Stas Korzeniowski during Ballard FC's match against Oly Town FC // Photo courtesy of Blake Dahlin (@blakedahlin)
For the final time this season, we examine the very best talents remaining in the USL League Two season. These players have starred all year for their clubs, but are turning it up now that the postseason is here. Here are your League Two Playoff Top Performers.
Stas Korzeniowski, Ballard FC – F
A massive target up top, Stas Korzeniowski’s value to Ballard FC’s attack cannot be understated. Nearly impossible to stop with a head of steam on the way to goal, he’s a constant goal threat and attacking outlet that can shield the ball, knock defenders out of the way, win headers and really put his laces through the ball. The 6’4 striker has dominated League Two this season, and now gets an opportunity to help Ballard take revenge on Ventura County Fusion.
Alessandro Arlotti, Ocean City Nor’Easters – F
What Arlotti doesn’t have in raw pace, he has in technical ability and imagination. Able to dizzy defenders while keeping himself balanced, he’s able to create space and advantages by baiting defenses into missing tackles. His skill level is at the top level of this league, and he used it to great effect in Ocean City’s win over Hudson Valley. While he may not have put the ball into the net himself in that match, it was his mazy runs with the ball at his feet that helped draw the penalties scored by Nick Pariano.
Eliot Goldthorp, Des Moines Menace – M/F
Eliot GOALdthorp (as he’s known in Des Moines) is what happens when you turn all the sliders up on the “balanced” archetype player in your video games. He’s intelligent, strong with both feet, comfortable finishing both from distance and in tight spaces. He can pass into space, has a quick first step to make a run himself, and takes his chances when they’re given. He can play as both an attacking midfielder and a forward, and has been essential to the way Des Moines have played all season.
Logan Farrington, Ventura County Fusion – F
A hat trick against San Francisco Glens in the conference semifinals emphasizes the impact Logan Farrington can have a match. He’s strong and physical, and nearly impossible to knock off the ball if the defender isn’t in perfect position. He can create his own 1v1 situations and win them, he’ll scrap on defense, and he’ll strike the leather off the ball when he’s given a window. He’s perfected the timing of his runs during these playoffs, and it’s made the ever-dangerous target man an even bigger threat in behind defenders.
Hugo Bacharach, Flint City Bucks – D
Bacharach is a prototypical central defender. His massive frame gives him an automatic advantage in the air, and the speed for his size means it’s extremely difficult to catch him out when he’s with the back line. He’s also a willing and able passer from the back, and has been a major piece in the way the Bucks protect their goal and attack the opposing one. He’ll sometimes even run wide to pick the ball off an attacker without options, turn, and slide the ball to launch the offense. The Bucks go as Hugo goes – and they’re perfectly comfortable with that.
Isaiah Chisolm, Lionsbridge FC – F
Chisolm already has every physical tool to be a great striker anywhere he goes. He has the strength and size to hold the ball up, the touch to receive and deliver the ball cleanly, and the pace to threaten the channels in behind. He’s a massive part of Lionsbridge’s success this season, and his development is one of the major reasons they’ve been able to go on this run so far. He’ll need to be leaned on more as the matches continue to increase in difficulty, but he seems up to the task.
Jon Koka, Little Rock Rangers – F
Koka is like the itch that the defenders just can’t seem to scratch. He’s hard to knock over, has a low center of gravity, and loves getting in the mix for the difficult balls. He’s got the burst and balance to dodge tackles, the intelligence to crash into the box when needed, and the finishing ability to punish defenders for not marking him how they should. He’s had a fantastic playoffs already, and the Rangers need him to continue if they want to lift a trophy at the season’s end.
Lars Helleren, Ballard FC – GK
Lars Helleren has been magnificent for Ballard in between the sticks in 2023. Not a single goal conceded in the first two rounds, it’s difficult to live up to the standard set by Akili Kasim in the 2022 playoffs, but Helleren is doing just as well. He’s displayed great balance, is reading shots off the feet of attackers, and is hardly ever caught out of position.
Mathias Tieppo, The Villages – GK
Tieppo is possibly the single biggest reason The Villages SC are still fighting for the League Two title. Against Asheville City SC, Tieppo made highlight reel save after highlight reel save in the second half, preserving a 1-0 lead the entire time. Many keepers’ clean sheets come because they aren’t busy – Tieppo had to scratch and claw for his. His ability with his feet is a major asset to The Villages as well, able to start counters off of weak attacks and able to catch defenders unaware with long passes.