NCFCs Luke Hille (left) and Tampa Bay's Hayden Morgan (right) are both signed to USL Academy contracts with their respective USL Championship teams. Photo by Cameron Koubek
The inaugural USL Academy Eastern Conference Event wrapped up early last week, after the 18 games over four days featured some of the top young talent from academies across all three senior divisions of USL. Take a look at who the top teams and players were at the showcase.
The Rowdies won all three of their games and boasted the best goal difference of any team at the event. After scraping past a very good North Carolina FC team in the tournament opener, Tampa Bay cruised to victories over Chicago FC United and Boston Bolts to finish the event unbeaten.
Charlotte earned three consecutive wins by one goal margins, a sign of the team’s ability to grind out results against tough opposition. The team’s defense was by far the most impressive at the event, only allowing one goal and zero from open play. The Independence brought plenty of talented individuals, but they were highly successful in working as a unit to go undefeated.
The top team in the Premier Division, Tormenta showed its ability to bounce back after an opening 2-2 draw with FC Miami City. The South Georgians earned an impressive 3-1 win against Louisville City FC before beating Pittsburgh Riverhounds comfortably to close out the event. A solid outfit from back to front, expect to see plenty of players appear for the club at the League Two and League One levels in the near future.
Honorable Mentions: North Carolina FC, Louisville City FC
Hille was a constant threat to opposing defenses, netting a brace in all three games he played in. The young forward has an excellent nose for goal, capable in the air or with either foot. He’s already signed an Academy contract with North Carolina FC, and it’s likely you’ll see him with the NCFC first team soon enough.
Charles anchored a Charlotte defense which didn’t allow a single goal from open play. His agility and command of his area are typical of much more experienced keepers. He made multiple important saves as the Independence ground out three wins by one goal margins.
Plata made the Rowdies midfield tick with his passing ability, and was a key part of the squad’s undefeated run at the event. He signed an Academy contract with the Rowdies first team immediately following the event, and has a bright future ahead of him playing in the green and yellow hoops.
A tall, strong center back, Keating was an important presence in defense for Cedar Stars throughout the event. He commands the game from the back and can pick out an accurate long pass with either foot.
Hampton is cut from the cloth of the classic defensive midfielder. He does important work shielding Tormenta’s defense from opposing attackers, making it very difficult to break down the South Georgia side’s lines. Hampton played with Tormenta 2 in League Two last summer and is signed to an Academy contract with the organization’s League One side ahead of this season.
Moguel scored not one, but two of the best goals of the event, both pinpoint free kicks from considerable distance. A gifted striker of the ball and an adept all-around player, Moguel is one of the top prospects in a newly-formed Louisville academy full of bright young stars.
With Charles between the posts and Skinner in front of him, it’s easy to see why it was so tough to score on Charlotte. Skinner is highly-skilled in his positioning and his passing out of the back, and his performances were rewarded with a USL Academy contract following the Eastern Conference Event. Expect to see him earn some minutes for the Independence in the USL Championship this season.
At just 14 years old, Wynder was one of the youngest players at the Eastern Conference Event. But that didn’t stop him from making his mark, most spectacularly when he unleashed a furious volley from outside the box that found the top corner against FC Miami City. Able to do more than hold his own against players as many as three years older, his is a name to remember moving forward.
A dynamic attacker who can play anywhere across the front line, Arevalo has tremendous speed and ability on the ball. The 16-year-old signed a pro deal with Danish second division club HB Koge in late 2019, and is a special talent to keep an eye on as he continues his development.
Honorable Mentions: Ethan Chadwick (Tampa Bay), Hayden Morgan (Tampa Bay), Stephen O’Hearn (Tormenta FC), JP Mbuthia (Charlotte Independence), Elijah Wynder (Louisville City)