four assists, finishing tied for the team lead in goals, good for fifth in the league, and league’s fifth-best point total (24).

Midfielder – Matt Watson (Carolina RailHawks)

The newcomer from the Richmond Kickers, where he was a USL-2 All-League selection last year, helped lead the club to an eighth-place finish, just two points shy of the postseason, with a goal and four assists in 25 games on the campaign.

Forward – Sebastien Le Toux (Seattle Sounders)

The 2007 USL-1 Most Valuable Player and co-Goal Scoring Champion increased his scoring output from 10 goals and 22 points to 14 goals and 32 points in 2008, but came up second in both categories as he helped lead the defending champions back to the postseason.

Forward – Eduardo Sebrango (Vancouver Whitecaps)

Earning his second All-League selection six years after his first while playing for Montreal in 2002, Sebrango led the Whitecaps in scoring handily with 12 goals and three assists, ranking third in the league in goals and tied for third in points (27).

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Red Bull fans may not remember by USL goalkeeper of the year Bill Gaudette was actually in camp with the Red Bulls this winter, as was second-team all-USL defender Scott Palguta. All-USL first-team defender Taylor Graham was with the Red Bulls last season.

What do you think of this group? Are there any players who you think could step into MLS and make an impact? Do you see some of these players finding their way to MLS rosters in 2009?

Share your thoughts on these teams below.

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25 Responses to Kandji, Gaudette headline USL All-League team

  1. gerald says:

    If I remember correctly Gaudette is a St John’s Grad

  2. Brant says:

    Gaudette was with Columbus for a while, too. I’d be very surprised if he isn’t in an MLS shirt next year. There’s no shortage of teams who could use a decent ‘keeper (yes, I’m talking about the LA teams, among others).

  3. TG4EVA says:

    Taylor Graham could step into MLS and make an impact, I guarantee that.

  4. Ossington Mental Youth says:

    curious to see who will get picked up if at all by MLS teams

  5. Ossington Mental Youth says:

    Curious to see who gets trials with MLS teams

  6. Speedball says:

    Taylor Graham could step into MLS and make an impact, I guarantee that.

    Posted by: TG4EVA | September 30, 2008 at 04:15 PM

    _________________________________________

    “HA! HA! HA!”

    signed – A Red Bull Fan

  7. A.S. says:

    I would like to know whether the USL is a significant feeder to MLS. How many current MLS players are former USL players?

    My impression of MLS is that its player pool is much more from the draft and from foreign signings – am I wrong about that?

  8. Well… Le Toux already has a contract with Sounders FC. It’s a very likely possibility that Taylor Graham will ink one too.

  9. Amit says:

    Taylor Graham was the U.S.L defender of the year when he came up to MLS and he was bologna. I can’t see how an older version of the aforementioned can be any better.

  10. VictoryFan says:

    Ricardo “Psycho” Sanchez can play in the MLS. He’s a legend from his time here in SF ;)

  11. Isaac from Tampa says:

    The impression that I’ve been getting this year is that the the talent in USL is benefitting from the MLS. The USL seems to be attracting rookies who would be signing for peanuts in MLS or players who have been in MLS for a few years and are getting replaced by cheaper players so they can spend more on their skill position players.

  12. SonicDeathMonkey says:

    Sorry TG, if he couldn’t make an impact while he was in the league before, what is going to change now? I can see if a guy had one shot and didn’t cut it, but hasn’t he had several shots at it?

  13. undrafted says:

    Lately MLS has been signing some young USL2 players to developmental contracts but otherwise I’d estimate 2-5 guys come up from USL each year (to answer A.S.’s question).

    A quick look at senior roster players who came over in the last year or so from USL1:

    Kandji, Caig, Velez. So 3? from USL1 to MLS in 1 year. Brian Jordan is DEV but significant. Doe and Kennedy came from USL but were abroad briefly before arriving. USL2 players include Khumalo & Boss listed as senior roster. About 5 others were signed in the last month or two.

    The trend is mostly international and African at that. Central defenders (Velez, Mendes) and GK’s as these positions tend to 1) develop later in general, 2) some big guys grow in their late teens and have to work their way up the system, and 3) experience counts more in organization of the backline.

    Should more guys float up and down each year? Maybe, but why leave a solid starting position for a nonguaranteed 30k spot on the bench?

    About 6 of the guys listed didn’t latch on in their first MLS stint. The rest are almost if not all foreign players with the Canadians listed being near retirement. Le Toux is already MLS property. I see Alonso playing in MLS one day. deRoux might have been cut prematurely though playing time is what he needed to mature his game. I’m not sure too many of the foreign players listed have MLS in their future (various reason) with Watson and Steele being young enough to eventually land a spot if they want one. Arrieta at 29 y/o is an interesting story, it’s now or never for him with MLS. I’m guessing Afonso will play where Traffic wants him. Sanchez has the skill to easily play in MLS but I’m not sure how well he’d fit most teams’ systems as he likes to control the attack. He’s like a lesser Christian Gomez and Gomez is now benched.

  14. scott47a says:

    Many of these guys are as good, or better, than what is at the bottom of some MLS rosters.

    But as we all know, MLS rosters aren’t deep enough. These guys aren’t going to play for $17,000 a year on the reserve team, and there are only 18 spots on the senior rosters.

    That said: I expect you will see some of these guys in MLS next year. Obviously Le Toux. And I imagine Graham is one of the other Sounders who comes with him. And seriously, someone has to give Alex Alfonso a chance, don’t they? The guy scores a lot.

  15. undrafted says:

    Isaac from Tampa, could you list some of these rookies that signed with USL and turned down MLS? Otherwise I agree, but it’s not really the players’ decisions that are making them leave MLS after 2-3 years but the 25 year old age limit for develompental salaries. And since developmental salaries aren’t part of the main salary cap, I don’t think it has much to do with MLS paying more now for skilled players. The 18 man senior roster is MLS’s problem and that’s been around since 2002 (post-contraction).

  16. undrafted says:

    scott47a, I agree but also consider that MLS teams aren’t going to use many international spots on guys that will play on the reserve team and make <30k. I count 7 US players on the list (+ deRoux IIRC having a green card) and all but Palguta have had time in MLS. And Palguta has had at least 2 failed preseason trials (RSL & NY). The Canadian player situation is a bit different as some of the more established ones in USL probably didn’t want to leave for Toronto.

  17. huricano says:

    It seems as if a number of these players have been outstanding for many years in USL. Ives, why have players such as Sebastien Le Toux and Leonardo di Lorenzo not gotten a chance in MLS? Is this all to be blamed on the draft?

  18. Ossington Mental Youth says:

    TOPIC: NIKE / UMBRO

    (Garrettt – Canton, GA) Being that Nike bought out league sponsor Umbro back in October, should we expect to see any kind of Nike influence in the near future?

    (Boca Sounders – Seattle, WA) 1. How much money did Umbro receive for selling the league to Nike? 2. What is the money cap per year that Nike is going to put into the league? 3. How much money per team is Nike going to delve out to the first division teams? 4. Will it be in cash or in kits, merchandise and other miscellaneous equipment? Or will it be all 4? 5. What percentage of the League does Nike own? Also In the next few years, what cities, might we see new expansion teams in the USL Divisions 1 and 2?

    TH: There have understandably been several inquiries on this topic and perhaps even some level of confusion. Here are the facts: Umbro International owns 98% of USL. Nike is in the process of finalizing an acquisition of Umbro which is due to close early next month. Umbro will become a Nike affiliate company continuing to operate under the Umbro brand. In the event the acquisition is finalized as expected, Nike will own Umbro, which owns USL.

    It is both premature and inappropriate at this stage for us to publicly speculate specifically what this will mean for USL on any front, but it is difficult to imagine any scenario that would not benefit the overall USL business. As Francisco said recently during an interview on FSC, “I can think of 10 probable scenarios and none of them are bad.” I agree. In fact, we believe that this development has the ability to be the catalyst that takes USL and its franchises to an even greater level of significance in the North American soccer landscape regardless of the brand affiliation.

    link to uslsoccer.com

    Something thats gotta be in Garbers mind and hopefully an imputus for change

  19. huricano says:

    Oh….do people know salary differences? I know some in MLS are paid almost like in fast-food, does USL come near to matching the MLS median for the mid level player?

  20. undrafted says:

    huricano, Le Toux had a trial with Dallas a couple years ago as some sort of defensive player. After a standout year in Seattle, he was signed by MLS and loaned back to the USL version of Seattle for the year.

    di Lorenzo has spent 3 years with Montreal. He was a pretty good find, signed as a young player who wasn’t getting many minutes in Argentina. I’d think they pay him pretty well. My wild guess at USL salary budgets is 300-500k, maybe a team or two near 800k (if so, that’d be Montreal). So I could see a guy like di Lorenzo making a guaranteed 30-50k in Montreal, at the least. Noone in MLS is going to offer much more initially, especially since he’d take an international slot. The non-marquee foreign imports in MLS tend to make ~60k (not guaranteed). Montreal would probably want a transfer fee and wouldn’t easily replace him. He’s one of a handful in USL that jump out as at least average starter material for a MLS team so I’m a bit surprised there hasn’t been more talk about someone in MLS at least trying to get him. Maybe that’s to Montreal’s credit. They held on to Gervais a couple years ago and can obviously afford to keep good talent.

    I’m not sure what the draft has to do with USL not MLS not signing players who weren’t quite making it in the leagues in France and Argentina. Those 2 weren’t anywhere near draft eligible.

    Nike/Umbro owns USL, but that’s just the league office that charges fees, not the teams themselves.

  21. Ben says:

    Taylor Graham was signed by the Red Bulls after being named the USL defensive player of the year a couple years ago. Less than halfway through the season, he was waived and ended up back here in Seattle. He’s a good player, and I think he’ll probably be starting for Sounders FC next year, as will Le Toux. Graham deserves another shot. The Sounders have other ex-MLSers who will probably get another chance: Leighton O’Brien, Roger Levesque and Josh Gardner to name a few.

  22. Matt M says:

    Undrafted,

    USL pays pretty steady at $38K to $50K per player. So the rosters are about $1 Mill per team.

    I expect the new collective bargaining agreement will change alot in MLS.

    Right now, only about 20-30 USL players would be able to make the top 18 senior roster on a MLS team.

    Once the new CBA is signed, I suspect that senior rosters will expand to 22 players. That is where USL players will come in. That’s when Bryan Jordan and David Hayes make a MLS roster and can step in to play a game competantly. Right now, injury and international absences require MLS teams to bring in their 10 developmental players whom by definition are not ready for MLS.

    Adding four USL players to MLS rosters would make a quiet but significant improvement to MLS (obvious to USL’s detriment). They’d have seasoned, if unspectacular, professionals competing for a starting position every day. That would leave the 22 year old that just graduated from Furman or UC-SD to focusing on development.

    Also these changes could be made at relatively low cost. These additional four USL players won’t bring in more revenue by name recognition but its still more reasonable than saying –

    “Hey, let’s buy some benchwarmers from mid-table Premier League and Serie A teams for millions of dollars! Surely the 1204th best player in Europe will triple attendence in Kansas city!!!”

  23. undrafted says:

    Matt M, I mostly agree with everything you say. Do you have a source for the salary #’s? Most teams have no more than a 8 month season. With MISL pay and soccer camps/appearances, I could see core players in USL making up to that much, but the salary numbers I’ve seen rumored about aren’t that high.

    link to timbers.theoffside.com

    link to timbers.theoffside.com

    A couple years ago it was said Saputo stated a payroll of $600k for Montreal. I suppose that could be pushing $1m now but Montreal is likely one of the top 3 spenders. I’ve seen $1m floated for a few teams as the overall budget for running a team, not just for salaries.

    link to uslsoccer.com

    “Average operating budgets for the USL First Division range from $1M – $1.5M, USL Second Division range from $500K – $1M, the USL Premier Development League range from $100K – $200K, and the USL W-League from $75K to $150K”

    I wouldn’t think salaries would be more than half the overall budget (that averages $1m-$1.5m. That official USL link first appeared about 2 years ago and though the page has been updated, the #’s haven’t. I could see a few USL teams pushing a seven figure payroll but would still think the typical one is around 500k.

  24. Matt M says:

    Undrafted,

    I may have been wrong. I’ve heard $35 to $50K before but couldn’t find any confirmation.

    Here’s what I found online about the Toronto Lynx at:

    link to sportsnews24h.com

    The Lynx spent $300,000 on payroll last season and $95,000 on travel. Next year, the payroll will be zero and the travel $25,000. League fees drop to $8,000 from $35,000.

    “There’s corresponding reductions in every budget line,” Hartrell said.

    Last season, the budget for the men’s team was just under $1 million: $300,000 for player payroll (an average player made $2,500 a month for six months), $50,000 for coaches, $250,000 to the front office, $150,000 for travel (air, bus and per diems) and “the rest just adds up.”

    The total budget for the PDL team will be about $175,000.

  25. yankiboy says:

    Bill Gaudette has continued the great tradition of Puerto Rico Islanders goalkeepers. Terry Boss, Mikle Uletshey Michael Behonick (all with RedBull/Metro affiliations), Dan Kennedy (chivasUSA), we have been spoiled with strong goalkeeping and we expect greatness minding our goal.

    .

    Dude has exceeded our expectations. And he is a good dude if you ever get the chance to talk to with him. Down to earth and hungry. Just the type of guy we want rocking our jersey and protecting our goal.