Mark Schulte, the RailHawks' workhorse of a center back and team captain, was named to the all-USL-1 second team today.
Schulte, who was a two-time defender of the year in the USL-2 while playing under coach Martin Rennie at Cleveland—before both decamped for Cary—led a defense that conceded only 19 goals, good for best in the league along with first-place Portland.
Here's the USL-1 First Division Second Team:
- GK: Bill Gaudette (Puerto Rico Islanders)
- D: Stephen deRoux (Montreal Impact)
- D: Cameron Knowles (Portland Timbers)
- D: John Krause (Puerto Rico Islanders)
- D: Mark Schulte (Carolina RailHawks)
- M: Martin Nash (Vancouver Whitecaps)
- M: Lawrence Olum (Minnesota Thunder)
- M: Jonathan Steele (Puerto Rico Islanders)
- M: David Testo (Montreal Impact)
- F: Marlon James (Vancouver Whitecaps)
- F: Eddie Johnson (Austin Aztex)
Tomorrow, the first-teamers will be named. Will any RailHawks make it? Let's look at the field:
- Goalkeeper: We meekly pointed out a couple weeks ago that the RailHawks' tandem of Eric Reed and Caleb Patterson-Sewell combined for a league-leading 17 shutouts. Meanwhile, a USL tip sheet of sorts didn't even include them, favoring Gaudette, Charleston's Dusty Hudock and Portland's Steve Cronin. However, we're going to predict an upset here: Caleb Patterson-Sewell is ranked third in the league with 10 clean sheets despite playing only 15 games, and he's second in the league with a .533 goals-against average. It's true that Hudock has 12 shutouts and a staggering .279 GAA in only 18 games of an injury-shortened season, but Patterson-Sewell might get a boost as a new, young face—he's 22, while Hudock is a 37-year-old veteran and the holder of many prior awards.
- Defender: The locks are Puerto Rico's Cristian Arrieta, but for his offense—10 goals—and Portland's David Hayes, for leading the league's other top defense. Who gets the third spot? It's got to be someone from Charleston, the third side that decisively out-defended the rest of the league along with Portland and Carolina. It should be Frankie Sanfilippo or Matt Bobo. What about the fourth spot? We think it should be Carolina's Jeremy Tolleson, voted defensive player of the year on the league's co-best defensive side.
- Midfielder: The locks are Ricardo Sanchez (Minnesota) and Ryan Pore (Portland). Given that there are three shoo-ins at forward, and assuming that this All-League team will be restricted to 11 players, we're going to guess that they'll settle on a 4-3-3 formation. So, one more midfielder in a league full of good ones. We think it's going to be Carolina's Gregory Richardson. Why? He's ranked 12th in the league in points, despite playing only 12 games; furthermore, the only two true midfielders ahead of him in points are Sanchez and Pore. Is Richardson really a midfielder? Well, in Martin Rennie's 4-5-1 he is.
- Forward: There are three that have a strong claim, and none are RailHawks: Eleven-goal scorers Mandjou Keita (Portland) and Johnny Menyongar (Rochester), and 12-goal scorer Charles Gbeke (Vancouver).
Player of the Year: Keita. With 29 points from 11 goals and seven assists, he led the league, and the league's best team.
Coach of the Year: Portland's Gavin Wilkinson. After finishing in last place last year, he presided over an overhaul and led the Timbers to a dominating run to first place. Carolina's Rennie is the other obvious candidate, rebuilding the RailHawks and finishing second in his first season in the league, but this is Wilkinson's year.
Tune in tomorrow for the announcement of the real USL First Division First Team and other awards.
And congratulations to Mark Schulte, a real warrior.