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USL notes: Austin da Luz returns to North Carolina FC for 8th season

Aug 27, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Carolina Railhawks midfielder Austin da Luz (6) takes New York Cosmos defender Jimmy Mulligan (28) off the ball during the second half at James M. Shuart Stadium. New York Cosmos won 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Austin da Luz is a familiar face and a fan favorite among supporters in Cary, N.C., and fans will get the chance to cheer for him again in 2019.

The former Major League Soccer SuperDraft pick is returning to North Carolina FC for his eighth season, the club announced Thursday, pending league and federation approval.

Da Luz is one of the most tenured players in the history of the United Soccer League Championship side, appearing 162 times for NCFC while tallying 21 goals and 20 assists across all contests. A native of nearby Winston-Salem, da Luz has been a fixture in the midfield for NCFC.

“I was really pleased that Austin is going to be part of my first year here and hopefully many years to come,” new NCFC head coach Dave Sarachan said in a statement. “His stability within the club, his leadership ability, and his quality are going to be very important as we get started.”

Da Luz, 31, played his college soccer at Wake Forest — where his father is the head coach of the women’s team — and was drafted 14th overall by the New York Red Bulls in 2010. After appearing in 11 games for the Red Bulls, he was traded to D.C. United in 2011, where he played in 14 games.

Ahead of the 2012 season, da Luz joined NCFC, who were then playing in NASL as the Carolina RailHawks. He’s been with the club since, aside from an 18-game stint in 2014 with Orlando City, then a USL side.

Off the field, da Luz’s “Playing For Pride” campaign, partnered with “Athlete Ally,”raised nearly $25,000 for LGBTQ rights in June 2018.

“I’m happy to continue to have to the opportunity to be part of the progress of the club,” da Luz said. “I think the changes are a big step and a big indication of the ambition of the club. I’m just excited to help contribute to that in any way that I can.”

Birmingham signs Ghana U-20 forward

Prosper Kasim, a 22-year-old forward from Ghana, has signed a multi-year deal with Birmingham Legion FC, the club announced Wednesday. Kasim comes to the USL Championship side after playing in Sweden, where he tallied 13 goals over the past two seasons. In 2015, he Ghana’s national team reach the round of 16 at the U-20 World Cup.

Madison FC adds two players

Forward Madison FC signed two players this week. The USL League One side added forwards J.C. Banks and Zaire Bartley. Banks, 29, is a native of Wisconsin and has been a professional since 2010, most recently playing for the Jacksonville Armada of NPSL. Bartley, 20, is a native of New York but has appeared with Jamaica’s youth national teams. He came up in the New York Red Bulls academy and most recently played for a club in the Czech Republic.

Albanian defender joins Chattanooga

On Tuesday, the Chattanooga Red Wolves announced the signing of a defender who has played in qualifying matches for the UEFA Champions League. Vangjel Zguro, 25, of Albania, will join the USL League One side for the 2019 season. Zguro has played for clubs in his native country since 2011, scoring 10 goals in 144 appearances across all competitions.

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