These five players could set the USL League One scoring charts on fire in 2019.
Many players will have their own advantage for being a striker in a league’s first year. Some come with decades of international experience and a read of the game that’s unmatched. Others may have pure raw talent with a hunger to play consistent minutes for the first time in their career. Ranging from one of the youngest players in the league to one of the oldest, these are five players I expect to be on the top of the USL League One scoring list by the end of the season.
Maybe there’s something in the water in Ireland, but like Robbie Keane, age has not slowed down Zayed enough for me to not consider him a potential double-digit scorer for Chattanooga Redwolves this year. Turning 36 years old, even Father Time seems to have trouble marking and slowing down Zayed in the box. The *insert pretty much any league* player is the embodiment in what you would want as a classic striker. At 6’2, “Mr. Hat Trick” (a nickname properly given after a hat trick in nine minutes) has shown he is an aerial threat to go with his shooting, but it’s his experience and positioning that will give League One defenses problems.
When you’ve made 425 appearances for clubs and 20 for national teams over the past 17 years, you may have learned a thing or two about positioning yourself. This is what makes Zayed a dangerous player. His ability to time runs and jumps, find open space, and drift onto both sides of the box, makes him one of the most decorated scorers in League One. Whether it’s Dixon overlapping and sending in crosses or Soto creating space to open up runs, as long as Zayed’s legs are working, I expect goals to be created from them.
Coach David Bulow has a new league, new staff, and new opportunity to implement his players and his system. Looking to play more possession and build up this year, it will be important to have a forward that is able to find the space in between defenders for through balls and chances of quick shots. This is where Pittsburgh native and USL journeyman Daniel Jackson comes into play
Already lighting it up in the preseason with four goals, Jackson is not afraid to make the runs and find the space in the box. Being patient and timing are two things that Jackson brings to the Richmond Kickers, as his better goals are when he times a run perfectly to split defenders or trails off into open space. Richmond’s new WAFA SC midfielder signing, Charles Boateng, specializes in passing through balls on counter attacks and through the middle while receiving pressure. If the chemistry is there, Daniel will be looking to match or better his goal every other game scoring rate that he’s maintained the past two years.
Most people wouldn’t bet on a 15 year- old to dominate the scoreline while playing against teams with defenders who’ve played for almost as long as he’s been alive, but most 15-year-olds aren’t North Texas SC’s Ricardo Pepi. Already 6’1 and 170lbs, Pepi has a physical presence that most teenagers don’t have. It’s what has helped the USYNT player dominate in FC Dallas’ U17 group, scoring 19 goals in 8 games! (No, I don’t have that backwards) It’s not just Pepi’s size that gives him the advantage though, his work rate is incredible on both offense and defense. Whether it’s making a run between defenders, taking the ball to the side to open up space, or holding his run and drifting into open space to receive the ball and take a shot, Pepi is always moving and it usually pays off for him.
With FC Dallas known to have one of the most impressive academies in the United States, producing players like Weston McKennie, Kellyn Acosta, and Emerson Hyndman, Pepi is in a system where ball movement from great midfielders is key to their success. This is why I expect the teenager to see his name on top of the scorer’s list, as long as Jesus Ferreira doesn’t come down and steal all the shine.
One of the most electrifying players in League One’s Inaugural season will be, without a doubt, Lansing Ignite’s Steeve Saint-Duc. The Haitian U-20 player has blistering speed and is the perfect fit for Coach Nate Miller’s system of players who can play multiple positions. However, it’s not his speed that Saint-Duc will rely on for goals, it’s his vision and high game IQ he possesses.
While Steeve is dominant on the wing on either side of the field, Coach Miller has been focusing on Saint-Duc’s vision to be a facilitator and pivot of attack wherever he goes. This allows wingers to get forward to create give & goes and crosses. So, how does that lead to goals? The one thing I didn’t mention is Steeve’s ability on the ball. By drawing the outside backs wide, leaving him 1 v 1 with a CB is a matchup that I will pick Steeve for, every time. With his footwork and dribbling skills combined with his speed, CB’s will need to give him space or expect a lot of late tackles and free kicks. With that space, Steeve has the ability to shoot and start his goal streak to the top of the list. And oh yeah, I guess being the designated penalty kick taker for your team doesn’t hurt your chances.
I think every list needs a wildcard, so I went up to Canada to find mine. Jordan Perruzza is a FIERY Canadian U-20 player that is always hungry for goals. While there’s a limited sample size of his play since he’s only played 4 games with TFC II (2 goals) and 4 games with the youth national team (1 goal), every single clip of him offensively is a representation to the type of player he is. Jordan is not afraid to shoot when given even an ounce of space, not afraid of defensive pressure, and goes all out no matter how tired he is. Whether it’s during a counter, a 1v1, or off the ball, Jordan is always running like he has something to prove, something I think is a perfect trait for a striker in this league.
Jordan has the buildup of what you would want in your striker, with speed, height, and great dribbling and shooting skills. One of the more impressive things I’ve seen with Jordan is both his shot technique and his ability to get in the air for headers. Playing his youth career for Empoli in Italy, Jordan has definitely brought the sauce back with him as he covers every different function a striker may have. With great hold up play, distribution, and off-ball runs for a shot at goal or header, if this mysterious Toronto team does shock people with a fluid offense, Perruzza will be waiting to finish it off.