Emerging Stars | Meet 10 Players Who Have Kicked It Up A Notch In The Fall Season

With the start of the Fall Season, several players have taken advantage of a fresh start
Neal Malone | Aug 23, 2017

Photo credit: Puerto Rico FC

With games running from March to November, NASL players have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves and show their coaches why they deserve minutes. As is the case in sports, player performance can often ebb and flow – hot streaks, slumps, and all.

Thus far in the NASL Fall Season, there is a group of players that is emerging as the class of the league through the first four weeks. Many of the players got off to slow starts in 2017, seeing their Spring Season performances hampered by injuries, depth-chart issues, or inconsistent play.

But in August, these players have either returned to the form that is expected of them or they have started to make a name for themselves. Here are 10 players whose Fall Season play is turning heads across the league:

Conor Doyle, forward, Puerto Rico FC – Brought in before the season to provide an attacking spark, Doyle has played consistent minutes all year long for Puerto Rico. In the Spring Season, however, the former Derby County FC forward managed just two goals in 16 appearances. Things have changed in the Fall Season, though. Doyle has scored a goal in three of his last four games, including the game-winner against Jacksonville on August 5. The Texas native’s goalscoring run has helped the Caribbean side get off to an undefeated start to the Fall campaign.

Giuseppe Gentile, forward, Puerto Rico FC – Puerto Rico is Gentile’s fourth NASL club, and wherever the Miami native has gone, he has shown flashes of brilliance. Consistent minutes have been hard to come by for Gentile over the course of his career, and he’s finally getting them in Puerto Rico under head coach Marco Vélez. The speedy forward has racked up his goals and assists in batches this year, and the latest streak has come at the outset of the Fall Season. In his last four games, he has tallied a goal and two assists, with the highlight being his game-winner in a 2-1 triumph over Jacksonville on August 16.

Eamon Zayed, forward, Indy Eleven – The big Irish forward is a known commodity after scoring 15 goals a year ago in his first NASL season, but the beginning of 2017 didn’t play out as expected. Zayed was sidelined with an injury during a portion of the Spring Season and had trouble finding his rhythm upon returning. In recent weeks, however, the Dublin native is looking like himself again. Zayed has three goals and an assist in his last four games, and is slowly climbing up the rankings in both categories.

Jaime Chávez, forward, Miami FC – While some players had suffered injuries or dips in form before regaining their momentum, Chávez’s case is different. The veteran forward, who is a proven NASL goalscorer, seems to have been a victim of Miami’s roster depth. Forwards Stéfano Pinho and Vincenzo Rennella have combined for 21 league goals, and attacking midfielders Dylan Mares and Kwadwo Poku have chipped in another 11 goals between the two of them. With so much production from those four players, Miami boss Alessandro Nesta has had to make some tough decisions – and Chávez seems to have been the odd man out. Thanks to some recent roster rotation, as well as a few unfortunate injuries, the L.A. native has gotten his chance. Chávez has started the club’s last four games and has racked up two goals and two assists in the process.

Ariel MartÍ‚Äčnez, midfielder, Miami FC – Similar to his teammate, Chávez, Cuban international Ariel Martínez has been impacted by the depth of Miami’s roster. After starting 19 games last year, the 31-year-old midfielder had been largely relegated to a role off the bench during the Spring Season. But, for the same reasons as Chávez’s recent surge in playing time, Martínez has had an opportunity to showcase his creativity in the Miami midfield. The 5-foot-11 veteran assisted on both of Chávez’s game-winning goals last week, helping the club pick up six quick points and ascend up the Fall Season Standings.

Patrick Hopkins, defender, San Francisco Deltas – After appearing in just five Spring Season games, Hopkins has recently become a fixture in the Deltas’ starting lineup. The Chicago area native was sparingly used during the first half of the season, despite coming in with six years of experience playing abroad, most recently in Sweden with IK Sirius. In the Fall Season, though, Hopkins has started all four games and has notched a pair of goals in the process. As a defender, the 29-year-old newcomer has shown an ability to get into the right spots on set pieces, which has been the source of both of his recent goals. At the other end, the Deltas have only conceded three goals in his four recent starts.

Tomi Ameobi, forward, FC Edmonton – Like Zayed and Chávez, Tomi Ameobi is an NASL goalscorer that is well-known across the league. The Englishman’s play in recent weeks has given Eddies fans hope that he has returned to the prolific attacking player that he once was. Ameobi tallied 13 goals and four assists in his first two NASL seasons, but a less-productive year in 2016 (two goals and one assist) and a slow start to this season weren’t a true reflection of his abilities. Now, the Newcastle youth product seems to be full of confidence. He has two goals and two assists in his last six games, and his improved form has helped stabilize the Eddies’ season.

Ben Fisk, midfielder, FC Edmonton – After a head-turning debut season in the NASL last year, Ben Fisk quickly garnered national attention and eventually earned his first two senior national team caps for Canada. With such significant momentum, it was surprising that the 24-year-old midfielder only started three games through the first two months of the 2017 Spring Season. With more games under his belt in recent months, Fisk is beginning to return to the form that earned him so much respect across the league last year. The Vancouver native has piled up a goal and three assists in his last six games, and has seemed to form an encouraging attacking partnership with Ameobi, which can only spell good things for the Eddies.

Dre Fortune, midfielder, North Carolina FC – Still just 21 years old, Dre Fortune had to do the same thing as a lot of other players his age - wait his turn. The Raleigh native, who represents Trinidad and Tobago at the youth international level, scored in his first NASL start on July 7, giving the North Carolina coaching staff a taste of what he can do at this level. Since then, the youngster has featured in all five of North Carolina’s games, starting the last three. He added his second goal of the campaign on August 12 in a 2-2 draw against Jacksonville. For a player who only saw action in five Spring Season games, Fortune is one to watch down the stretch.

Pablo Vranjicán, forward, New York Cosmos – Quite the opposite of Fortune, Vranjicán is a 31-year-old veteran who was without a club prior to signing with the Cosmos in June. The well-traveled forward last played in Malaysia in 2016, but took part in a trial of sorts with New York when it visited Saudi Arabia for an international friendly in late May. After putting pen to paper with the Cosmos, the Argentine scored in his NASL debut – a 4-2 win over Puerto Rico FC. Vranjicán has been especially hot lately, with two goals to his name in the last three weeks. 

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